10 of the Best Courses in Ayrshire
AYRSHIRE is a spectacular county featuring sandy beaches along with miles of beautiful and rugged coastline. It was once a smugglers' haven and many of the coves and caves they once used to bring ashore and hide their ill-gotten gains can still be seen and explored today. The county town of Ayr is the birthplace of Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet and a legendary figure in the region. It is a beautiful part of Scotland for anybody who fancies a seaside break, but for golfers it is a real paradise, with dozens of classic links and inland courses, including Turnberry and Royal Troon. Picking out 10 of the best is a real challenge, but we have had a go - these courses are all worth playing, although you may well baulk at the £325 green fee now being charged at Trump Turnberry's magnificent Ailsa course.
Trump Turnberry (Ailsa)
Par 71, 7,489 yards, links
Green fee £325. There are reduced rates for Turnberry Hotel guests, starting at £100
When Donald Trump bought Turnberry, one of the best courses in the British Isles, he decided that he needed to bring in designers and rip the place up. All 18 holes have been changed, with huge amounts of turf moved, and the truth is that Trump and his team have somehow managed to improve a course that was already a gem. Sadly, because of Trump's politics, it is unlikely to be seen again on the Open rota for many years. The first is a par four measuring 441 yards and has been lengthened at both the tee and the green, while creating a wider fairway. The 194-yard fourth has been given a new tee located close to the sea with the green moved towards the coastline. The 5th hole has been lengthened and is a 523-yard par five. The green has been moved back into the valley behind the old green. The sixth is 171 yards and is played from a dune bank high above the beach to a green perched on top of a natural dune. The ninth is now a cracking 248-yard par three that is played across the bay, so there is no margin for error. A potential card wrecker. The 10th is 565 yards long and follows the bay, which means you need to keep the ball straight or else risk finding a watery grave. The green has been taken back to the old 11th tee with the rocks and ocean lying immediately behind. The 14th is another new hole, measuring 568 yards and featuring stunning sea views, with the Turnberry lighthouse as a focal point. Finally, the 18th hole has been extended to 485 yards. The championship tee has been taken back to the dune ridge above the beach, producing a straight par overlooked by Turnberry hotel in the background.
Par 74, 6785 yards, parkland/links
Green fee £36
Lochgreen is one of three municipal courses in the heart of Troon, with the first tees on all three courses sitting side by side before they all head off in different directions. Lochgreen is arguably the best of the three courses, and it is certainly the longest - it is also the course upon which Jack Nicklaus qualified for his first Open Championship back in 1962. The first is a challenging 473-yard par four with a narrow fairway and perfectly placed bunkers left and right. It is a gentle dogleg with some bushes to be avoided. The green is protected by two bunkers. The fourth is a classic risk-and-reward par four that measures just 298 yards. A railway line runs down the right side and three bunkers are located in the middle of the fairway at 245 yards. Do you go for it, or do you lay up? The railway line also runs down the right side of the 429-yard par four fifth, with bunkers on the right and left of the fairway. Caution is needed if the wind is blowing from left to right, as it frequently does. The sixth measures 189 yards and, once again, out of bounds runs down the right. A small green is protected by three bunkers. The 11th is a great par four. It measures just 406 yards, with out of bounds and trees on the left and well placed bunkers before an approach to a small green with bunkers left and right. The closing hole is a 499-yard par five that offers a good birdie chance if you find the middle of the fairway. Bunkers at 240 and 270 yards must be avoided, while two further bunkers lie in wait about 100 yards short of the green, which is itself protected by a further three traps.
Royal Troon (Old)
Par 71, 7,208 yards, links
Green fee £230
The Old Course at Royal Troon is where Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson produced one of the great final round showdowns during the 2016 Open Championship, when Stenson shot a 63 and Mickelson a 65. That may give you the impression that this is a fairly straightforward golf course - it is anything but. It is a classic links layout with some wonderful golf holes. At 555 yards, the fourth is the first of the par fives, and is a challenging dogleg. A deep bunker positioned right, in the neck of the dog-leg, is to be avoided at all costs, so think carefully if you plan to try to cut the dogleg. The second shot should be played into position to give the best line for a short iron shot into the two-tiered green which is protected by three further bunkers. The eighth hole measures just 128 yards and is one of the most famous short holes in golf, better known as The Postage Stamp - and it is well named. The green is tiny, with two bunkers protecting the left side and a deep crater bunker at the front. Any mistake on the right will find one of the two deep bunkers with near vertical faces. Find the green at all costs. The 15th is a monster par par, measuring 502 yards from the championship tees. The drive should favour the left half of the fairway to open up the second shot to a flat green which sits n a hollow. This hole is well bunkered on the approach. The closing hole is a 464-yard par four and is a demanding way to finish your round. The ideal drive straight down the centre to avoid the bunkers on either side of the fairway. Bunkers short of the green will catch a poor second shot and the green, which sits in front of the clubhouse, is protected by a bunker to the left and two more to the right. An overhit approach shot could finish on the path at the rear of the green, which is out of bounds.
