4. Prestwick Golf Club – Prestwick

4. Prestwick Golf Club – Prestwick

Andy Marshall PGA Professional’s Top 10 Courses in Ayrshire

Prestwick Golf CourseThe history of Prestwick Golf Club (sometimes referred to as ‘Old Prestwick’) stretches back over 160 years to a time when golf was in its infancy. In 1851, a group of 57 enthusiastic members, who met regularly at the Red Lion Inn, made the momentous decision to form a golf club purchasing two cottages opposite the tavern.  The first cottage would become the members’ clubhouse whilst the other was gifted to the club’s Keeper of the Green, ball and clubmaker – Old Tom Morris. Together with a gold medal presented by the club’s first captain (the Earl of Eglinton) for an annual competition still played for today, the legend of Prestwick was born.  

The birthplace of the Open Championship is what this amazing golf course boasts and a simple stone cairn to the west of Prestwick’s clubhouse marks the spot where the first Open Championship tee shot was struck in 1860. It identifies the opening hole of the original 12-hole course and the place where modern golfing history began.  Prestwick presided over the first 12 Open Championships, which was then held jointly with The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. Prestwick went on to host 24 Open Championships with the last being held in 1925 when Jim Barnes from the US secured the first prize of £75. Only the Old Course at St Andrews has hosted more Open Championships than Prestwick….. 

Below are some of what I consider the feature holes of an amazing test of golf.

Prestwick GC Hole 1The 1st hole – Railway – Par 4 –  is one of the most famous opening holes in golf and sets the tone for the course, with an out-of-bounds wall running down the right-hand side from tee to green. You need to hit 160 yards to reach the fairway. Around 200 yards will leave a short iron to the green, favour the right side of the fairway for an easier second shot.     

 

Prestwick GC Hole 5The 5th hole  – Himalayas – Par 3 – this is a world famous blind par three. It is crucial to aim at the disc on the hill that matches the tee you are playing from, and make sure you take enough club to match the distance. It is a testing shot especially as the prevailing winds will push you towards five bunkers on the left side of the green. The green slopes back to front, so leaving it short will give you an uphill putt.

 

 

Prestwick GC Hole 17My favourite hole – the 17th – Alps – Par 4 – is a real treat – it’s the original 2nd hole from 1851 and the oldest existing hole in championship golf. The narrow fairway requires an accurate tee shot to allow the best chance of reaching the green in two. The blind second shot plays every inch of the yardage. Falling short will mean playing from the famous Sahara bunker. Check the tee box as this will indicate pin positions that you can then correspond to the markers on top of the Alps.  

 

It’s a fantastic experience to play golf at the birthplace of the Open Championship and you shouldn’t leave without taking in all of the historical memorabilia housed within the stunning clubhouse.

3. Dundonald Links – Irvine

Andy Marshall PGA Professional’s Top 10 Courses in Ayrshire

 

Another one of my favourites in Ayrshire is Dundonald Links which is located near Irvine and was originally known as Southern Gailes.  This Kyle Philip’s-designed golf course was purchased by Loch Lomond Golf Club in early 2003 to provide its global Membership with a traditional links challenge.   The courses name was changed to Dundonald Links to reflect the area’s rich history as Dundonald means ‘Fort Donald’ and fortifications have been discovered nearby dated to between 500 and 200 BC.

Dundonald LinksAs early as 2008 Dundonald Links was chosen as the venue for the first stage of the European Tour Qualifying School and it continued to host this important tournament until 2011. In 2012, it was the turn of the Seniors to test their skills against Dundonald’s challenges when the course played host to Senior Opening Qualifying. The prestigious Boys Amateur Championship came to Dundonald in 2014, before the course welcomed some of the world’s best female golfers for the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open in 2015 and 2016.I  t’s a great test of golf with the wind playing a big part in the difficulty factor. It hosted the 2017 Scottish Open and Ladies Scottish Open with broadcasting worldwide.

Dundonald Links

Although the current clubhouse isn’t stunning to look at (it’s a temporary facility) the welcome you receive and the facilities within more than make up for that.  The course meanwhile challenges all aspects of your game and several subtle changes which have been made in the past 2 seasons to some of the greens have made it more playable and my opinion enjoyable.

