7. Irvine Golf Club – Irvine

Andy Marshall PGA Professional’s Top 10 Courses in Ayrshire

Irvine GC - Scotlands Hidden GemIrvine Golf Club – sometimes referred to as ‘Irvine Bogside’ owes much or its character and variety to the legendary course designer James Braid.  It is highly regarded by the R&A being used as a final qualifying course for the Open Championship, when it is hosted by near neighbours, Royal Troon or Trump Turnberry.

Founded in 1887 Irvine is a course that often goes under the radar when people discuss golf in this part of the country but it can rightly claim to be one of Scotland’s hidden gems.

The Irvine Golf Club is a traditional links course, where greens run true and golfing challenges can be found at every hole with breathtaking landscapes and views over the Firth of Clyde to the Island of Arran.  The Braid design uses the natural contours to best effect and no two holes are alike. No matter how many times you return to play this fabulous course, you will enjoy the experience as if for the first time, as you discover more of its interesting features and character.

It is part of the James Braid West Coast trail and represents a fine example of his course architecture, blended with the breath taking landscapes and views over the Firth of Clyde.

Irvine GC Hole 4There are several holes that call for thought and accuracy and none more so than the 4th hole – The Moor which is a par 4 requiring accuracy from both tee and second shot. The main West Coast railway line is out of bounds on the left, running the full length of the hole. A good tee shot will set up a short iron approach to the plateau green, and although the hole is devoid of bunkers, danger awaits the overhit approach, with the River Irvine and the railway line lying behind the green, whilst an approach hit short will leave a difficult recovery chip up to the green.

Irvine Golf ClubOn the back 9 my favourite hole is the 14th – The Specs – a shortish par 4 where you need to avoid the bunkers on both sides of the fairway from the tee to set up a mid to short iron approach shot to the green which lies over a grass bank containing the 2 bunkers from which the hole takes its name.  The green is two-tiered, making the accuracy of the approach important if a three putt is to be avoided.

There are many fine links golf courses on the Ayrshire Coast.  The Irvine Golf Club should stand proudly as one of the best but maybe less familiar – and should be on your ‘must play’ list.  A club where you’re always guaranteed a very warm welcome and fantastic turf from which to play.

 

6. Gailes Links Golf Course – Irvine

Andy Marshall PGA Professional’s Top 10 Courses in Ayrshire

Gailes Links GCGailes Links (sometimes known as Glasgow Golf Club) has hosted major championship tournaments through the years and was designed by legendary golf architect Willie Park Jnr of Musselburgh. It was opened in 1892 by Glasgow Golf Club, the 9th oldest golf club in the world, whose members initially played on Glasgow Green and subsequently on Queen’s Park and Alexandra Park, all 3 areas which were owned and managed by the then Glasgow Corporation and were open to all Glasgow citizens whether or not they were club members.  As golf mushroomed in popularity at the start of the 1890s and the Alexandra Park course became more and more crowded, the members decided to start looking for suitable ground in Ayrshire to establish a course which would complement the city one and, most importantly, which they themselves would control and manage – and soon homed in on Gailes and agreed the initial lease with the landowner, the Duke of Portland, in time for the course to be officially opened on 19th May 1892.

Its West Coast setting and fabulous condition makes it ideal for summer and winter golf in Scotland.  Gailes has been an Open Championship Final Qualifying course since 1973 and it has also hosted The Home Internationals, the Europe v USA Palmer Trophy, the Scottish PGA Championship, the Scottish Amateur Championship, the Scottish Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship, the Scottish Seniors Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship, the British Youths Open Amateur Championship and the British Seniors Open Amateur Championship. For four years from 2014, Gailes Links will be the sole Scottish Final Open Qualifying course.

At 6903 yards long from the championship tees with a par of 71 Gailes Links Ayrshire is a great test of golf whilst the kinder medium tees provides a fine test for players of all abilities. It is simply traditional links at its best.

