Hidden Gem of The Month: South West – Ayrshire
The Ayrshire coast to the south of Glasgow has an amazing group of seaside links courses close together on a 30-mile coastline. There are 32 golf courses within a 20 minutes’ drive from the town of Ayr, the largest town in Ayrshire. The Gulf Stream is off the coast here, it keeps the greens frost-free giving year-round golf. Ayrshire is historic, picturesque and for golfers the coast is a real delight. The major courses are Turnberry, Royal Troon, Prestwick and Western Gailes. Their fame and proximity to Scotland’s largest city Glasgow makes them expensive to play. Our alternatives are Irvine, Kilmarnock Barrassie and Prestwick St Nicholas.
Irvine Bogside Golf Club – is situated on the coast between the town of Irvine and the River Irvine. It offers a traditional links challenge and is regularly used by the R&A as a Final Open Qualifying Course when the Open is at Turnberry or Troon. Established in 1887, it owes much of its character to the legendary course designer, James Braid. His courses were distinguished by great variety between holes and appealing use of natural features. Irvine also benefits from breathtaking landscapes and views over the Firth of Clyde. The sandy links fairways are divided by gorse and heather. Every hole is different, many are quite imaginative and the greens are true and fast.
The course demands accurate shot-making and golfing challenges can be found at every hole. However, the layout is unconventional. With only one par 5 and two par 3’s there are many pars 4’s to play and about one in three is over 400 yards. With a wind this can make it hard for shorter hitters. They will need to have a decent short game. The layout includes tight fairways, whins, blind shots and well placed bunkers to punish wayward shots. It was over such links land that the game was born in Scotland and the true links experience is enjoyable, challenging and valued. 6415 yards, par 71, High Season, weekdays £60.
Kilmarnock Barassie – is a testing links and not for the fainthearted. It is not as scenic as the typical Scottish links golf course. However, it’s a fine links golf course, very well maintained with undulating fairways, difficult rough, challenging bunkers and true undulating greens. It has been often chosen as a final qualifying golf course when the Open Championship is played at Royal Troon and Turnberry. This confirms that the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews have rated it as a first-class golf course.
At 6,817 yards from the visitor's tees, it's a relatively long golf course compared to our typical ‘hidden links’. On a windy day, which can be quite often, it adds to the challenges particularly on the long par 4’s. The greens since 1892 ers. It's a course that you need to think your way around. Long hitting needs to be quite accurate and judicious use of a three wood from the tee is often a good option. 6817 yards, par 71, High Season, weekdays £65.
Prestwick St Nicholas Golf Club - was first played on the 12 holes which served the more famous Prestwick Golf Club. It is the 26th oldest Golf Club in the world. Old Tom Morris, winner of four Open Championships was a founding and honorary member of the club. It is a traditional Scottish links golf course, located on a its current prime site on the Ayrshire coast since 1892. The course is laid out between the Ayr to Glasgow railway line and the Firth of Clyde with stunning views. It is clearly overshadowed by its most famous neighbour, but has been termed a ‘Miniature Championship’ course. This is because it’ s only weakness at 6044 yards is a lack of length. However, this undoubtedly endears it to older players and shorter hitters. It requires good course management having intelligent bunkering, ‘out of bounds’ on 12 holes, inevitably wind and several blind shots. The fairways are generous but miss them and there is gorse, whins, some deep bunkers, water at the 8th and severe rough. Greens are undulating with great surfaces, it will test the skills and abilities of all players. The splendid clubhouse sits yards from the shoreline where you can relax after an enjoyable testing round. 6044 yards, par 69, High Season, weekdays £70.
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