“What is the best course in the world?” For many, this conversation starts and stops with links golf along the British Isles. And whilst few would put Western Gailes in that conversation, it holds down a prestigious position of its own; the greatest hidden gem of links golf.
The train tracks that frame the inland edge of Western Gailes last delivered golfers to the front steps in 1966, but you should get there by any means necessary. Measuring 6,800 yards at its longest and 6,200 from the boxes, you’d be forgiven for underestimating it. But this is as stern a test of links golf as any; defended by fierce winds, sand dunes, thick gorse and heather. If for some reason the golfing gods have smiled on you and the wind is down, put the driver away and hit the narrow fairways. If they are frowning, strap in. There aren’t many better ways in the world to enjoy a punishment.
The Frontier Holes
Whilst the course never really falters, there are a few special holes.
6th - Par 5
First, pray to hit a narrow strip of fairway dog legging right. Next, as you start to be swallowed up by the hole’s dramatic contours, fire a blind long iron through a cartgate in the dunes. The undulations will either carry your ball to the green side or stop it dead in its tracks. An epic bowl shaped green awaits.
7th - Par 3
Immediately afterwards is the Par 3 - 7th where golfers briefly raise their heads above the course before diving back under. The hole deserves the amphitheatre description it often gets.
14th - Par 5
On the 14th, it’s time to turn, and make your way back to the clubhouse along the railway. Whilst it’s sad to think your round is nearly over, there are still plenty of shots to be hit (likely too many). This 525 yard par five was chosen for The 500 World’s Greatest Golf Holes. Often downwind, its tempting for the big hitters, but ten bunkers lie in wait to humble an overly aggressive game plan.
17th - Par 4
The final feature hole is 17 and is considered the most difficult by members. At 443 yards it requires length and accuracy to hit the green in two. Members tell you to aim for the left edge of the clubhouse but if you fade (or slice) the ball, you’re on the tracks. A red and white post marks the green. Only a big, accurate tee shot will earn you a view of it.
Make it a trip.
On 2nd July 1851 a group of locals gathered in the Red Lion Inn to form Prestwick Golf Club, which went on to host the first-ever Open Championship 9 years later. You can imagine the folklore and atmosphere that surrounds one of the world’s oldest 19th holes. It’s a must visit on the Ayrshire Coast.
Half an hour up the A76 is a specialist, family run, steak house/gastro pub situated along the banks of the River Ayr. Inside you will find quality, locally sourced plates all served in an elegantly rustic setting. Loser drives.
Not far from the Red Lion in Prestwick is Buckley’s, offering a cafe/bistro style all day eatery serving a diverse range of dishes from Tattie Pie to Moroccan Spiced Chicken. The food is good, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this laid back atmosphere.
The Ayrshire coast has some of the world’s greatest golf courses, many of them just a sand wedge distance away from one another. There’s Troon, Prestwick, Dundonald links and many more. But for the golf explorer, we’ve included some little known gems that punch above their weight class.
Founded in 1787 and home to the 10th oldest golf club in the world, Glasgow Golf Club’s Gailes Links is the hidden gem dwarfed by the hidden gem. It is famous for thick gorse, and heather lined fairways, whilst the greens are described by famous author Bernard Darwin as “green and velvety”. When The Open plays at Troon or Turnberry, Gailes Links has been the venue for Final Qualifying. It certainly stands up to the test.
The next course along this constellation of links has everything you might hope for; gentle undulations, gorse, heather, bunkers, low dunes, blind shots and old stone walls. The memorable hole is the double dog leg 8th. At 6,800 yards from the medals the course presents another windswept test. Do not race past on your way to Troon.
Marine Troon £££
For those who like their adventures with a few creature comforts, Marine Troon is the golfing equivalent of the perfect ski chalet. Every detail is an attempt to enhance your golfing experience. A beautiful view of the beach, Royal Troon and the Isle of Arran helps. Enjoy a Scottish culinary experience serving the best locally sourced produce, game and seafood in a traditional and down to earth setting. Or unwind after a long day battling the coastal elements in their tasteful spa.
A beautiful converted Scottish mansion set amongst 9 acres of coastal gardens and woodland, Sandhill House offers the perfect respite for your golfing adventure. It’s comfortable, spacious and a blissful spot to share a wee dram in the evening. It’s also remarkably good value.