Mysterious Sand Circles Of Achmelvich
Peculiar circles are dotted around the grassy area behind Achmelvich beach. What could they be? Building remains from an ancient Achmelvich community? Camouflaged missile silos? Evidence of alien landings? Nope, it turns out they serve a much more ordinary purpose. They are golf holes! I bet you didn’t know you could play golf this far north on the North Coast 500. This might be one of the NC500 best kept secrets & the best part is that it’s free!!
Many years ago some Achmelvich regulars started to whack a few golf balls around. 4 or 5 ‘holes’ started to emerge after aiming at the same spots over & over again. A little later again and the 9 holes of Achmelvich Links Golf Course were well established.
Players use only a 9-iron or pitching wedge to tee-off, approach & chip into the not-so-mysterious circles. The circles are made from the most abundant Achmelvich commodity. No not midges, but sand. Putting was never an option on the coarse machair*, so chipping in is the Achmelvich way. Over time the sand circles have become a permanent feature of the machair.
A Ryder cup style tournament has also evolved between the local caravan and camp sites (picture below from 2004). The ‘top & bottom’ sites slug it out for the Fraser Marr Memorial Trophy. The trophy takes its name from a young Achmelvich regular, who sadly lost his life in a car accident in 2003. Fraser hated golf, but he loved Achmelvich and the people who he met there each year. The same people still hack a wee ball around the dunes in his memory.
*Machair – Grassy plain of the north west Scottish Highlands – https://www.nature.scot/landscapes-and-habitats/habitat-types/coast-and-seas/coastal-habitats/machair
Marram March – Par 5
The 1st hole takes its name from the type of grass you’ll find yourself playing from. Think jungle more than St Andrew’s fairway.
From North Coast 500 Pods, walk for about 2 minutes towards Achmelvich beach. The 1st Tee is found between the road and the boardwalk down to the beach. The hole runs parallel to Achmelvich Beach and crosses some public walkways. There is also a dip before the green/hole that can hide beach goers. Please take care only to play over walkways & the dip when safe to do so.
The hole is located on a raised piece of machair below the cliffs. The machair also serves as the 8th hole, and tee for holes 2 & 9.
Thilg Dall – Par 3
The name translates as ‘blind shot’ and it couldn’t be more aptly named! All you can see from the tee is a bank with a large boulder. The hole sits on a plateau a short distance further on. Use the boulder as your line and hope for the best.
If you clear the boulder, the scramble up to the plateau is full of hope for a hole-in-one. Second prize is finding your ball lying nicely on the plateau, leaving a chip in for birdie.
Third prize isn’t great! If you hit the odd rocks to the left or slice to the right, you’ll likely be off the plateau. It’s marshy down there and it’s tough to chip up.
Conoc Na Creige Climb – Par 3
The wee hill climb. We’re a big advocate of hillwalking You’ll need equally sturdy footwear and legs to get up this one.
From the tee near the 2nd hole play over the bank & road. Aim for the hole in the little saddle between the rocks.
Craigie’s Jump – Par 4
Final resting place of a horse called Craigie.
From the tee above the 3rd hole, aim for the little plateau housing the 4th hole. Sounds easy, but this hole is fraught with peril (and we don’t mean from the ghost of Craigie). There is a lot of sand to avoid, winds to judge and the sea behind if you overcook it.
Vestey’s View – Par 3
Our recent blog on Achmelvich’s secret beaches has photos taken from this tee. The view of Vestey’s beach and out to sea is spectacular. I’m fairly confident in saying it’s the best you’ll ever have when playing golf on the NC500.
This is another tricky one. The hole is on a narrow plateau. Too short and you’ll be chipping up to the plateau from some horrible marshy ground. Too long and you’ll be off the back of the plateau and onto the road.
Machair Fore – Par 4
From the tee, it’s back over the fence onto the machair. Again there are walkways, which presumably caused the inspiration for the name of the hole. Fore being the recognised word in golf to shout to alert others of the flight of an errant golf ball.
This originates from the days when golfers would have more than one caddie. The FORE-caddie would be ahead of the play to help locate the resting place of the ball. Fore-caddie was abbreviated to ‘Fore’ to warn of wayward shots.
This hole nestles in a little crevice at the top of a small mound. Take care not to go out of bounds over the fence by the road on the left. This road leads to the public car park. It is always busy with NC500 traffic, so best not to have a smashing time down there either.
Kirsty’s Knickers – Par 3
Never mind golf on the NC500, we can’t imagine any golf club in the country that has a hole with a name like this!
We’ll probably never know if Kirsty ever recovered her knickers (or even if they were hers). A pair of underwear certainly ‘decorated’ this hole for a long time. All we can hope is that the owner had as much fun on the course as we do playing golf!
Another tricky one to judge. The hole is in a little depression and is easy to over/under hit.
Leanabh Leap – Par 3
Aim for the same plateau & hole used for the 1st hole. Again make sure no one is in the dip between the tee & hole.
Inspiration for the name comes from the youngsters who first started to hit golf balls on the now course. They would also jump off the plateau to the soft sand below. The plateau used to be bigger before the years of wind and rain eroded it to its current size/shape. Leanabh is Gaelic for children.
Durrant’s Dare – Par 5
This is the reverse of hole-1 and has the usual mix of hazards before and after the hole. The boardwalk just before the hole is classed as a water hazard. It’s therefore tempting to hit the ball a little harder to make sure you clear the ‘water’, but not so fast. Over the back is a row of static caravans owned & run by a chap called Durrant. Should you dare to hit the ball hard enough to reach the vans, there may some explaining to do!
And that completes a round of Achmelvich Links, surely the prettiest place to play golf on the NC500. Now time to light up the fire pit and have a cold one back at North Coast 500 pods.
If playing golf on the NC500 is something you’d like to do, there are traditional golf clubs to be found. The nearest to Achmelvich are Ullapool and Durness golf clubs. It can be a hassle to bring your own clubs, but it may be possible to rent – check first.
This is something that can be done in Achmelvich believe it or not. Our thoughtful neighbours at Tidal Gifts offer a selection of balls, 9-irons & pitching wedges for a small rental fee.