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Tim Gallant

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Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« on: August 17, 2020, 05:11:27 PM »
I recently made a trip to Mull with my wife and a few friends, and managed to take a ferry across to see Iona Golf Course on the Isle of Iona! For those that havenít heard of it (as I hadnít), this island is on the south western side of Mull, and is just a short 10 minute ferry crossing from the (bigger) island. There is an abbey there, which I believe was one of the first (if not the first!) place where christianity came to Scotland.

While others were taking in the sea views, the quaint little village, and the abbey, I made my way on foot to Iona Golf Course on the western part of the island, mainly off the back of a recommendation from Clyde Johnson.

It takes about 25 minutes walking briskly to reach the course from the ferry pier, and you can buy a scorecard for £1 (which acts as your greens fee) at the post office before you set off on foot. In the absence of any manmade features or indicators, the scorecard was a lifesaver as it had a rough map on the inside, which gave you a general feel for the routing. Without it, there is no chance to know where to hit it.

I arrived, and was greeted by one of the most idyllic settings in all the world. As you crest the hill on the road you see nothing but blue Atlantic Ocean beyond, and a beach that is secluded and perfect. Before the beach is the course, which roughly runs in a sort of figure 8 routing, first heading south for 3 holes, before hugging the beach for 3 more. After 7 you then hop a fence, and play numbers 8-16 before hoping the fence back to play 17 and 18.

Iona is one of the very few courses left where you canít really find many good photos on the internet, and I think Iíll leave the photos off for the time being, just because half the experience is trying to find the holes, and discovering it for yourself. I will just run through a few holes that stood out to me:

3rd Hole - Is this the best par 3 in Scotland?! It very well might be (seriously no hyperbole!). The yardage is roughly 165, but it plays straight uphill, and played into a breeze when I stepped to the tee. The pin appears as if it is at the top of Everest. To the left is one of the coolest natural sand scrapes that rips across the face of the green. They say that Mother Nature is the best architect and this sand pit is evidence!! It is to be avoided at all costs. For those that bail out to the right (as I did), you are left with a devilish uphill chip shot to a green that runs away from you! Once on the green, you can see that there is a bank to the back to stop any running shot, and a good bit of movement. A half par hole for sure!

4th Hole - Pick your line between the rock formation and the beach carefully. While a generous and ample landing area, you might have a blind approach if you donít carry the crest of the hill. The approach is played down to a small green in the valley.

7th Hole - A blind par 3 with the pin in a dell. Lots of fun. Did your ball end up in the hole? Run as fast as you can to see!!

10th hole - Maybe the best par 4 that no one talks about. This is the most strategic hole on the course! The green and pin are hidden between two rocky mounds, which are oriented at about a 45 degree angle from the tee, so you canít actually see the flag from the tee. There are MILES leftÖBut! Playing to the left will leave a blind approach over one of the rocky mounds to an extremely narrow green, meaning your distance control has to be spot on. Making matters complicated is that on the ideal line from the tee runs a naturally forming cattle path / quasi-barranca. Playing out right way will definitely make the approach easier, but it is flirting with disaster!

11th hole - Clyde posted a photo of this par 3 - itís blind over the crest of the hill to a pin, which is again sandwiched between two rocky hills. The greensite is very Mackenzie-esq. It slopes severely from back to front, and wouldnít look out of place at Crystal Downs. Did Mr. Mackenzie consult here? Itís been a debate that has raged for years. Perhaps the sheep close to the 11th green know?

16th hole - One steps up to the tee (but not too close to the box indicating the start of the hole as there are some very suspicious cattle lingering nearby) and stripes one down through one of the sheep paddocks. Playing closer to the right will open up a view of the green, but brings the beach path into play and the fence. Playing to the left will leave players blind to the green with a massive mound in the way. The green is right next to the corner of the fence, which is 5 paces off the beach. The views are breathtaking!

And there you have it! Before anyone thinks of booking their travel to Iona, I want to ensure I donít oversell the above. When I say Ďgreensí above, well, there are no greens! It is all one heightÖand the height depends on how hungry the tenants of the land are :) This is about as no frills as you can get. But for those that like a bit of adventure, who donít need yardages, laser shooters, or pristine putting surfaces, then Iona will be a buried treasure that awaits.

Tony_Muldoon

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2020, 05:25:14 PM »
Magnificent thanks Tim (and Clyde). Great description, I'm more excited than if you had included a bunch of photos.

£1 green fee?  In so many ways golf as it was.

Cant help myself asking what is the split of 3's/4's/5's?  Total yardage?
Let's make GCA grate again!

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2020, 05:29:56 PM »
I have long wanted to visit Iona. It was indeed the cradle of Christianity. Saint Columba founded a monastery there in 563, which was destroyed by my ancestors from Norway. It then housed Benedictines around 1200. There is an ecumenical group there that works for peace and justice.
Having a golf course there would be a plus. It sounds like fun.
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

"Deep within your soul-space is a magnificent cathedral where you are sweet beyond telling." Rumi

Tony_Muldoon

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2020, 05:45:36 PM »
Tim how was the turf? 
I've read a lot on here about all you need are sheep and rabbits! I've seen enough nle links courses to know that's just not true.  What I've seen has explained to me how great the Morris's, Parks' etc to win on 'short' courses  with scores in the 80's.
Let's make GCA grate again!