There are a couple of holes on the course that really stand out for me – the first is the 6th hole – at 170 yards and a Par 3 it’s very tricky with numerous obstacles surrounding the green and a prevailing right to left wind that can be difficult to detect from the sheltered tee.  Tee shots should be played to land on the right half of the green, avoiding the cavernous ditch gathering any shot hit left and taking advantage of the contours to bounce towards the centre of the green.  It’s a great test for your short game!

The other hole that stands out from my perspective is the 18th hole  – it’s the longest hole on the course and almost always a three shot hole.  Playing down the left side of the fairway from the tee will avoid the two bunkers on the right.  An accurate second will ensure you miss the cross bunkers waiting to catch any wayward shots and will set up an approach to a green guarded at the front by an imposing ditch and to the rear by pot bunkers.  Don’t get greedy here, it just might spoil your card!

 

Dundonald Links is relatively new in Golf Course terms – but making its mark and hosted the 2017 Scottish Open Championship.  It should definately be on your list of Ayrshire Golf Course to play

 

 

2. Western Gailes – Irvine

2. Western Gailes – Irvine

Andy Marshall PGA Professional’s Top 10 Courses in Ayrshire

Western Gailes GC
Sunset over Western Gailes GC

Western Gailes Golf Club is a true links course where elements of nature, architecture and tradition come together to provide an amazing test of golf!  

There is a traditional clubhouse with views out across the Firth of Clyde to the hills of Arran and the sharp outline of Ailsa Craig which has all the facilities you could possibly need and where you’ll receive a warm welcome.  

The course itself provides a classic test of golf over undulating terrain with develish bukering, meandering burns and finely contoured greens all framed by natural sand dunes and t’s probably not until you play the last 3 holes that you truly know you have played a real classic – with you having to concentrate right up to the end of your round.

Western Gailes Golf Club looking to Arran

It’s reputation as one of the game’s finest and more exacting courses has spread worldwide as evidenced by its numerous visitors from around the world including golfing legends from this and the last century.  The great Harry Vardon arrived at Western Gailes in June 1903 celebrating his fourth Open victory. In 1923 its attractions were being lauded by the then US Open Champion Gene Sarazen who played the course with three other outstanding professionals.

Greats from the second half of the 20th century such as Gary Player, Tom Watson and Tony Jacklin have also visited, while from the modern game Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson have all tested their mettle over this classic links course. 

 

Western Gailes GC

For the majority of golfers at approx. 6500 yards off the yellow tees (and just over 7000 yards from the back tees) Western Gailes should be a good test of golf and a very enjoyable experience – and I always relish playing it.

1. Ailsa Championship Golf Course – Turnberry

1. Ailsa Championship Golf Course – Turnberry

Andy Marshall PGA Professional’s Top 10 Courses in Ayrshire

Ailsa 1st Hole
1st hole – view to the green with Ailsa Craig in the distance

Set alongside the glorious Ayrshire coastline, with Arran and Ailsa Craig as a stunning backdrop, the Ailsa course is one of the finest golfing destinations in the world – is in my Top 3 courses of all time and is always a special treat to play.  

It has had the privilege of hosting the Open Championship four times, including the unforgettable 1977 Duel in the Sun – between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus won in the end by Tom.

 It’s serviced by a ‘grand’ clubhouse (where every facility is available) a very well stocked Pro Shop and a Golf Range with putting green.

From the minute you approach the first tee where the starter is waiting for you with a little tartan bag of goodies to the moment you come off the 18th green playing the Ailsa Course is a wonderful experience.  

Ailsa 9th Hole
The Testing 9th hole from the back tee!

It has several testing holes none more so than the 9th hole which is a spectacular par 3 playing across the bay to the iconic Lighthouse. It measures 243 yards from the back tee and is a really testing shot (especially when the wind comes into play).

The Ailsa is a classic links course (with heather, gorse, deep bunkers and running fairways) and was remodelled again in 2016 by reknowned architect Martin Eber – whose changes have enhanced an already great layout.

 

 

This is a ‘must play’ for golf enthusiasts and I hope will be back on the Open Championship circuit very soon allowing us to see exceptional golf in an amazing setting – and future ‘duels in the sun’.