Five of the region's lesser-known courses that wont disappoint
A Golfer’s Guide to Ayrshire
Stats: par 72, 6,340 yards
GF: £95; £50 after 3pm
A perseverant contender for the Golf Monthly Top 100 UK and Ireland rankings, Dundonald Links could arguably be the hidden gem of the Ayrshire crown. Sandwiched in between Gailes Links, Kilmarnock (Barassie) and Western Gailes, this Kyle Phillips design is slightly detached from the coast but still provides generous views of the mountains of Arran across the Firth of Clyde.
More generous off the tee than most of the surrounding courses, it was the ideal start to my Ayrshire jaunt. But that’s not to say it’s a pushover. Far from it, in fact. Long, penal rough can await significantly errant drives depending on the time of year you visit, while the deep bunkering will also cost you a shot more often than not. Sneaky burns guarding the front of greens are a common feature, most notably on the dramatic par-4 9th. The immaculately maintained, large and fast putting surfaces with ample slopes will also catch your attention.
The undulating fairways on the 12th and 16th are quite severe but presented flawlessly, and the par-5 18th provides the stadium finish this layout deserves. A friendly starter’s welcome will set you in the right mood on the 1st tee, and while the temporary clubhouse is still in operation, construction on the new structure begins in February.
Stats: par 71, 6,535 yards
GF: £95 pre 1.30pm; £60 after 1.30pm
Otherwise known as Glasgow Golf Club, Gailes Links has been an Open Qualifying course since 1973. It’s a flat but picturesque inland links that places a premium on accurate approach shots as the slopes on and around the greens can be severe.
You’ll be happy to get through the first four holes unscathed – all par 4s protected by length or narrow fairways. Then, the signature par-5 5th – protected by gorse and with a green hidden by a large hump 80 yards short – presents a good scoring opportunity. While comparatively generous off the tee, heather awaits just outside the rough to swallow errant drives.
Stats: par 71, 6,415 yards
GF: £50 wd; £60 we and day ticket
Redesigned by James Braid in 1926, Irvine is an inland links with much variety running alongside the Bogside Flats nature reserve.
The course is relatively flat and frequented by gorse bushes on most holes to test your accuracy. After a gentle start, the 4th is arguably the signature hole – a short, quirky par 4 with approaches hit up to a small, table-top green.
A wall behind separates the course from the railway line, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a friendly bounce back onto the putting surface. The 13th and 14th are two especially tricky par 4s in the middle of the back nine, each presenting blind shots and lengthy approaches.
Stats: par 71, 6,486 yards
GF: £60 wd; £70 we; £200 fourball (exc. Sat)
Another inland links layout with hints of parkland, Kilmarnock (Barassie) is a very enjoyable test that is separated from Western Gailes by the railway line.
Doglegs are a regular feature, with many boasting clusters of bunkers on the corner. From a number of contenders, the par-3 4th is arguably the most aesthetically pleasing, featuring a creek stretching along the left side from tee to green, the latter propped up with sleepers.
Golfers will appreciate the lack of heather but gorse bushes do creep in regularly at strategic places. There’s also a 9-hole, par-34 course that is slightly less challenging than the main track.
Prestwick St. Nicholas
Stats: par 69, 6,044 yards
GF: £65 wd, £70 we, day ticket £85
One of the oldest golf clubs in the world, boasting Old Tom Morris as one of the founding members, Prestwick St. Nicholas is positioned tight to the coastline, offering up stunning views of Ailsa Craig and the island of Arran.
Penal gorse bushes are commonplace as the holes transition from undulating to relatively flat in the middle section.
The finish is particularly testing, notably the par-4 16th with its intimidating elevated tee, and the nerve-jangling par-3 18th, measuring over 200 yards with the car park lurking along the right side. The greens are small in size but some of the quickest in the area.