Discover: West Coast Scotland and Royal Troon
Explore the birthplace of The Open, and a Coast blessed with lesser known Classics!
"6 night discovery tours featuring: 1 Bucket List Course and 4 Hidden Gems, unique experiences and great value!"
If the East of Scotland is the Home of Golf, then the West is the spiritual home of the Open Championship. Historic Prestwick was host to the first 12 editions of the game’s oldest major in the 1860s and 70s, and that exceptional legacy has been furthered by nearby Royal Troon and Turnberry, which have both left their mark on the Claret Jug.
The Ayrshire coastline – running down the south west – features a stunning stretch of courses, reminiscent to that seen to the east of the country on the East Lothian coast. Those legendary Open venues are deservedly respected across the planet, but it’s the lesser known layouts that possess the most charm, including those found on islands such as Arran, Bute and Islay, not to mention the numerous understated links that surround the big name courses.
Having been born 50 miles north of Troon and spent my early life in the area, the West of Scotland left a personal and formative impression on me. It’s hard to persuade anyone making the journey across the Atlantic to venture anywhere far from St. Andrews, Muirfield and Royal Dornoch on the east coast, but the opposite side of the nation possesses enough to satisfy the most eager of golf enthusiasts.
If you like by what you see, contact Golfbreaks.com and they will help you to discover these jewels.
Day 1 – Arrive in Glasgow
When you land at Glasgow Airport, which is the busiest in Scotland, the drive to the hotbed of golf in Ayrshire is a mere 40 miles. However, I would recommend taking the coastal road alongside the Firth of Clyde, which is a stunning route to experience, offering breathtaking views across the water and out towards many of the country’s beautiful islands.
Glasgow, itself, is one of the most interesting and colourful cities you could visit. Renowned for their welcoming nature, the locals have a unique charm, and the vibrant and influential architecture is worth exploring if you have the opportunity. There is much to see and a lot to do, and as someone who has spent five years as a resident, I can attest to that endeavour being worthwhile.
Nonetheless, you’re coming over for the golf, and if heading to your destination comes as the main priority, then enjoy the journey. When you arrive, I can recommend great value accommodation options at The Gailes Hotel, overlooking the nearby links, or indeed at the South Beach Hotel, situated yards from the beach promenade in Troon.
Day 2 – Gailes Links
Home of the world’s ninth oldest golf club, Glasgow Gailes Links is one of the most underappreciated courses in Scotland. Brilliantly designed, each hole demands different answers, with bunkers, gorse and (as is common in the area) the railway line, which is in play on certain holes.
More recently, the R&A designated that Final Open Championship Qualifying would be contested at Gailes from 2014 and 2017, reaffirming the course’s increasingly prominent status. Always immaculately conditioned, and boasting some of the best turf anywhere west of Gullane, the greens are consistently slick and true, ensuring that the experience is an enjoyable one in all conditions.
Just a few miles of north of Royal Troon, Gailes feels like that iconic venue’s spiritual sister. Sharing much of the same ground and features, there are undisputed similarities between the two, and despite the exulted status of its neighbour, many would view this links as being superior.
Day 3 – Kilmarnock Barassie
Sat alongside the Barassie railway station, Kilmarnock Golf Club is within a short distance of Gailes and shares many of its characteristics. Previously an Open qualifying venue, there are uniquely 27 holes on the property, comprised of nine more recently created holes combining with nine from the original course to form 18, leaving the remaining nine as a separate entity altogether. Confusing, but it means more choice!
Consequently, what is now the main layout contrasts slightly in character between the two halves, but it’s an altogether excellent round, scenic, and well-conditioned. You can play the remaining nine separately, providing you with a more traditional experience that could be sampled at a different date, perhaps on a beautiful summer’s evening when you have two hours to spare.
With its excellent greens and spongy fairways, the Barassie is a solid and thoroughly enjoyable place to visit, and is a welcome addition to any itinerary in the area.
