Shiskine Golf – A Stunning & Spectacular Dozen Holes Of Scotland’s Best

Let me start by asking a question.  How many 12-holes golf courses have you played?

While 12-hole golf courses are pretty rare, some of the famous courses in golf started off being a dozen holes, including Prestwick that from 1860 hosted the first dozen Open Championships.

More recently, legendary Jack Nicklaus opened a 12-hole course back in 2007 he named ‘Red Ledges’ located to the east of Salt Lake City in Utah. Going onto the club’s website the course is described as: “One part ‘Golf,’ one part ‘Park,’ and countless parts ‘Fun.'”

One of the more stunning 12-hole golf courses is Shiskine on the Scottish isle of Arran.

The Isle of Arran, meaning ‘Ridged Island’, is situated in the Firth of Clyde, less than 15 miles from the Scottish mainland.  It is the most southerly of all Scottish islands and perhaps one of the most accessible thanks to a regular car ferry service from the town of Ardossan, located about 35-miles to the south of Glasgow.

Arran measures just 167 square miles and is just less than 60 miles if you drove around the island.

What is special is that Arran is very much Scotland on a smaller scaler with a very similar landscape of mountains in the north and lush green countryside in the southern regions.

Shiskine Golf and Tennis Club, to use it’s proper name, is located in the village of Blackwaterfoot on the south-west side of Arran, and overlooking in the distance Kintyre.

The course like so many in Scotland, was initially a nine-holer and designed in 1896 by St. Andrews born Willie Fernie, who captured the 1883 Open at Musselburgh Links.  In fact, Fernie designed four of the seven golf courses on Arran including Lamblash and Machrie Bay, and each nine-holes, and the 18-hole Whiting Bay,

Another Willie in Willie Park Jnr, and also an Open Championship in 1887 and 1889, had been commissioned to extend Shiskine to 18 holes but the First World War hindered that, as the land set aside to extend the course was taken over by farming.

Not that Shiskine was left short-changed.

A framed chart within the Shiskine clubhouse showing Willie Ferne’s 1896 design for nine-holes.

No, not by any means as the dozen holes at Shiskine present everything and much more that you would fine in your standard, run-of-the-mill 18 holes such as the contrast of starting out along the beach but then two holes later finding yourself playing an uphill shot, and I really mean straight in-the-air uphill, to an unsighted green at about a 10 o’clock position in front of you where the only guide is a flagstick on the left and identfying where the green drops off, and a black-and-white pin marker post.

I can assure you, you’ve not played any hole before like the third hole and named ‘Crows Nest’ for obvious reasons.

I discovered this and much more when, on the occasion of my birthday last year (August 17th, 2022), I joined very good  friends and colleagues Micky Court, Barry Gentle and Paul Bennett playing Skiskine for the first time.

We first were warmly greeted by Skiskine Club captain Andy Gray while shortly after we had the pleasure of meeting Dougie Bell, who has been club professional for some 15-years.

I want to now share with you my great joy in playing Skiskine buts let’s first talk with Andy.

Skiskine boasts one par-5 at 480-yards (9th hole), four par fours (1st, 2nd, 6th and 8th holes) and the remaining seven holes being par-3s with the longest par-3 being the 207-yard 11th hole and the shortest the 121-yard 12th and closing hole.

The opening nine holes play to 2,348-yards while holes 10 to 12 play to 489-yards for a course yardage is 2,837-yards. For the dozen holes it plays to a par-42.

A review of the elevation at Skiskine reveals a minimum of two metres at the first to a maximum of 39 metres at the 4th green while if you walked in a straight line from the 1st tee to the 11th green, the walking distance is 3,412-yards or 1.9 miles.

The opening hole, aptly named ‘Road Hole’ as there is road running down the left side, so with all of Scotland to the right the tee shot should favour the middle to right side.

