A scintillating links course that nears perfection at times

Western Gailes

Western Gailes Golf Club

Western Gailes Golf Club

Date Reviewed
July 25, 2016
Reviewed by Ed Battye
Western Gailes is a thing of true beauty. Something extra special. Near perfection at times.

It’s a classy links course that only a fusion of nature and time is able to create and where man merely offers a guiding hand. This is close to being as good as it gets at times.

The four founders of Western Gailes, all members of golf clubs in Glasgow just before the turn of the 20th Century, had a vision to create a quality golf course on the Ayrshire coast away from the humdrum of the city and on better golfing ground. They chose their piece of land wisely and their vision was not only created but it lives on today.

The 18 holes at the aptly named Western Gailes are hemmed in on a very narrow strip of land between the Firth of Clyde and the famous West Coast railway line. Rolling dunes, rippling sandhills, dips, swales, hollows and dells are all present. Add to this the firm, tight and sandy turf that you play from off the fairways and you have the ultimate combination for exhilarating links golf. The green sites on many of the holes are truly sublime.

Nine holes head in a northerly direction whilst the other nine are played alongside them but run to the south. It’s far from uncommon for a links course to play ‘out and back’ but here the clubhouse is centrally located so you play four to the north then a run of nine to the south before turning back again for the final five. It’s an unusual routing but one I found highly enjoyable.

What makes the long stretch of holes from the 5th to the 13th even more special is that they are played extremely close to the sea and the proximity of the beach certainly adds to the appeal and experience.

Personally I thought holes five to eleven were on a different planet to most other courses. The holes oozed charisma, challenge and produced a blend of golf that I have rarely seen on my travels. The natural green settings and tee positions define this stretch where the golfer is teased and tormented by the undulating ground but comes away feeling rewarded and uplifted. The snaking par five 6th, short 7th, driveable 9th and demanding 11th are pure links heaven.

The rest of the course will test every facet of your game too. The opening quartet of holes, all two-shotters, are not long but have more character than perhaps some more famous courses have in their full 18. The ugly concrete bridge that supports the flyover that dissects Western Gailes from neighbouring Glasgow Gailes Links is the only blot on the landscape. Incidentally the train line also segments Western Gailes from the newly created Dundonald Links as well as Kilmarnock Barrasie. You don't have to travel far in this neck of the woods to find high quality golf.

The run for home starts off in impressive fashion too as you hug the railway line for the final five. The 14th is a grandioso par five with bunkers strewn down its 592 yards. Bunkers are once again prominent as they surround the short 15th whilst a beautifully constructed burn, considerably higher on the green side than that of the fairway, crosses in front of the 16th.

Meanwhile, the 17th is immense and has shades of North Berwick about it where you must cross a large dune ridge with your approach to a secluded green and the deepest bunker on the course gaurding the front-right. Avoiding a scattering of fairway bunkers down the last is key to completing your round in a positive manner where you will undoubtedly enjoy holing out in the shadow of the impressive clubhouse.

Western Gailes is everything and more. Each time I have played it there has been a fierce wind off the sea that actually enhanced the playing characteristics of the course because a ground game was essential. Western Gailes is scintillating links golf. My type of links golf.

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