Golf courses are almost everywhere in Scotland, it's rarely necessary to travel far to find one. However, there's a particularly impressive run of prestigious courses on the Firth of Clyde, in the west of Scotland, over a relatively short length of the coast.
It's an ideal location for those seeking high quality, classic, links where they can maximise the golf and minimise the travel.
The Open Championship visits Royal Troon again in 2024. Views across to the Isle of Arran from Troon, or to Ailsa Craig from the Ailsa course at Turnberry are well known from TV coverage of The Open. But beyond these famous venues the sheer number of links both north and south of Troon turn this area into a perfect destination for both short breaks and longer golf trips.
Starting at Gailes Links, as the northernmost point, there is an almost unbroken line of courses southwards encompassing Western Gailes, Dundonald Links, Kilmarnock Barassie, the 3 public courses of Troon Darley, Fullarton and Lochgreen then Royal Troon with both the Old and Portland courses till we reach Prestwick. With a short hop over Prestwick promenade you can also add Prestwick St Nicholas to the list.
As the crow files it is just over 8.5 miles from the northern point of the course at Gailes Links to the southern point of Prestwick St Nicholas, with the courses all staying within a mile from the coastline.
That makes an astonishing 11 links courses within that space, most being championship standard, challenging, links and all but the relatively recent Dundonald Links and the 3 public courses dating back to the 19th century. Perfect for a golf trip to suit almost any golfer - and hardly any driving!
Let's look at the courses we include as featured courses here on the Golf Independent website.
Dundonald is the new kid on the block in this part of the world. Designed by Kyle Philips, who was also behind Kingsbarns Links, the course has hosted several professional and amateur tournaments. Set in dunes, the holes running in varied directions which means the wind impact can be different from hole to hole. This is a traditional style of links which presents a demanding test.
Gailes Links, in it's original guise as Glasgow Gailes, opened in 1892. A traditional links with penal rough the best approach, although easier said than done, is to keep the ball in the centre of the rather undulating fairways. A regular venue for Open Championship Final Qualifying the current layout remains close to the 1912 re-design by Willie Park Jnr.
There are 27 holes at Kilmarnock Golf Club, the most commonly played 18 holes being the Barassie Links. This layout has hosted many amateur and professional tournaments including Open Final Qualifying. Barassie may not be as familiar a name as the nearby Open venues but with a reputation for excellent greens and testing fairways it merits inclusion in any golf trip to this area.
Prestwick Golf Club
One of Scotland's truly historic links Prestwick Golf Club was the venue for the first ever Open Championship in 1860 and only St Andrews has hosted the Championship on more occasions. This is a fun and challenging course with humps, hollows, dunes and several blind shots – a venue that demands good course management. The full experience requires (for men) bringing a jacket and tie to enjoy lunch in the traditional Dining Room.
Royal TroonThe Open Championship returns to Royal Troon for a 10th time in 2024. The Old, or championship, course is a tough test with heavy rough and classic undulating fairways. Its most famous hole, the 8th, may be known for being the shortest par 3 on the Open circuit but don't let the distance fool you. The Postage Stamp has a small, raised green and is stoutly defended by several deep bunkers.
Western Gailes offers golfer all you expect from a classic Scottish links - undulating fairways, contoured greens, small and deep pot bunkers and deep links rough. Founded in 1897 the course initially was allowed to develop naturally. While there may be more management of the links now, nature, the wind and the dunes still have a strong impact on the layout and the challenge presented by the golf course.
This part of the west coast played a key role in the growth of golf’s most famous Championship. The Open Championship began at Prestwick in 1860, the course hosted the event for the next 10 years, and Royal Troon and Prestwick have, between them, hosted the Open on 33 occasions. Only St Andrews has hosted the event more often than Prestwick.
Several golf passes are available which may reduce the cost of your green fees, depending on your choice of courses:
- The Ayrshire Golf Pass costs £180 to play each of Kilmarnock Barassie, Irvine and Prestwick St Nicholas – weekdays only. The Ayrshire Golf Pass Plus adds Dundonald for a total cost of £305.
- The Gailes Golf Experience is £340 for play at each of Dundonald, Gailes Links and Western Gailes.
There is a wide choice of accommodation convenient for the courses mentioned above. Here are just some of the options we suggest, listed with links to check availability and rates:
|Country House Hotels||Lochgreen House Hotel, Troon|
The Piersland House Hotel, Troon
|Lodge/Inn Style||The Gailes Hotel, Gailes|
The Old Loans Inn, near Troon
The Salt Lodge, Troon
|Cosy Guest House||Golf View, Prestwick|
|Country House Bed and Breakfast||Sandhill House, Troon|
|Budget Hotel||Premier Inn Ayr/Prestwick Airport|
Or, browse our full list of accommodation suggestions for the West Region.
Prestwick Airport, which is served by a variety of Ryanair flights from Europe, is less than 10 minutes from both Troon and Prestwick.
Glasgow Airport has a wide choice of international flights and is 45 minutes drive from Troon and Prestwick - all the major car rental companies are located at Glasgow Airport.
There is no railway station at Glasgow Airport but Paisley Gilmour Street is a mile from the terminal from where there are direct trains to both Troon and Prestwick. Times and prices can be checked at www.scotrail.co.uk.
Published: 18 July 2022