The opening tee shot at Skiskine – First hole, Par-4, 385-yards. (Photograph – Bernie McGuire @TourMiss)

Looking into the first green, Par-4, 385-yards at Skiskine. (Photograph – Bernie McGuire @TourMiss)

‘Twa Burns’ is the name of second hole also plays to a par-4, measuring 391-yards and the longest, albeit by six yards, at Skiskine. The tee is located to the right of the first green, around the back of the 10th green and you share the tee with the 11th hole that heads back to the clubhouse.

The second hole is also the No. 1 index hole. As the name of the hole implies there is two water hazards on the hole. One up front that despite it being my birthday, I proceeded to make a splash and a second burn running right across the hole in front of the green.

Not too difficult tee shot off the par-4 second hole though don’t be short as there is a burn at the base of the rise, in front of the bushes you can see growing on the slope of the rise (Photo – Bernie McGuire @TourMiss)

Local knowledge helps at the second given an unsighted burn guarding the green. Photograph from back of the green by Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

Now for ‘The Crows Nest’ – the stunning par-3 fourth hole. Your first thought is probably: “Where is the green?”

Well, the green is about a 10 o’clock position, up the slope and about 128-yards away.  For the first-timer like myself, all you can do is pull a 130-yard club, aim for the black-and-white marker post but DO NOT aim for the flag on a post to the left, as that marks the left edge of the green.  Anything left of that post has no future, at all.

The ‘Crow’s Nest’ .. The par-3 third hole, Be sure to take aim on the black-and-white marker post and not the flag on a stick to the left. Photograph – Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

You’re in the ‘Crow’s Nest’ at the third hole at Skiskine. Note the 4th tee behind the green. Photograph – Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

Be sure to take in the view off the tee at the par-3 fourth with Kilbrannan Sound in the foreground and the Mull of Kintyre in the background.

Standing on ‘The Shelf’ and the view from the 4th tee, and looking out to the Isle of Kintyre in the distance. Photograph Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

On the green at ‘The Shelf’, the par- 3 4th hole at Skiskine. Photograph Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

Stunning view of the 4th hole at Skiskine with Drumadoon Cliffs towering over the golf course. Notice players on the tee at the top of the path. Photograph by Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

The 5th hole is named ‘The Point’. Your back is to Kibrannan Sound teeing off the 243-yard par-3 fifth hole, so for us mere mortals it could be driver depending the direction of the wind.

The 5th tee looking to the left back at the fourth hole. Photograph Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

The par-3 fifth green with Drumadoon Cliffs dominating the skyline. Photograph Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

Looking back on the 5th green with Kintyre in the background. Photograph Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

Overhead shot showing the 5th fairway coming from right to left to meet the green, and then right alongside the beach, the 6th tee and the hole running to the bottom right centre of the photograph.

After a trio of par-3s, the sixth hole is a short 275-yard par-4.  It’s a tee shot to a blind green with OB down the right side of the hole running parallel, as it does, with the water.

Players on the 5th green and with the 6th tee to the right against the beach and the hole running down along the water, albeit with the green hidden.

The sun setting over Skiskine with the sixth green foreground looking back to the tee. Photograph Greg McCrae @GregMccrae1

It’s a blind shot also into the next hole, the 172-yard par-3 seventh hole that is named ‘Himilayas’. In place is a special signal system set-up at either side to the entrance to the green to advise those behind that there is players on the green.  See the video.

After two testing blind tee shots, it’s away from the water but then teeing-off the short 249-yard par-4 eighth hole back in the direction of Kilbrannan Sound.  Saying that, it’s a hole you can open the shoulders.

The great view off the par-4 eighth tee. Photograph Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

Wonderful sun setting snap above the 8th tee with Kintyre in the background. Photograph: LeicoinGolf

Next up is the only par-5 at Skiskine, the ninth hole and all of 506-yards and good reason why it is ranked the second hardest. The hole runs virtually down the middle of the golf course.