Par 71, 6,908 yards, links
Green Fee £170
Prestwick Golf Club was formed in 1851 as a 12-hole course and hosted the first Open Championship. It went on to stage the Championship on 24 occasions, the last time being in 1925. It remains a wonderful test and, despite its rich history, is still something of a hidden gem. If you are going to play golf in Ayrshire you must play at Prestwick. The second hole is a beautiful 164-yard par three called The Tunnel. It is named after the tunnel running under the railway line and plays to one of the original greens of the 12-hole course laid out in 1851. The slightly elevated tee makes the hole play a little shorter but deep bunkers surround the green. The third is a magnificent 533-yard par five and is one of the original 12 holes. It is a sharp dog leg to the right, featuring the massive Cardinal Bunker 230 yards from the tee. Favour the right side of the fairway to reduce the angle and shorten the hole. Better players can reach the green in two if the wind blows in the right direction. The rest of us should hit over the vast bunker to leave around 100 yards to the green. The Pow burn is out of bounds its entire length.The 12th is another par five, this one running to 541 yards and featuring 10 bunkers. The narrow fairway slopes from right to left, bringing sand into the play. The second shot requires caution as six further bunkers come into play. The green slopes heavily from right to left so allow for a bit of movement once the ball reaches the green. Into the wind, this hole is a monster. The 18th is a short par four measuring just 280 yards and offers a great chance to finish your round with a birdie. Aim for the clock on the clubhouse with your tee shot but don't try to cut off too much of the ridge. The green slopes from left to right.
Par 71, 7,014 yards, links
Green fee £165, including course guide and lunch
Western Gailes is a fabulous links course that provides a magnificent test of links golf and is one of Tom Watson's favourite layouts. The second hole is a 434-yard par four with thick rough running all the way down the left and the railway line on the right. Avoid the fairway bunkers left and right at all costs. The second shot is to a well protected green located in a bowl. The seventh hole is a 198-yard par three. It features six bunkers, one of which is cavernous. You need to carry the ball all the way to the putting surface. The beach lies in wait for any sliced tee shot. The 13th is another great par three, this one running to 154 yards. There is a burn short of the large green, which is surrounded by seven bunkers. The 16th is 428 yards long, with the railway line running down the right side. There are two fairway bunkers on the left and three on the right. The approach must carry a burn to a sloping green surrounded by thick rough and bunkers. The closing hole is a 407-yard par four, with the ideal drive aimed towards the starter's hut on the first hole. This ensures you will avoid the fairway bunkers and the railway line on the right. There are three bunkers short left of the putting surface, along with another to the left, one to the right and yet another deep bunker towards the back right. A par here is a good score.
Par 72, 7,100 yards, links
Green fee £125
There was a golf course at Dundonald in the early 1900s but it was converted for military use during the Second World War and lay dormant until the beginning of the 21st century. Originally known as Southern Gailes, the Kyle Philips-designed links course is now a jewel of the Ayrshire coast and venue for the Scottish Open. It opens with a testing 460-yard par four. A solid tee shot to the right centre of the fairway is ideal. Once you find the fairway, you’ll have a mid to long iron to a green protected by a bunker lying 20 yards short of the putting surface. The green slopes back to front with a hollow on the front right and plenty of trouble on the left. The seventh is a 405-yard dogleg from right to left. There are deep, revetted bunkers to avoid so the perfect drive is down the right side of the fairway. Longer hitters may wish to cut the corner to leave a shorter approach to a small green, which is protected by a bowl and steep slope. The 14th is a great par five that runs to 540 yards and doglegs to the right. The best drive is to the left of the fairway, avoiding a solitary bunker on the right side. The green is elevated and anything other than a perfectly-struck approach is likely to end up in a greenside bunker. The closing hole is the longest on the course at 560 yards and is a proper par five. The drive must be down the left to miss the two bunkers on the right. Your second shot also must be well placed as three cross bunkers lie in wait before an approach across a ditch to a green guarded at the rear by a couple of punishing pot bunkers.
