The History of The Machrie Links
“This place was made for Gowf”
Willie Campbell – Course Architect, 1891.
Willie Campbell first designed The Machrie in 1891. At the time he was said to have proclaimed that it was the finest ground for a golf course that he had ever had the pleasure of viewing.
When planning the course, he made it intentionally long by 19th century standards to attract golfers to Islay. The Machrie is also unique amongst links courses. Most run alongside the dunes, The Machrie however crosses over the dunes, resulting in the many blind spots the course is so well known for.
The Machrie Links hosted a famous match in 1901 between James Braid, John Henry Taylor and Harry Vardon. The Prize money was £100, reputed to be the largest prize of its kind at that time in the British Isles.
The Links later hosted the Western Isles Open Championship in June 1935.
Course Designer Willie Campbell (1862-1900) designed The Machrie Links in 1891. He was born in Musselburgh, Scotland but later emigrated to the US. During his playing career, he reached the top ten in The Open Championship eight times in the 1880s.
Campbell quickly gained fame as an instructor and as a player on moving to the US. He became the first professional at The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts in 1894, the same year he played in the first unofficial US Open, losing by just two shots to Willie Dunn.
At Brookline he established the foundations of the present course and oversaw the development of The Country Club from a 6 hole course to a 9 hole course in 1894 then to an 18 hole course in 1899.
While serving as summer pro at Essex Country Club, Manchester, Massachusetts, he planned other courses in the Northeast.
The Open Championship, Prestwick 1887
Willie Campbell was the warm favourite among the local crowd and was followed by the majority of the spectators. Despite all his success his most famous golfing moment, which turned out to be a disastrous failure, would come at Prestwick, where Campbell was an assistant professional. Late in the final round he was in good shape to win but heeled his tee shot at the 16th hole and found a deep bunker (later dubbed Campbell’s Grave). The gallery tried to convince him to play backward but unfortunately, he ignored their advice and took eight on the hole. Campbell ended up finishing in third place, 3 strokes behind winner Willie Park Jr.
Georgina Campbell, First Female Golf Professional
Willie’s wife Georgina Campbell is documented as the first ladies golf professional in the USA. Georgina followed in her husband’s footsteps after his death and was appointed instructress at Franklin Park. She had previously assisted him in the shop and in teaching the ladies and went on to also instruct at Wellington Hill.
In 2014 under the guidance of Course Architect DJ Russell, work started at The Machrie Links in order to restore the Links to its former glory. The Machrie Links today is one that priorities skill and strategy over power and combines the best from the past with today.
The Links changes were completed in 2018 and are further complemented by the new Machrie Hotel.
David John Russell (born 2 May 1954) known as DJ, turned professional in 1973 and spent many years on the European Tour. During this time DJ had two European Tour victories, winning the 1985 Car Care Plan International and the 1992 Lyon Open V33, during which he played the entire 72 holes without dropping a single shot. During the 1973 Open at Royal Troon DJ became the youngest player to ever have a hole in one in the event, this was followed 45 minutes later by Gene Sarazen who became the oldest. Both were recorded on the famous par 3 eighth hole aptly named the Postage Stamp.
Russell was selected by 2006 European Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam to be his Vice Captain at the Ryder Cup held in the K Club (Ireland), resulting in a famous win over the USA.
Away from competitive golf, DJ has made a name as a renowned course architect, and in 2001 he designed and established the acclaimed Archerfield Links in East Lothian, Scotland. In 2014 DJ started work on The Machrie Links and over the following four years reinstated the iconic Links as truly one that deserves to be held in the highest esteem.
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