Day 4 – Royal Troon
Considering Ayrshire boasts an unrivalled association with the Open Championship, it would be remiss not to include one of those legendary courses. Royal Troon is the most recent of them, having memorably been the site of that incredible duel between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson during the 2016 tournament, when those two brilliant players separated themselves from the field.
It’s quickly become regarded as one of the greatest majors in recent memory, and it is credit to the venue for setting the stage for such a gladiatorial battle. Frequently overlooked in favour of the other Open venues in Scotland, Troon has a long history with the championship, dating back to the 1930s, and it has seen unparalleled success for American golfers.
Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Watson, Mark Calcavecchia, Justin Leonard and Todd Hamilton all secured the Claret Jug on this famous ground. In fact, the late great King of Golf had cited the fearsome 11th hole – Railway – as being the most dangerous hole he had ever seen. It’s the highlight of an intoxicatingly challenging back-nine, that complete a course that has etched its name into the annals of golf. It’s a thrill to walk in the footsteps of those champions.
Day 5 – Irvine Bogside
This is a traditional and quintessential Scottish course; challenging, ruggedly beautiful and full of quirks and surprises. Much of Bogside’s distinctive character remains having been laid down by the revered James Braid when he made significant adjustments to the layout some 90 years ago.
The holes are well balanced in terms of their length and difficulty; including the fourth that runs perilously close to the adjacent railway line and plays towards a plateaued green, and the 12th which features majestic views looking across to the mountainous Isle of Arran. The round concludes with an intimidating tee shot over a domineering grassy bank.
All around Bogside is thoroughly enjoyable and offers something that bit different from its compatriots in Ayrshire. This is the sort of course that I love to play. Hopefully it’s something that you would also appreciate.
Day 6 – Dundonald
The profile of Dundonald Links continues to rise, especially with it hosting the European Tour’s Scottish Open in 2017, which is set to attract a field of the world’s best players. Less scenic but similar in character to Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart, they’ll discover a satisfying, but not overly punishing test of golf.
Designed by the celebrated Kyle Philips and opened for play in 2005, the course is owned by the prestigious Loch Lomond Golf Club, but is far more accessible than their headline venue. There’s a sense of occasion to playing Dundonald, beginning with the warm and highly professional welcome that all visitors receive, to the quality of the course, now fully bedded-in after early teething problems.
Although it’s the most contemporary of the courses on this itinerary, we can expect its reputation and notoriety to only increase in the coming months. Therefore, it’s a perfect time to play it!
Other West of Scotland Courses to Explore
Elsewhere, Western Gailes ranks with the best in Ayrshire, and could easily sub in for any of those previously mentioned. In addition, Southerness, situated on the southernmost corner of western Scotland, is one of the best courses that most people won’t have heard of, while the newly revamped Machrie on the Isle of Islay is destined to become a must-visit destination for the most adventurous of golfers.
The Isles of Arran and Bute – where much of my own childhood was spent – have a rich offering of golf, and it would be rude not to mention the legendary Machrihanish, which may be an epic journey to reach, but is one of the world’s great experiences.
When you reflect on the depth of quality courses in Scotland, it almost seems a shame to break them down into specific regions. However, on closer inspection, that’s a necessity, as there is so much to delve through and uncover. Such is the standard, you could even condense them further into counties or even towns, or in Ayrshire’s case, strips of coastline with an oasis of golf. And that most definitely is worth discovering!
You too can experience it…
Prices for the above tour start from $1035pp when staying at The Gailes Hotel 4* in Gailes, or from $1105pp when staying at South Beach Hotel 3* in Troon. Includes all taxes and surcharges.
The package includes the following:
• 6 nights’ B&B at The Gailes Hotel 4* or South Beach Hotel 3*
• 5 Rounds of Golf at: Royal Troon, Gailes Links, Irvine Bogside, Dundonald Links, Kilmarnock Barassie
• Car Rental (self-drive)
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