Par 72, 6,852 yards, links
Green fee £65
Barassie began life as a nine-hole course in 1895 and is now one of the finest 18-hole courses in Scotland. The second hole is a 394-yard par four, with bunkers located left and right and a burn to be avoided with your second shot. The fairway slopes heavily to the left. The green is surrounded by four bunkers and features a steep drop-off at the back. The seventh is a 439-yard par four, the first of several doglegs. The dogleg goes right with the corner protected by a mound and heavy rough. A drive to the left could run out of fairway, which is shaped between dunes. The green slops from right to left and is protected to the rear by a small bunker. To the right are mounds which make a pitch to the putting surface extremely difficult. The 12th, measuring 439 yards, is a straight hole that often plays into the wind. With out of bounds and a bunker to the left and three bunkers to the right, a straight drive is a must. Your second shot must avoid gorse and is played to a long and narrow two-tiered green that runs off to the front right. A properly challenging par four. The 17th, at 406 yards, is one of the most difficult holes on the course, with two extremely well placed bunkers left and right and another further up on the right. Heavy gorse on both sides of the fairway must also be avoided. The green is long and narrow, with two bunkers short right and left. There is also a mound just short of the green that can throw the ball off in any direction.
Par 71, 6,523 yards, links
Green fee £57, with reductions for larger groups
Like many of the courses in this part of the world, West KIlbride offers spectacular views across the Firth of Clyde to the island of Arran. The club was founded in 1893 and every tee offers a sea view from the Kyles of Bute to the north, round to the Heads of Ayr to the south. The third hole is a 520-yard par five. Although there is trouble left and right from the tee, the fairway is pretty generous. Take note of the dead ground from the back of the path to the front edge of the green. Two fairway bunkers lie in wait to catch your second shot before an approach to a green that sits on a plateau and is guarded by two further traps. The eighth is a par four measuring 418 yards and when you stand on the tee you could be forgiven for wondering how on earth you are going to find the fairway. There are two bunkers to the left and four to the right and anything other than an arrow-straight drive will surely find one of them. The sloping green is protected by just two bunkers, left and right, but you don't want to find either of them with your approach. The 13th is 428 yards and is the most difficult hole on the course. It is a slight dogleg with out of bounds running down the right side - just hope when you get there that the wind is not blowing from left to right. The ideal drive is to the left side of the fairway, and the perfect approach to the narrow green is also to the left side. A bunker short left is not the place to be, and gorse awaits anything hit too far. The 16th is a 355-yard par four which can offer a decent birdie opportunity, but only if you hit the right drive. The ideal line is to the left, which offers the best chance of carrying the burn and will avoid the out of bounds to the right. Find the fairway and you are left with a straightforward second shot to a kidney-shaped green with bunkers left, right and rear.
Shiskine Golf Club
Par 64 (when played as an 18-hole course), 4,564 yards, links
Green fee £25 (12 holes), £40 (24 holes)
Shiskine is a unique course located on the Isle of Arran. The links course consists of just 12 holes and boasts breathtaking views at every turn. Don't be put off by its odd configuration. It is superbly maintained and features some of the best greens that you will find anywhere in Scotland. Founded in 1896, the course features several blind holes with quaint names such as The Crows Nest and The Himalayas and is fairly hilly. And it goes without saying that its island location means that it is usually windy, so you will need to bring your A-game with you. There are also two burns that criss-cross the layout and come into play regularly. It overlooks Kilbrannan Sound and the Mull of Kintyre and has been described as 'a topographical roller coaster'. There is only one par five but don't let that give you the impression that you are ever going to turn up here and bring this fine links to its knees - the opposite is more likely to happen. In his book, Preferred Lies, Andrew Greig described it thus: “Paradise. I stood on the 10th tee at the top of the course, with a 360-degree panorama across Arran, Kilbrannan Sound, the Kintyre peninsula where a three quarter moon had silently risen like a blood grapefruit. The breeze had dropped to a whisper; sea and birds were hushed in the gloaming, that luminous summer dusk of the North." It also features two all-weather tennis courts.
Brunston Castle (Burns Course)
Par 71, 6,566 yards, parkland
Green fee £28
The Burns course at Brunston Castle is just a short drive from Turnberry and was designed by Donald Steel. The second hole is a par four measuring 415 yards. It is a dogleg to the right, with trees on the right side and a bunker to the left. The fairway passes the ruins of Brunston Castle, which was blown up by allied special forces during the second world war. There is water to the left and the approach is to a narrow guarded protected by two bunkers. Water runs down the left side of the seventh, a 404-yard par four, with a solitary bunker to the right side of the fairway. A deep bunker guards the front left of the green, which is surrounded by trees. The original road from Maybole to Girvan runs across the fairway of the 430-yard 12th hole and is just in range of the tee shot, as is the water to the right. The approach is uphill to a beautiful bowl shaped green with a bunker to the right. The closing hole may only measure 386 yards but it is a tester. The fairway is narrow with bunkers left and right waiting to catching any drive struck only slightly off line. There are also plenty of bushes and trees on both sides. Find the fairway and you will be left with a second shot to a fairly small green with a big bunker at the front and another trap to the rear.
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