Author: Callum Taylor, Managing Director, Golf Concierge Scotland Ltd, Edinburgh.
In the South West of Scotland, just 30 minutes from Glasgow, you will find a cluster of the leading and most historic links golf courses in the world. There is Royal Troon, which hosts the Ladies British Open from 20-23 August next month. Within a 15 minute drive from Troon you also have Western Gailes, a must play natural links course and Prestwick Golf Club, the Birthplace of The Open in 1860.
Add in Turnberry, only 20 miles down the coast, and at least half a dozen other worthy links courses and you have Ayrshire Golf. It is one of the UK’s finest destinations for golf with so many must-play courses within a stone’s throw of one another.
Ayrshire also has a fantastic train network with connections running up the West Coast. This means you can easily catch a train from Prestwick, Ayr or Troon into Glasgow Central Station in 30 minutes if you are looking for the big city attractions in addition to some first-rate golf.
On our most recent visit this July we enjoyed playing four of these top links courses and were not disappointed with what we saw. A friendly welcome is always guaranteed in the West, and furthermore you will benefit from the reasonable cost of green fees. Accommodation and eating out are also great value especially when compared with the more expensive Eastern parts of Scotland.
Golf Concierge Scotland recommends you consider these courses for your Ayrshire itinerary:
Prestwick Golf Club - The birthplace of the Open in 1860-this one is something really special! Old Tom Morris’s original 12 holes have evolved over the years and what you will find in the present day is a unique blend of immaculately presented quirky links golf holes. Many of the original holes including the dramatic 17th named Alps which was the old 2nd are still in play. The course, clubhouse experience and place in golf history mean Prestwick should be top of the list on any Ayrshire golf trip.
Irvine Golf Club - A historic club dating back to 1887 and a past Open Qualifying course. At Irvine you will enjoy the stretch of holes from 3-5 which culminate in the 5th hole aptly named Sandbank; a drivable Par 4 with a huge bunker to carry over a steep ridge to the green.
Western Gailes Golf Club - Ranked as one of Scotland’s top layouts, Western Gailes is located on one of the finest pieces of property of any Ayrshire links. With coastal dune holes running from the 5th-13th and offering a selection of highly memorable holes and wonderful views over to the Isle of Arran.
Dundonald Links - Host to the 2017 Scottish Open won by Rafa Cabrera-Bello the layout is tailor-made for tournament golf. Kyle Phillips who also designed Kingsbarns, has done a super job at Dundonald, creating a modern links where every hole is a joy to play. Dundonald was acquired by Darwin Escapes last year and will benefit from the additions of a new clubhouse and luxury lodges which will be ready for the 2022 season.
Kilmarnock Barassie Links - Barassie Links is a club 2 miles north of Troon which has 27 holes of quality links golf. The main 18-hole Barassie Links was selected by The R&A to host the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship in 2020. A newer set of strategic links holes play out close to the border with Dundonald, and the brand new 12th Hole designed by Paul Kimber is a gem of a Par 3. It is Barassie’s own version of the famous Postage Stamp with severe run off slopes.
A new Walker Cup Lounge will be ready for 2021, so visitors can enjoy post round hospitality and learn about Barassie’s 4 Walker Cup players - the most of any UK club in the modern era. The 9-hole Hillhouse Links Course is worth a shot after lunch, as these holes were part of the original course.
Royal Troon Golf Club - The Old Course is set to host the Open Championship again in 2023 and will welcome the Ladies Open this August. Troon Portland Course is also worth adding into your Ayrshire golf program; shorter than The Old, Portland is a more sheltered links layout with design influences by Dr Alister MacKenzie. Visitors to the Portland still benefit from access to the main Royal Troon clubhouse and its grand rooms and facilities.
Troon Darley & Lochgreen - Municipal links golf, but at its finest. Darley will test your game with its tight narrow links fairways lined with gorse.
The Lochgreen is more playable with a combination of links and parkland holes and is the course where Jack Nicklaus qualified for his first ever Open Championship in 1962. Golf South Ayrshire have recently upgraded the clubhouse and restaurant facilities making it more welcoming for visitors.
Gailes Links – Part of the exclusive Glasgow Golf Club, Gailes Links has held Final Open Qualifying four times since 2014 and there is lots of heather and gorse to test your game.
Turnberry - The Turnberry Ailsa course is regularly voted Scotland’s No1. It’s not hard to see why with dramatic coastal views and a design which has only benefitted from enhancements by Mackenzie & Ebert. This highly acclaimed design firm have also turned The King Robert the Bruce into one of the best 2nd resort courses in the UK.
Where to Stay & Eat in Ayrshire
The towns of Troon and Prestwick offer golfers the ideal base with many popular hotels and B&Bs.
Troon is home to some of the larger golfer friendly hotels including Piersland House, South Beach Hotel, The Marine, Salt Lodge and Lochgreen House Hotel. Gailes Hotel is a superb choice if you are looking to practice your game on a Toptracer Driving Range located on-site, whilst other facilities include a sports bar and 9-hole pitch and putt.
Prestwick High Street was voted Scotland’s best high street in 2020. It is neatly presented with a wonderful collection of cafes, restaurants, pubs, local shops and a real community feel. The Vine and Vic’s has a dual function of being a modern eatery in the front of the property and in the back a lively bar serving fresh tank beer, live music and big screen live sports.
In order to take full advantage of the area, golfers should look out for these Ayrshire multi-course offers:
The Gailes Golf Experience – Western Gailes, Dundonald Links and Gailes Links all for £310 in peak season or much less for shoulder and winter months.
Prestwick Golf Club – For the remainder of 2020 UK residents can play Prestwick for £125.
Ayrshire Links Experience – Dundonald Links, Kilmarnock Barassie Links and Irvine Golf Club all for £200 or £160 off-peak.