Eriska's nine nears completion

Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

The Isle of Eriska is a fantasy retreat. Described as a 'Hotel, Spa and Island', the whole island is part of the hotel's estate.

Situated in Loch Creran, north of Oban, Scotland, the former laird's house has been a hotel since 1973, and, over the past decade, guided by architect Howard Swan, has slowly been building its golf course.

All work has been done by local labour. "I've been working with the Buchanan- Smiths at Eriska for ten years now," says Swan. "It started with me mowing out nine holes – although we originally only constructed three – and now we've just finished sowing the last three, which should be fully open for play in 2007." The West Highlands of Scotland are notorious for wet weather and boggy peat underfoot – not exactly ideal golfing territory, one might think. But Swan says that, at Eriska at least, the peat layer is relatively shallow – between two and five metres deep – and it's possible to dig it out, bring sand and rock from underneath to the top, and set the golf course on that.

Extensive inversion of sand is being implemented to build fairways, with greens and tees designed within the natural setting. "You might not think so, but the family have spent very little building the course – it's a labour of love," says Swan. "The golf course is very simple and natural." Swan is also building a new nine at Great Hadham in Essex, England, as well as refurbishing the existing course.

This article first appeared in issue 3 of Golf Course Architecture, published in January 2006.