With the 2016 Open Championship coming to Royal Troon this July, questions about golf in Ayrshire (greater Troon area) have been pouring in on email, social media and the new Scottish Golf Trip Consulting feature on my website.
The famous links in the area may draw the biggest crowds this summer, but those in the know will explore the lesser traveled fairways. Here are 5 hidden gems just minutes from the action at Royal Troon. If you decide to take a trip over to Scotland, tack on one or more of these courses. You will be glad you did.
Like so many other Scottish links, particularly in the immediate Ayrshire area, Western Gailes sits between railway tracks and the sea. The course is built amongst the dunes, and it is one of the greatest Scottish links not regularly considered on golf trips. The views are impressive, the “out and back” layout is pure links, and the clubhouse all add up to a seriously experience. A round during the week also includes a two-course lunch.
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The R&A Championship Committee uses the Barassie links as a final qualifying venue for the Open Championship, which speaks to the quality of the course. The layout is not seaside, but the firm turf, strong winds and quick greens allow for links-like play. You may be surprised to see trees lining areas of the course, but they add to the experience. At £60 for a weekday round and £70 for a weekend round, Kilmarnock Barassie is a steal and the perfect opener for a golf trip to Scotland.
The work of American course architect Kyle Phillips, Dundonald is a modern links built on the same stretch of land as Troon and Prestwick. At 7,100 yards from the tips, the course quickly becomes a beast when the wind begins to blow. Dundonald was built with modern conveniences not found at the older links. There is a large range and the course is built on an enormous site (over 270 acres), leaving room for parking, TV tents and spectators. With this in mind, look out for the course to host a Scottish Open sooner than later.
How can Prestwick be considered a hidden gem?! Well, the fact of the matter is that Prestwick appears on fewer and fewer itineraries these days. The course has become overshadowed (incorrectly) by neighbors Turnberry and Troon. Prestwick is full of blind shots, strange bounces and unique quirks, and while that may not appeal to some Americans, those features are what makes the place so special. The course hosted the first Open Championship, where a group of eight golfers played three rounds of golf on Prestwick’s twelve holes in a single day to decide the winner. The Old Tom Morris designed course went on to host 24 Opens in total.
The club’s traditional coat and tie lunch rivals that of Muirfield’s – don’t miss it.
A local qualifying venue for the Open Championship, “Gailes Links” is home of Glasgow Golf Club, the 9th oldest club in the world. The course isn’t on the sea, but it’s close enough to feel the salty breeze during the round. Sloping greens, devilishly small bunkers and gorse protect that layout which is on relatively flat land. The greens fee of £90 during peak season is a steal compared to nearby courses with bigger names.
Graylyn Loomis is a University of St Andrews graduate who spent four years living the golfer’s dream in Scotland. His website is packed full of course reviews, Scottish golf travel information, and a new feature helping people plan their own trips to Scotland.[Image credits: Dundonald and Prestwick by Graylyn Loomis, others courtesy of courses]