I like you was intrigued by the compelling new golf development taking place on the Isle of Jura. So much so I visited earlier this month and was amazed at what I found.
To get on the island of Jura required me to drive to the Port of Kennycraig (an hour drive from Machrihanish) to catch the Calmac sailing to Port Ellen on the island of Islay. From there after a short 10 minute wait after disembarking it was onto the small and short ferry shuttle (5 minute sailing) which runs continuously between Islay & Jura throughout the summer months. Sure it was several hours on the road and a few more on the water but it was an adventure and all very much part of the precursor to the Jura golf experience.
Arriving on the island I was greeted by my host for the next 24 hours, Scott Champion of Harrison Golf Design, course designer Bob Harrison’s right-hand man who would take me on a walking tour of the new 18 hole golf course. On driving to the course it quickly became striking just how remote we were as a huge Scottish stag red-deer catapulted itself over a 7ft fence onto the estate. We were in deer country and island which was home to a staggering 14,000 of them, outnumbering humans 70-1. The single track road was exactly that, singular, taking you from one end of the island to the other, cutting through the main populated community Craighouse home to Jura Scotch Distillery, Jura Hotel and minutes from the new golf course.
I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from the course which is set for completion in Spring of next year. I knew it was scenic, after all I had spent months drooling over the wonderful course updates produced by Harrison Golf. With that I was fully aware of the considerable challenges during construction. The site’s topography (several feet of peat in places) required boatloads of sand to be imported by neighbouring Islay. What I found was a colossal golf development, almost freakish in nature and incomparable of anything I had seen in Scotland.
While it plays firm the forced carries, natural layout and severe elevation change means it’s far removed from your typical Scottish links. The result has four distinct stretches of holes. Holes 1-4 hug the huge cliffs resembling that of Ireland’s Old Head Golf Links. Within this early phase of holes is the par 3,2nd; a forced cliff carry of 160 yards. The second stretch of holes, 5-7 is altogether different. A double fairway and stone wall boundaries have produced the wonderfully simple 5th and 6th holes which run parallel to each other. A moment’s rest bite between the 7th green and 8th tee requires the golfer to bypass the beautiful 20 bedroom lodge which centres the property.
Teeing up on the 8th tee is a delight and in my opinion the most enjoyable and jaw-dropping hole on the property. At only 350 yards downhill golfers are required to lay up short of a ravine which guards an infinity green. The descent to sea level then leads to the strongest collection of holes centred around the converted boat house (now half-way house) by the shore. Raised stone beach and the whiff of a fresh sea breeze provides a timely reminder of your peaceful solitude.
For me, the testament for any special golf experience is the memorable holes which it features. After only walking the course once and without striking a shot I can already name six! Those being holes 2, 6,8,10,11, & 14.
Australian owner Greg Coffey has been actively involved in the course developments throughout making frequent visits onsite. Only time will tell if the reported £50m development will provide any outside play, much-needed jobs and prosperity for the small Scottish island or aid in the emergence of Scotland’s next great golf destination – the Scottish Western Islands. I like us all live in hope.