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  • Writer's pictureAlan Tait

"Blowing Away the Winter Cobwebs: Western Gailes Golf Club"

Updated: Apr 6

Growing up in Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland, it would be fair to say I was spoiled for choice with the surrounding golf courses in the area. Having lived away from Ayrshire now for almost 35 years, I sometimes reflect and fondly remember just how lucky I was. I joined The Irvine Golf Club (Bogside) as a lad, and very proud to this day to be a life honorary member of the club. An honour that was bestowed upon me on winning a national title, The Scottish Boys Championship in 1986.

It will be no surprise to anyone that I always enjoy returning to my roots, whether it be to visit family or for a wee game on one of Ayrshire’s finest. Last week on Wednesday 6th March, I had the pleasure of going to Western Gailes Golf Club on the outskirts of Irvine to take part in The Scottish PGA Winter Stableford. It’s an event I play in every year, as it’s good to get a card in the hand and play my first competitive professional round of the season. Start “blowing the winter cobwebs away” would be the best narrative to describe it! 

I was due off at 0918 with good friends and fellow pros Stephen Gray and fellow Ayrshireman Alan Reid who himself played all his youth golf at next door Kilmarnock Barassie, yet another superb Ayrshire links course. As there is only a small warm up area around 150 yards to the left of the 1st hole at Western, I decided to head to my beloved Bogside to hit some balls prior. Just needed to check my Wilson longer irons and the driver were going to behave themselves for the next few hours! Of course, I was still going to arrive in plenty of time as I always enjoy the friendly welcome and food offerings at Western Gailes. It’s pretty much tradition in Scotland that you warm up with a bacon roll and a tea / coffee, before embarking to the 1st tee and the club never disappoints in the quality of the offering! Before joining the boys at the 1st I wandered on to the putting green expecting the usual hollow cored bumpy greens given the time of year. Oh my goodness I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised! The green was magnificent, smooth and fast and all the putts running true. “Let’s hope they are all like this out there,” I thought to myself. I was not to be disappointed!

Western Gailes founded in 1897, is a superb traditional Scottish Links classic with a fantastic history. It’s staged many high profile events over the years including hosting final qualifying stage of The Open Championship. It’s not however quite typically your “9 out and 9 in” links course. The opening first 4 holes head north before a stretch of 9 consecutive holes in the opposite way, and then head back north again for the final 5. On a clear day you can enjoy wonderful views across the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Arran. Arran is a beautiful mountainous island on Scotland’s west coast and is definitely worth a visit over on the ferry, if time allows.

Given it’s a tough championship course, don’t be fooled that the 1st hole is a very generous short par 4 with plenty of room off the tee to get your drive away. It’s one of only a very few “more gentler” holes on this superb links course. More times than not you’ll play the first 4 holes with a little breeze behind you. Try and bag a couple of early birdies if you can. When you turn around to play holes 5 to 13, you are about to play arguably one of the toughest stretches of golf in Scotland. You’ll have the dunes, the beach and the sea all to your right for the next couple of hours or so, and most likely with the breeze in your face. With that said, the room on the right is a little more generous and would take a really errant shot to end up on the sand or the water. Every hole on this stretch is superb and creates all sorts of different challenges. Like any top links course, the fairway bunkers are so well strategically placed and need to be avoided. Typically with links golf, the bunkers have steep faces and are not to be messed with. Take your medicine, get the ball back on the fairway and no heroics required!!

My own personal favourite on the front 9 is the tough par 3 7th hole. From an elevated tee you hit down to a sort of bowl shaped green which is cleverly guarded with bunkers all around the green. With the wind in our face on the day of play and although I would normally cover the 183 yards with a 5 or 6 iron, it was playing much stiffer than that and a good 4 iron was required. I holed a 20 foot putt for my par 3, but that’s a story for another day!

On turning for home for holes 14 – 18, hopefully any breeze will be back with you and in your favour. Having avoided the beach to the right on holes 5 – 13, you now have the main Ayr to Glasgow train line to deal with on the right as you plot your way over the finishing 5 holes. The 14th is a superb par 5 with the elevated white medal tee tucked in adjacent to the wall of the railway line. Take a second or two and wave to your fellow golfers across the rail track who are literally 25 yards away enjoying playing Kilmarnock Barassie!

In just less than 4 hours ( not bad considering the length of time other pros take these days ) Stephen, Alan and I were putting out on the 18th green having had the most enjoyable round over a fantastic true test of one of Scotland’s finest links courses. We were lucky with the weather too. To have very little wind, some blue skies and no rain is a real pleasant change for my beautiful country at this time of year. I have to say the course was 10/10. The practice putting green reflected all 18 greens on the course which were superb, as were all the fairways. Western Gailes is a true test of golf and it’s a course you will 100% want to return to. I did forget to mention though, be careful and mindful of the 2 or 3 little burns that meander their way through the golf course which are brilliantly positioned in front of a few greens, so make sure you do your homework and know where they are!

Now this might not be for everyone….. so apologies in advance. The clubhouse have a great food menu and their speciality is mince with poached eggs on top, and toast! I have this meal every year I’m at the club and I absolutely love it. I get it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but if you like mince and you like eggs, what could possibly go wrong! It’s brilliant. Trust me.

The mince and poached eggs capped off a wonderful day at a wonderful venue, with top pals. Taiters even managed a tied 6th place for his first outing of the year with 36 stableford points. “Life in the ole dog yet”, as the saying goes.

In summary, Western Gailes is a must visit. Great golf course steeped in history and is everything an old traditional Scottish club should be. Even the locker rooms keep their place in time with some of the original remaining in place, having been handed down from founding father to grandson and beyond.

A strong membership within the club but hugely popular with visitors from all over the world, especially the American contingent. As mentioned previously, Western is surrounded by top quality courses and Ayrshire’s west coast is a haven for the travelling golfer. Within 10 minutes drive, you have Dundonald Links, Irvine Golf Club, Kilmarnock Barassie, Gailes Links, Prestwick Golf Club and Royal Troon, to name but just a few. 40 minutes away and you can find yourself at Turnberry which is also a must visit. Final couple of things….. Check the dress code requirements prior to visit. Although the rules are relaxed for visitors, the expectation is that members and their guests arrive at the club in shirt collar and tie. Lastly, you have to cross the railway line as you are driving in and out of the entrance to the club. The trains are high speed, so take your time and no trying to jump the barriers and obey the red warning lights! Your tee time and bacon roll can wait!

Western Gailes Golf Club - Preferred golf clothing brands:

Glenmuir -  Sunderland of Scotland

Preferred golf tour operator –

Or let me help plan and organise your trip with Golfbreaks for you –

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