“The Links at Eriska is something quite special for me as well as all those who are able to play it, whether they be residents of the lovely hotel, members of the Club or those merely looking for a leisurely game of golf accompanied by magnificent surroundings.
The sheer spectacular nature of the land it was laid out on gives it that special feel and in a career of some forty years I do not have many chances to practise my professional work on such ground.
I set out to make as natural a golf course as I could, setting the holes in the existing terrain and taking advantage, as much as humanly possible, of the best locations where tees, but particularly greens could be placed, and of the best views achievable as the player circumnavigates the layout.
Whilst the technical difficulties which have been presented to us have been significant and challenging, mainly dealing with vastly differing soils which have given us some testing drainage issues, the process of building the course has been a very natural one, utilising materials from the island, minimising inorganics and recycling as much as possible.
We still have some way to go to achieve a nine hole course which can rank as one of the country’s best, and most memorable, but we are getting there!
Let me take you around.
- From any of the three sets of tees close to the Spa, the 1st plays out to the north and the mouth of Loch Creran and the open sea. At 339 yards from the white markers and 282 yards from the forward ones, the drive is relatively open and unencumbered before it narrows to play a mid iron second shot to the raised green. The backcloth of the Loch and the mountains beyond to the north shore is quite something! Take care in reading your putt on the two level green.
- At 163 yards from the white tee, perched high on a rock, the 2nd is a tough test especially when the wind blows from right to left. The large green is welcoming sitting close to the beach and guarded by bunkers left and right. Watch out for the sea birds in the bay and beyond towards The Heronry.
- Turning south west and playing along the strand and shoreline, look out to Lismore and the mountains of Mull in the distance the 326 yard 3rd presents itself as quite a challenge from the white tee. For women and juniors, at some 40 yards shorter, it is no less of a test given that it is normally played into the prevailing wind. Bite off as much as you can chew with your drive setting course over the fairway bunkers to a wide and welcoming landing area and you’re well placed to make the green. Too far left and you’re in the scrub and trees, too far right you’re on the beach! Along the sea side with a well struck long iron or fairway wood played from lovely fine grass giving naturally on the sandy soil, and you reach the large putting surface sitting level about the island. Bunkers left and right on the approach and tight at the greenside demand accuracy and an excellent climax to an excellent golf hole.
- Driving directly towards Mull the 4th at 350 yards for men and 277 for women and juniors is a fine par four. A wide open drive from the raised tees placed well to negotiate the dogleg should encourage you to play as far right as you dare to open up the green. Placed high above the approach and well guarded by four bunkers, left and right, front and back, an accurate short iron or long pitch will get you close to the flag, whether on the lower or upper levels of the putting surface. Two putts and you will feel happy with your par.
- If Eriska’s golf course has a signature hole it has to be the 5th. Standing on the tees at Otter Point, so exposed to the elements, so close to the sea, is a wonderful experience. Just sit on the stone seat and take in the view. Then contemplate the shot – a wood or a seven iron? Mother Nature and the elements will dictate all. Hitting 131 yards from the back tee, or just 89 yards from the forward one to the high green, hemmed in my pot bunkers is some challenge! Walk away with a par and you’ve done tremendously well...but never mind the score, just take in the view to the sea, to the island and the mountains inland.
- The par five 6th, at almost 450 yards, going south towards the end of the island, even at 448 yards is some challenge – long, wide, naturally bounded by the land’s indigenous vegetation – heathers, ferns, roses, and high, high grasses. No bunkers, but who needs them with such a great frame to the hole? The eventual target is a smallish isolated green, flattish but sloping away from the shot to which an accurate pitch needs to be made to achieve a chance of a birdie. If the wind blows in your face, it becomes more than a pitch; if the wind blows in your face take time out after putting to walk west to the edge of the sea and take in the waves and the unparalleled vista. Wow! Seals, otters, birds...and boats plying between the island and Lismore.
- At an innocuous 141 yards from the whites and 107 yards from the reds the easterly par three 7th may it seem shortish but do not be fooled. It is all carry to the raised green, bunkered front and back just to test you! If you don’t make it over the natural carry then you may just have a problem with keeping that good score on your card and not wrecking it.
- Turning back for home, the longest of the par fours on the course, at a shade less than 380 yards, the 8th, downwind is a great penultimate hole. Unbunkered on the fairway a straight drive will give the player a great chance to make the long and high green in two. Across the trail to the beach and to the green, the approach needs to bisect the frontal bunkers left and right to each the raised plateau of the green and a relatively easy putt, or a couple of them. Stray off line anywhere on the hole and you’ll pay heavily for it!
- After eight exhilarating, I hope, hugely enjoyable holes, in the most wonderful of scenery, the home hole is no disappointment. Although just over 300 yards the 9th is driveable for the best, given a strong following wind but be aware to avoid the threatening fairway bunkering. An ultimate in the risk and reward strategy of design, it may be prudent to look at other options, playing short of the bunkering with a longer second in mind, or left of them coming in with a diagonal approach. Whatever, for man or woman or junior the last is a fitting chapter to the end of the book of golf on Eriska.
...now back to a well earned drink in the Clubhouse and Spa...or is it another nine holes?
“Aside from the lovely course itself, Eriska has some fine practice facilities. An excellent putting green, a short game area for chipping and bunkering lie close to the hotel, with a 300 yards driving range alongside.
Complemented by the Golf Studio and indoor putting area, the facilities for tuition or practice, indoor or out, are second to none.
All in all Eriska’s golfing gem has something for everyone, beginners or seasoned player alike, and few will ever forget the truly wonderful and spectacular land on which the nine holes are couched.”
Golf Course Architect