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The Wonderful Puzzle

TLD set off on a trip recently, or perhaps it was a pilgrimage, in homeage to our friend and contributor Jim Harstell's most treasured and loved corner of Scotland, Kintyre. With the words of Paul McCartney lyrically playing in our minds -

"Smiles in the sunshine and tears in the rain. Still take me back to where my memories remain. Flickering embers grow higher and higher. As they carry me back to the Mull of Kintyre." off we set.

The gentle ripples of the waves softly crashed against the rocks as the sun glistened over the still firth of Clyde waters. It was off to Shiskine we sailed for our first stop of the trip. Now sit back with a mug of coffee and let the poetic words of Jim Hartsell transport you there.

"The B880 cuts across the middle of the Isle of Arran from Brodick harbour to Blackwaterfoot, the home of Shiskine. It’s a rolling, scenic drive over mountains and through farmland. The drive over from Corrie took about 30 minutes.

There are four places I must visit every time I come to Scotland: Dunaverty, Machrihanish, Prestwick, and Shiskine. These are non-negotiable for me. The collection of 12 holes on this ethereal piece of the ground is just as it should be. Dougie Bell, the Shiskine pro, was working in his well-stocked shop when I arrived on yet another nice morning.

The turf at Shiskine was a gorgeous blend of yellow, brown, and light green: just how a links should look. Shiskine has a reciprocal arrangement with Dunaverty, so I only paid a nominal greens fee. It would be easy to describe all 12 holes at Shiskine in detail. Each is a part of the intricate and wonderful puzzle that makes up the links. For me, the standouts among the 12 apostles of Shiskine are the 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th.

Crow’s Nest, the 3rd, is 127 yards. The green is positioned high above the tee, halfway up the cliff of Drumadoon Point: a massive, striated quartz and feldspar rock formation. Of course, the tee shot is blind. A marker pole indicates the correct line, and a flag signals when the green is clear. If you are unfamiliar with Shiskine, it’s easy to get confused and play toward

the signal flag. There's no option but to hit a solid wedge shot just right of the marker pole—anything that comes up short is likely gone. Once you climb the hill, your reward is one of the great views in golf.

From the Crow’s Nest, Shiskine is spread out below in all its rumpled, twisting, gorse- covered majesty. The shining Kilbrannan Sound and the green coast of the Kintyre Peninsula lie beyond. If you look slightly to the northeast, you might imagine that you see Carradale, a wonderful nine-hole course on the headlands above the sound. The 4th tee is just next to the 3rd green. From the heights, the tee shot on The Shelf is 147 yards down to the coast level. It’s a sheer vertical drop of 75 to 100 feet and one of the most thrilling tee shots that I know of. Drumadoon Point towers over the green like the walls of a paleolithic castle.

The 6th is called the Shore Hole and is the best hole on the course. Only 274 yards, it plays alongside the beach on the right and gorse-covered dunes on the left. The fairway is a heaving affair of mounds and ridges. The green is hidden in a lovely dell at the base of large dunes with heather and gorse. Depending on the time of the year, a bright yellow or vivid purple will provide a stunning backdrop. The green can be reached from the tee. If the drive lands in just the correct spot, the ball will funnel down, and you might have a chance at an eagle two. It’s among my favourite natural green sites anywhere. 

Himalayas, the 173-yard 7th, is yet another blind par three. The tee shot must be played over the corner of the same dune that provides the backdrop for the stunning 6th green. The green is hidden in a quiet dell among the tall dunes. The only thing I could hear on this morning was the sound of the waves breaking on the nearby beach. An intricate and unusual system, involving a pulley rope running underground between two signal arms, is used to indicate when the green is clear. Taken all together, Shiskine has seven par threes, four par fours and one par five, for a par of 21-21-42. There's a wonderful symmetry to the “front six” and the ”back six.”

Words by Jim Hartsell from his book 'When Revelation Comes'

Photography by Graeme McCubbin

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