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Western Gailes

In Praise Of . . . Western Gailes

A pure definition of links golf will undoubtedly refer to the need for the course to be laid out upon a narrow strip of land running adjacent to the sea. Geographically, this may be so, but the experience that comes with playing links golf is just as significant I feel.

I’m looking for holes set within dune ridges; marram grass rough that’s tough but fair; rolling humps and hollows leaving rarely a flat lie; and green complexes cut into tight and hard fairways. I’m also anticipating an array of challenges that links golf should offer including an eclectic mix of hole lengths, shapes and directions that play differently depending upon the nature of the onshore winds such that no two rounds are ever the same. Big expectations I know, but I can guarantee all of these conditions are met at Western Gailes.


Wedged between Irvine Bay and the railway tracks, Western Gailes is one of a number exceptional golf courses located on the prodigious Ayrshire coastline. It boasts an unusual layout. Ostensibly, it is a ‘nine out – nine back’ track, but it’s not as simple as this. The clubhouse acts as the central point for the course and the holes circle around the property. The first four holes run north, parallel with the railway.

The next nine holes head back in the southerly direction, passing the clubhouse along the way. The closing five holes head northwards again, along the railway tracks and back to the clubhouse. The undulating fairways are interrupted by three meandering burns that snake their way to the shore. The par-threes are cleverly located in naturally folded ground and the two par fives offer tempting eagles chances but danger lurks with cleverly placed fairway bunkers that leave you hacking out sideways if you venture in. All of the greens are firm, fast and subtly contoured, and the typical westerly wind can be cunning, ferocious or soul-destroying depending upon its strength and the quality of your game.

The course has been deemed good enough to host a plethora of top events including a Curtis Cup, a PGA Championship and a Palmer Cup, and is placed consistently within Golf Digest’s top-100 courses in the world. It’s also no surprise that many of the Open winners who triumphed at nearby Royal Troon and Turnberry played over Western Gailes in preparation for the ultimate test in golf. A good score will be hailed forever. For the majority however, a tough day on the links can always be balanced by the drink of your choice in a traditional clubhouse that boasts a wonderful collection of golfing memorabilia. Hard to beat I’d say!

Raleigh Gowrie is a co-founder and Director of College Links Golf