The challenge starts with a steady stream of four consecutive par fours followed by the Gailes Links - Hole 5signature hole of the course, the 5th – a par five of 536 yards  – a dog-leg with out-of-bounds to the right and a treacherous undulating green that’s guarded by strategically placed sand traps. Playing downwind the longer hitters may have a chance of hitting the green in 2 – other players should try and lay up to 100 yards out to give themselves a chance to make a birdie with an approach shot to the right side of the green leaving you with a makeable uphill putt.

 

Gailes Links Hole 15On the back 9 my favourite hole is the 15th – a par 3 where although its only 140 yards to the front of the green it’s no pushover.  Your tee shot must be accurate or a bogey or worse is on the cards.  A narrow green is guarded by 2 deep pot bunkers on the right and a 10 foot drop on the left.  The best play on this hole is a short to mid iron to the front of the green which will leave an uphill putt and the best place to attack for a 2 putt par.

 

With its undulating fairways, fine greens and subtle qualities, the course is an honest test of golfing skills in true links fashion and there’s always a warm welcome in the clubhouse!

 

 

5. Royal Troon Golf Club – Troon

5. Royal Troon Golf Club – Troon

Andy Marshall PGA Professional’s Top 10 Courses in Ayrshire

Royal TroonRoyal Troon is one of the greatest links courses in Scotland – founded in 1878 by a few enthusiasts, Troon Golf Club soon outgrew its purely local reputation. The Old Course today represents a stern golfing examination and in particular the inward half of Royal Troon is widely accepted as the most demanding of any Course on the Championship rota.  It’s a challenging test of golfing ability with the wind and deep rough to contend with – with gorse and broom on each hole – where shot making is essential.

Royal Troon Golf Club proudly hosted The 145th Open Championship in July of 2016 where the modern day ‘Duel in the Sun’ took place between Stenson and Mickelson. It was the ninth occasion The Open had been held at Royal Troon and considering the Club’s humble beginning in 1878, the journey has been remarkable with great credit due to some forward thinking members during the Club’s early years.  

The first 6 holes go straight Southwards along the seashore – normally downwind where you’re generally able to fashion a score.  The back 9 is is a great challenge – generally back into the breeze with the last 2 being tough finishing holes. The 17th – Rabbit (at 218 yards off the back tees) is the last and most difficult of the short holes where the tee-shot can be as much as a driver, depending upon the wind.  The plateau green falls away sharply on both sides and is well guarded by bunkers, short and on the right and left hand sides. A challenging hole if you have pencil and card in your hand.  The 18th – Craigend (at 464 yards off the back tees) requires an ideal drive straight down the centre to avoid the bunkers on either side of the fairway. Bunkers short of the green will catch a mishit second shot and the green itself, which lies right in front of the clubhouse, is protected by a bunker to the left and two more to the right. An overhit approach shot could finish on the path at the rear of the green, which is out of bounds.

Royal TroonFrom my (and many others) perspective the best hole on the course is the infamous Postage Stamp 8th – originally called “Ailsa” because there is a perfect view of the rocky islet of that name from the tee. The smallness of the putting surface accounted for the current name when William Park writing in “Golf Illustrated” said, ” A pitching surface skimmed down to the size of a Postage Stamp”.  Much has been written about this 8th hole – the tee is on high ground and a dropping shot is played over a gully to a long but extremely narrow green set into the side of a large sandhill. Two bunkers protect the left side of the green while a large crater bunker shields the approach. Any mistake on the right will find one of the two deep bunkers with near vertical faces. There is no safe way to play this hole, the ball must find the green with the tee-shot.  Depending on wind direction this 123 yard hole can play between a wedge and a 6 iron and can make or break anyone’s scorecard (including those of the top professionals!)

You will love the experience of Royal Troon – with a very welcoming clubhouse and a club with great history – it should be on your ‘must play list’