Players at the bottom of the photograph on the front of the eighth green and also the 9th tee. You can see houe the 9th hole dog-legs slightly to the right. You can also see the burn cutting across the fairway. That’s the second fairway in the top-left hand corner while the green in the bottom of the picture is the fourth green with the path leading down from the teeing area.

Beware in the playing the ninth hole that the burn that protects the front of the second hole also comes into play in tackling the ninth, and also more dramatically. Looking at the photograph hereunder you can see the green but glance back down the fairway to the dark green patch of gorse and that is where danger lurks.

Looking back on the 9th green at Shiskine. Photograph by Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

Nine memorable holes and now for the closing trio – the par-3 10th, 11th and 12th holes. The 10th hole is named ‘Paradise’ and it was nearly a golfing paradise for Micky with tee shot going so close to an ace (read on).

Take a look at the You Tube video.

First thing, and be sure you’re hitting to the 10th green. It’s the one on the left in the first whereas the one to the right is the first hole green.  It’s a hole that’s not as easy as it may look.

The green looks generous enough but there is a pair of bunkers on the left side of the green ready to swallow any shot that leaks left.

No trouble for Micky, as I mentioned, as he had us carrying out a rendition of the Scottish Highland Fling, excitedly watching his tee shot head towards the flagstick.  As you can see from the photograph, so close to an ace.  Don’t know why he has his putter, as we generoulsy conceeded the birdie putt (smiling).

Inside Golf’s Micky Court going so close to a birdie ‘2’ at the 10th hole at Shiskine Golf Club. Photograph Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

The par-3 11th is a fair test at 190-yards off the yellow tees and hittting into an unsighted, sunken-like green. Local knowlege no doubt would have you aiming at a point on the clubhouse in the distance but then a good rescue club shot could have you on the ‘dance floor’.

The 11th is rated 10 index on the scorecard, so another chance for a par at worst.

Players leave the 11th hole back left and there is a bell to ring, advising those waiting on the 11th tee that the green is clear.

The par-3 11th hole, hitting into blind and sunken green here at Shiskine Golf Club. Photograph by Bernie McGuire at Tour Miss

Ted Koala (Twitter @ted_koala) is the most travelled head cover in all of golf, and usually finds his way onto the 18th hole marker at golf courses he visit.  Given Shiskine in a 12-hole lay-out, Ted proudly parked himself on the 12th hole tee-marker.

Golf’s not just a game where you tee-up, find the fairway and the eventually hole out before making your way to the next tee. No, it’s about reading tribute plaques such as Ted found here on the 12th tee at Shiskine Golf Club. Photograph by Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

Of the seven par 3s at Shiskine, the 118-yard 12th is the shortest.  The hole is located right in front of the clubhouse, so there’s a little added pressure of those enjoying their lunch or whatever peering out over the 12th to see how you’re performing.

Performing?  Well, it was my birthday but I had to wait to the final green for a maiden par of the round.  Ah, but it’s that why we play this game?

The Shiskine Golf and Tennis Club clubhouse. The end of 12 remarkable holes but the start of savouring all that has been good in visiting the club. Photograph Bernie McGuire @TourMiss

And after a hot coffee, I enjoyed a super bowl of mushroom soup.  And yes, it tasted as good as it looked.




So, what did you order? 

Michael, Bazza, Paul and I have travelled Scotland many times playing some of the best golf course to be found in a country that is the home of golf.  Howver, as we sat back in the comfort of the clubhouse we asked each other a question and that it is why it has taken us so long to visit Shiskine.

And if this feature article is relatively long, and it is, then there’s a reason.

Shiskine was simply stunning and it’s that old adage as a golf course does not have to be 7,000 yards to be enjoyable.  A par-3 does not have to 200-yards to be challenging and a golf course does not have to be 18 holes to walk off feeling enriched in playing the ancient club-and-ball game.

Thank you to everyone at Shiskine particularly Club captain Andy Gray and it was great to finally meet the legendary Dougie Bell.





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