A truly spectacular golf course


Ardfin Golf Club

Ardfin Golf Club

Date Reviewed
October 1, 2022
Reviewed by Ed Battye
The game of golf has the ability to take you on amazing journeys to the most wondrous places where you meet such interesting people.

And that is exactly what happened in Autumn 2022 when the opportunity arose to play the spectacular Ardfin Golf Course located on the Isle of Jura.

All credit must go to David Jones, aka UK Golf Guy, who pulled off somewhat of an unimaginable coup by persuading the multi-billionaire owner, Greg Coffey, to allow him to host an open competition at this mysterious and uber-exclusive venue.

I have visited many of the islands off the west coast of Scotland and they are among my most favourite places on Earth. Each one is different but all are breathtakingly beautiful and Jura is certainly no different.

The island is famous for whisky, its population of 7,000 deer, the place where George Orwell penned his '1984' novel and the burning of one million pounds in £50 notes by the band KLF. Incidentally this incident occurred inside the boathouse at Ardfin which is now the not-so-quite 'halfway' house situated between the 11th green and 12th tee. A magical location.

The journey, whether it be by air or sea, is always part of the adventure and the destination is always worth the effort to get to whenever departing the mainland. Jura, habited by just 200 people, is a little trickier than most to get to since it must ultimately be accessed via a little ferry hopper from Islay.

Like most expeditions to the Scottish islands this one was not without drama. Without going into too much detail it involved a cancelled ferry, the very real prospect of having to sleep in my car for a night and collecting my playing partner from the ferry port the following day because the only way he could get over to Islay from Kennacraig was as a foot passenger!

The golf course is located just a short drive from Feolin Port and before you reach the only hotel on the island; the 16-room Jura Hotel. A welcoming place to stay.

As you would expect no expense has been spared on the clubhouse, pro-shop and other buildings that make up the Ardfin estate including Jura House which reportedly cost £25m to renovate and refurbish.

There is also a lovely little pitch & putt course where you will need no more than a gap-wedge to play the scenic nine-holes.

As for learning more about the golf course you will be far better reading David's in-depth review of Ardfin which includes all the holes and other unique insights into the course. It also contains a brilliantly narrated flyover that captures some striking drone footage. My thoughts on the course pretty much echo the words in this article.

I will say that it is mind-boggling to comprehend how a golf course was even constructed in such a dramatic landscape. Bob Harrison was the architect and SOL the contractors. It opened for first play in 2015.

The course is maintained to such a high standard and it was a joy to play from the immaculate tee boxes and fairways as well as to putt on the slick greens. I can imagine it must be slightly frustrating for the Course Manager and his staff of seven that it gets such little play. If it were me I would want as many people to see it in all its glory as possible but this does not fit with the Ardfin business model. I was one of around 60 other lucky, like-minded golfers who grasped the opportunity to compete in the event. Prior to that fewer than 200 rounds had been played on the course all year.

I know I will be asked where I would rank Ardfin but I'm honestly not sure if it is the sort of course you should spend a lot of time and effort thinking about something like that. Trying to weigh it up against other courses is a fools errand, an impossible task and if anything brings home just how ridiculous the concept of ranking golf courses in general is.

It is truly spectacular, a complete one-off and simply not comparable to other places. It is perhaps the one course in the British Isles that I would say you should try and play before you die but I also agree with a fellow golfer on the trip who asked me if I would rather play my final round before I die at Ardfin or somewhere else like Brora or Elie... and it would certainly be one of the latter two.

One of the things I love about golf is the chance of recovery, especially around the greens. I think it is one of the most valuable and inspiring aspects of the game of golf but at Ardfin recovery is virtually non-existent. You sink or swim. Virtually every hole is do or die, particularly when played in a strong wind which its location is primed for.

Don't get me wrong there are some magnificent golf holes, virtually everyone of them in truth, but as relentless as they are in their awesomeness they are equally relentless in their difficultly. Many of the principals that I believe promote great golf are absent at Ardfin.

Ardfin has appeared in Top 100 World lists and I can absolutely understand why but just on a principled level it is far too difficult and penal to be considered amongst the world's best. At least for me.

People who say you will likely lose at least 10 balls are not exaggerating (I embarrassingly lost two before I had even started the round but that's a tale for another day) so do stock up beforehand although you can purchase more at the boathouse if required.

That all said, in a way the difficulty did not diminish from the enjoyment or pleasure in playing the course and accepting its challenge. It's a true one off and great in its own way.

As an experience it's as memorable as they come and actually completely unforgettable. If the opportunity arises and is within your budget make sure you grab it with both hands.

The event was all in aid of the Kipawa charity and helped raise close to £25,000. Bravo David!

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