South Ayrshire Council, the local authority for Ayr, does a wonderful job providing so many good quality municipal golf courses for its residents at very affordable green fees. The local government body has eight such courses throughout the county and they promote the Lochgreen links in Troon and the parkland layout of Belleisle in Ayr as their premier golfing venues.
There are actually two 18-hole layouts within the Belleisle estate – the other being the modest, 5,481 yard Seafield course – but it is the championship course of Belleisle, designed by James Braid in 1927, that attracts many visiting amateur golfers. In fact, it impresses the golf professionals too, as it was used before in qualifying for the European Open held at Turnberry in 1978.
Where Scottish golfers may argue over whether Carnoustie or St Andrews have the best public links courses in the country, there is little argument over which is the best public inland course – step forward the one and only true contender; Belleisle!
Set in rolling woodland, the course is routed over classic estate territory with wide, lush fairways, stands of mature trees, penal rough and well-bunkered greens.
Don’t be fooled by an overall length of just under 6,450 yards on the scorecard as only two of the nine par fours – the 8th and 9th – are under four hundred yards long. After the fifth and final par three has been played across water at the tricky 17th hole, the round ends at it starts, with a great par five hole, the 532-yard “Brown Carrick” where a right dogleg must be negotiated on the way to the home green.
Ayrshire arguably boasts the best set of municipal courses in the land and many consider Belleisle the jewel in that crown. It is a serious test of your game with par fives bookending the layout and a series of long par fours. For balance, Belleisle has five par threes of which the 3rd and 17th stand out. The Slaphouse burn intrudes on several holes and contributes to the difficulty. At £30 (summer 2020) per round Belleisle sits comfortably in the middle tier of decent, affordable Scottish courses.
Belle isle is gorgeous. This a true parkland course. So it's municipal but what a great layout and what a setting; It's not for the golf snobs who want all the clubhouse razzmatazz. For a good value round of golf this is hard to beat.