Ayrshire is a mouth-watering cake of golfing riches. It is often said that you could hit a drive down the coast, from West Kilbride in the north of the county to Girvan in the south, and you’ll end up on a golf course.
There are close to 50 of them in this south-west corner of Scotland’s Golf Coast, including 13 which feature in our Top 100 Courses in Scotland. Another three which have Major championship pedigree.
Royal Troon, Prestwick, Western Gailes and Dundonald are among the star attractions and sit, conveniently, within an eight-mile radius of The Gailes Hotel and Spa, which is just a 10-minute drive from both Prestwick airport and Irvine train station.
The difficulty comes in deciding which courses to play, though the hotel helps to make your mind up by offering a chance to play Western Gailes, Gailes Links and Dundonald and make a big saving.
ON THE COURSE
Possibly the purest and most demanding links in Scotland, wedged between the Firth of Clyde and the West Coast railway line. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how magnificent the coastal stretch is between holes 5 and 13.
The wind is biting, the slopes are maddening, and the narrow ribbons of fairway are hemmed in by wild fescue and sandhills. We ranked it 20th in our Top 100 Golf Courses in Scotland, but this author rates it in the top 10 based on the strength of the par 4s and the glorious seaside setting.
Only a lack of space precludes it from hosting a Major championship. It’s simply superb.
Handily located on the next road down from the hotel, this former Open Qualifying venue is the ninth oldest club in existence and was once described by Sandy Lyle as “one of the world’s truly great tests of links golf”.
We were told to expect cunningly placed pot bunkers and purple heather, though the latter was absent when we visited this summer, which may explain why we came away unenthused by the look and character of some of the holes.
The par 3s are easily the best thing about it, but if you’re looking for a flatter, less penal introduction to links golf, this is a good starting point before tackling Western Gailes and the like.
If you like variety and the playability offered by generous fairways and large greens, you’ll love it here. Unlike most links courses, there are holes framed with pine trees which eat into the eye-line, alongside the many bunkers, burns and gorse bushes.
The par 5s are excellent and the conditioning is rated among the best in Scotland.
The newly-built clubhouse and lodges complete what is a luxurious experience, in keeping with its status as the sister course to Loch Lomond.
OFF THE COURSE
The four-star Gailes Hotel and Spa is as much a base for large groups of golfers as it is couples and families looking for fun and relaxation.
The facilities are extensive, without being overly pretentious, and include a nine-hole short course, a casual dining restaurant with a terraced beer garden, and the only Toptracer driving range in Ayrshire.
We were particularly won over by the Si! Spa, hidden behind the hotel, where we were treated to an hour-long golfer’s tonic from an encyclopedic menu of treatments.
In truth, we could have spent hours in the zen-like thermal suite, which has its own sauna, steam room and vitality pool with array of sun loungers. Outside, there is a spa deck with a hydro pool, though you need to get lucky with the weather to take your cocktail on there.
The only catch is that access for hotel guests is limited to one hour during your stay, but the offering and service quality is so good that it wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end establishment in the Mediterranean.
The rest of the time can be spent reliving your childhood while enjoying a freshly-made cake or milkshake in the Coffee Shop and Sports Lounge.
STAY AND PLAY DEAL
A ‘Gailes Golf Experience’ package includes a three-night, DB&B stay at The Gailes Hotel & Spa, with three rounds of golf (Western Gailes, Dundonald Links and Gailes Links).
Prices start from £665 per person, subject to availability. Offer is based on double occupancy and is valid up until October 15, 2023.
To book, call 01294 204040 or visit gaileshotel.com
TG READER OFFER
SimpsInns are offering a 10% discount on all stay and play breaks booked before the end of the year. Call 01294 204040 and quote ‘Today’s Golfer 2023’.
– Top 100 best golf courses in Scotland
About the author
Michael Catling – Features Editor
Michael Catling is Today’s Golfer‘s Features Editor and an award-winning journalist who specializes in golf’s Majors and Tours, including DP World, PGA, LPGA, and LIV.
Michael joined Today’s Golfer in 2016 and has traveled the world to attend the game’s biggest events and secure exclusive interviews with dozens of Major champions, including Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Gary Player, and Justin Thomas.
A former member of Ufford Park and Burghley Park, Michael has been playing golf since he was 11 and currently plays off a handicap of 10.
Away from golf he’s a keen amateur chef and has his own healthy recipes website. He also loves playing squash, going to the gym, and following Chelsea FC.