There are few places in golf that stand still in time, steeped in the tradition of the game itself. They are perfect creations of true golf that endure through all things that change, testimonies of the historic roots of the true beginnings and the simple essence of pure links golf. This is Western Gailes along the Ayrshire Coast of western Scotland, a region that stands second to none for some of the finest golf in the world and some of the most undiscovered by golf travelers.
The game is steeped in respect and tradition for the game each play on the hallowed ground. All golfers arrive to play at Western Gailes in proper attire: men with sports jackets and ties, women in traditional Scottish dress attire. Each carrying a small tote containing their golfing attire. When their round is complete, they leave the way they arrived in classic dress attire.
The Western Gailes clubhouse, locker rooms, dining room, bar and library are pretty much just as they were in the 1890’s when the club was founded. The classic mahogany wainscoted bar and lounge with spectacular windows overlooking the course is just amazing, as you can look out over the links with broad views of this classic links course.
The Club is thankful to the Sixth Duke of Portland who agreed to lease the land to the Club and later to sell it for just £3,360 in 1920. An element of the crest of the Portland coat of arms, with slight modification, is still used by the Club and both the Sixth and Seventh Dukes were Honorary Presidents of the Club.
Like those who went before them, today’s members remain thankful for the foresight and tenacity shown by the Club’s original founding fathers William Johnstone, James Lang, Will G O Lindsay and Andrew McCulloch. All members of golf clubs in Glasgow in 1897 had a vision to create a golf course on the Ayrshire coast away from the industrial fog of the city, and substantially free from the winter frost that would allow golf all year round.
Founded in 1897, the first nine holes were ready for play by the spring of 1898 with the second following on by May of that year. This major achievement was completed by the first greenkeeper Mr. Morris.
Initially the course was allowed to develop naturally from the terrain shaped by the ravages of nature. Some areas have by necessity had to be reshaped over the past 60 years: wartime tank maneuvers resulted in modified 10th and 17th holes, while new 3rd, 4th and 5th holes were designed to allow for an access road to Irvine harbour. But nature has exerted much more control than man in the development of Western Gailes and the course remains largely unmodified from its original layout.
On a visit to the southern part of the West Coast of Scotland, it is hard not to notice two things when golfing: The abundance of golf courses next to one another and the train line that runs through them all. Some locals name the Glasgow to Ayr train fondly as ‘Scotland’s Golf Train’ as it passes through twelve links courses on its way South to Ayr.
The picture below (provided by Ayrshire Golf Scotland) shows the train passing Prestwick Golf Course, the venue for the first Open Championship in 1860. The railway and golf in Ayrshire have a long history. Many of the courses along the line had their very own train stations that would service the golf clubs from the visiting Glasgow members.
The reason so many of these courses were founded by Glasgow city workers was because of the unique location; links land was sought after due to its draining advantages over its inland neighbors. Golf was also a winter sport back in the late 1800s/early 1900s since during summer the grass grew too high and there was no equipment to cut it at the time. On some courses, sheep did the job.
THE WESTERN GAILES COURSE
Links golf can best be said by the stewardship of the land and respect for the natural elements that surround it. Western Gailes is a classical Scottish links course. It lies on a narrow strip of land between the railway and the sea and while not the longest course in the world, measuring a 6,100-yard par 71 from the members tees, it is a great test of most of the shots in your bag.
The reputation of Western Gailes as one of the game’s ﬁnest and more exacting courses has spread worldwide as evidenced by its numerous visitors from around the world including golﬁng legends from this and the last century.
The great Harry Vardon arrived at Western Gailes in June 1903 celebrating his fourth Open victory. In 1923 its attractions were being lauded by the then US Open Champion Gene Sarazen who played the course with three other outstanding professionals.
Greats from the second half of the 20th century such as Gary Player, Tom Watson and Tony Jacklin have also visited, while from the modern game Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson have all tested their mettle over this classic links course.
From the moment you step into the clubhouse you will relish the day ahead. The entrance is warm and welcoming, while the main hall indicates the pleasures that lie ahead, including a ﬁrst glimpse over the Firth of Clyde to Arran.
The dining room allows you to overlook the course while enjoying lunch or dinner and to again enjoy the ambience enjoyed routinely by the members.
Elsewhere, the main locker room provides a unique insight to the very earliest beginnings of the present clubhouse, for here the original lockers remain in place with some having been handed down from founding father to grandson and beyond.
Play all the Ayrshire Coast golf courses, Prestwick, Trump Turnberry Alisa, Royal Troon, Dundonald Links, Kilmarnock, Troon Darley Troon Lochgreen, and many more that are steeped in the truest of traditions of Scottish Links Golf. Visit: https://www.scottishgolfcourses.com/ayrshire/