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The Autumn issue of Links, the international magazine for golfers, features the new Machrihanish Dunes golf course in Kintyre as its cover story.
This entire piece – by Anthony Pioppi – powerfully harnesses the advantages of sharing the limelight in marketing and publicity.
Early in the article the focus is not on Machrihanish Dunes but on its predecessor, the adjacent Machrihanish Golf Club.
The article immediately draws attention to the links course designed by the legendary Old Tom Morris in 1876. It praises ‘its audacious greens’ and describes the affinity of Morris’s layout with the natural run of the land – with ‘tees and greens atop dunes affording views of Machrihanish Bay,while fairways descend, nestling into natural corridors created by those same dunes’.
In the writing, the piece then cleverly imagines the generations of golfers on the height of some of Morris’s tees and greens looking into the distance and seeing the possibility for a second course ‘of equal character’ built into the long stretch of dunes.
And of course this second course now exists.
Machrihanish Dunes was designed into those dunes by David McLay Kidd and Paul Kimber and now stands proudly alongside the earlier course.
In pointing out that, as well as being the first 18 hole links course to be built in the west of Scotland for 100 years, the article notes that it is unique in being designed from scratch in close association with Scottish Natural Heritage. ‘Working with representatives of the Scottish Natural Heritage, Kidd and Kimber, who also designed the Castle Course in St.Andrews, determined which areas of the property were off-limits for golf due to protected fauna, flora and landforms. The Early Marsh orchid and lime-rich sand fore-dunes, rare on Scotland’s west coast, had as much to do with the routing as Kidd did’.
The quite stunning achievement the article underlines is that the course was designed by using only 7 of the 250 acres on the site. The courses is indeed, as they say, ‘as natural as they come.’ Even Kintyre folk may not know that the bunkers took over depressions in the ground scratched out by the giant hares that inhabit the dunes.
Moving on to define some complementary differences between the courses – for example, that the Morris course only has the first hole running alongside the sea, while the new Machrihanish Dunes course has several that weave towards and away from the beach.
Then the writer weaves in views, which are, of course, spectacular. One of the pleasures of golf is as much the place you play it as the game itself. Here there is the long pale gold strand on Machrihanish Bay, now developing as a surfing and windsurfing beach. Out into the Irish Sea are the unmistakable shapes of the isles of Islay and Jura, with its renowned conical hills, the Paps of Jura. The article also calls into being the unseen presence of the nine malt whisky distilleries on Islay, conjuring the inner warmth deliverable on the 19th tee.
Because the Machrihanish Dunes course has been set in a Site of Special Scientific Interest, it cannot be presented in the same condition as golfers find elsewhere and are likely to expect. This is a course with a distinctive character and the article in Links works to orientate golfers’ perspectives so that they see and appreciate its uniqueness.
It has Greenkeeper, Keith Martin chuckling at the predictable surprise of visiting American golfers when they find ‘weeds in the fairway’, saying pragmatically, ‘there’s nothing we can do – as long as golfers are educated’.
The course has, as For Argyll has reported, just taken delivery of some black Hebridean sheep to graze freely there (pictured above). Martin’s challenge is to keep the course running as firm and fast as possible. Neatly, at this point in its narrative, the article mentions that the course needs to be ‘almost as firm and fast as the runway at the bordering Campbeltown Airport’.
Having established the ease of access to this remote and beautiful place, the final paragraphs pull the entire picture back together:
- the two side-by-side, first class, golf links courses;
- the facilities which will enable Kintyre to be a ‘stay and play’ destination with Southworth Developments’ refurbishment of the Ugadale Hotel at Machrihanish; and 8 completed of the planned 30 2-bedroomed cottages on the site for rent or time-share purchase;
- the strains of the Campbeltown Pipe Band conjured in the final quoting of a verse from Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre – a verse chosen also to prepare visitors for the ‘mists rolling in from the sea’.
This is deceptively sophisticated ‘sales’ travel writing. Every sentence, every paragraph is doing a specific strategic job. Would that VisitScotland’s copywriters had this depth of light-touch condensed skill.
The Machrihanish Dunes development has brought a high quality sporting resource to Argyll. It is also engineering the necessary infrastructure to enable it to work.
Beyond all this, it has attracted this calibre of publicity, not just to itself but to the entirety of Kintyre and the islands. It is embracing first class existing resources like the Machrihanish Golf Club’s Tom Morris course.
It is creating and presenting a formidable phalanx of symbiotic attractions and facilities to bring people to the Argyll valued daily by those of us lucky enough to live here.
This is marketing of the highest order, understanding that selfishness is self-defeating. Other tourist industry sectors in Argyll can learn from this. The single word that occupies the mind is ‘respect’.