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2020, 03:18:53 AM »
Perfect Tim,


Iona is on a machair landscape which is ready-made golf course material. Just put the flags in the ground.... I havenít been there but hope to one day as this kind of golf is pure heaven.


Many moons ago, I posted about my own makey-uppy course on a similar landscape in Connemara (Eighteen Stakes on a Sunday Afternoon - Redux)... love this stuff.

Robin_Hiseman

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2020, 06:12:37 AM »
What a lovely discovery Tim. I imagine playing it on a rare clear, still day is as close to golfing heaven as possible.


You can read more about Iona here:


http://scottishgolfcourses-allofthem.blogspot.com/2011/08/iona-golf-course-12-august-2011.html


4491 yards, Par 66.
2023: Aberdovey, Liphook, Mill Ride (x9), Hillside, Lytham, Delamere Forest, Formby, Birkdale, Carya, Maxx Royal, Cleeve Hill, Sunny (Old & New), West Byfleet, Hoylake, East Berks, RSG, West Sussex, Hollinwell (x2), Alwoodley, JCB (x2), Beau Desert, Painswick (x2), Stranahan, Belfry (Brab & PGA)

Duncan Cheslett

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2020, 06:15:40 AM »
Iím planning a week in Scotland in early September with Jayne after dropping the boy off at Glasgow Uni.


Mull and Iona could well now form the focus of our trip!

Tom_Doak

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2020, 08:47:59 AM »
A few years back I was idly using Google Earth to look for sandy bits on the west coast of Scotland, and I stumbled onto that very piece of land.  It wasn't marked as a golf course, and there was certainly not enough mowing definition to pick out that it was being used as such, but it looked just big enough, and the various rock formations were intriguing.


Unfortunately others got to it first.  Clyde's piece in the current issue of CADDIE provides a few pictures if you want to spoil it for yourself.

jeffwarne

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2020, 09:17:55 AM »
I had found the course on that blog "scottish golf courses all of them" a few years back.
Looks fantastic


Thanks for sharing!
"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Robin_Hiseman

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2020, 10:04:18 AM »
Remarkably, Google Earth has a Street View through the course.
2023: Aberdovey, Liphook, Mill Ride (x9), Hillside, Lytham, Delamere Forest, Formby, Birkdale, Carya, Maxx Royal, Cleeve Hill, Sunny (Old & New), West Byfleet, Hoylake, East Berks, RSG, West Sussex, Hollinwell (x2), Alwoodley, JCB (x2), Beau Desert, Painswick (x2), Stranahan, Belfry (Brab & PGA)

Tim Gallant

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2020, 12:21:15 PM »
Tim how was the turf? 
I've read a lot on here about all you need are sheep and rabbits! I've seen enough nle links courses to know that's just not true.  What I've seen has explained to me how great the Morris's, Parks' etc to win on 'short' courses  with scores in the 80's.


Thanks Tony!

From my untrained eye, the turf quality seemed to be pretty good. The ball always had a perfect lie in the fairway and it felt a bit spring-y under foot, which was nice! It was firm enough that you could play a bump and run, but you definitely don't get as much run as at a course that mows fairways. In my mind, after seeing Iona, I would think that you could achieve decent turf conditions with just sheep and cattle, but I'm not sure if the locals do more to the turf that I'm not aware of. The greens are the only area where I would be dubious that you could get them into any sort of decent condition for putting without doing additional work to them.

Tom_Doak

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2020, 01:41:39 PM »


From my untrained eye, the turf quality seemed to be pretty good. The ball always had a perfect lie in the fairway and it felt a bit spring-y under foot, which was nice! It was firm enough that you could play a bump and run, but you definitely don't get as much run as at a course that mows fairways. In my mind, after seeing Iona, I would think that you could achieve decent turf conditions with just sheep and cattle, but I'm not sure if the locals do more to the turf that I'm not aware of. The greens are the only area where I would be dubious that you could get them into any sort of decent condition for putting without doing additional work to them.


It's gotta depend a lot on the recent weather, too.


We played golf a couple of times at Cape Kidnappers early in construction, when it was very droughty and the grass was grazed down to the nubs, and the balls in the fairways rolled out just as far on as any links course I've ever played.  But it had been dry and windy for weeks!  The Western Isles of Scotland are seldom droughty.

Thomas Dai

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2020, 01:58:35 PM »
This instant street view link should take you there - https://www.instantstreetview.com/@56.328383,-6.416827,15z,0t
Pretty cool.
Atb

Carl Johnson

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Bernie Bell

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2023, 04:06:07 PM »
Golf on the Rocks, a book by Gary Sutherland.  He plays Iona among other courses like it.  An enjoyable read.

Mike Worth

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Re: Iona Golf Course - A Brief Write-Up
« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2023, 06:15:48 AM »
I am playing there in late July. Reading this post only heightens my excitement and anticipation. Thanks so much for the great description.


Iím helping my 86 year-old aunt travel to Iona, where sheís been doing a religious retreat for the past 20 yrs. So because Iím in the area, Iím going to play Iona and several other courses.


As a funny aside, before I told my aunt that I had to get a scorecard from the post office, she related a story where she made the postmaster laugh at a joke. This is notable because Aunt Susie says the postermaster is somewhat humorless and openly disdainful of tourists (but in a loveable way).   


The visual I have in my mind when I get the score card is sort of like the Seinfeld Soup Nazi episode. This will only add to the total experience :-)

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