“As one approaches Prestwick,” wrote Bernard Darwin, in his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, “the train seems to be voyaging through one endless and continuous golf course – Gailes, Barassie, Bogside – I write them down pell-mell as they come into my head – Prestwick, St Nicholas, St. Cuthbert, Troon, and several more beside.” Add Turnberry, to Darwin’s list, and you can see why this prodigious stretch of Ayrshire coastline is so special. Glasgow Gailes, and Western Gailes, its next-door neighbour, are the northernmost of these exceptional links.
Glasgow Gailes Links is home to the Glasgow Golf Club, founded in 1787 and the 9th oldest golf club in the world. In those days, golf was played some 30 miles away, in Glasgow City. It was surely an absolute joy for the members when the Gailes course opened for play in 1892 – at last, no more muddy, parkland golf. The opening of Gailes made Glasgow Golf Club unique, with two courses, 30 miles apart. Willie Fernie originally designed the course, but Willie Park Jnr. revised the layout in 1912.Glasgow Gailes is a classic links. “The turf is something softer – at least in my imagination – than that of the East Coast courses,” wrote Darwin, “and the greens are wonderfully green and velvety.” There is no doubt that the turf ensures tireless play, and it’s just as well, because there are plenty of courses to play on the West Coast.
Notorious for its whin (gorse to southerners) and heather-lined fairways, Glasgow Gailes is a tough cookie. It’s a final qualifying course when the Open is at either Turnberry, or Troon. Needless to say, it tests the very best professionals.
Many of the holes are fraught with danger, with out-of-bounds lurking beyond the railway line and the perimeter of the course. Straight and solid driving is required to card a good score. Beware of the wind – it can be a serious hazard.
Glasgow Gailes is kept out of the limelight by the other legendary links courses situated along this stretch of coastline. But you will be hard-pressed to find a better unsung layout than Glasgow Gailes Links. It really should be included on any must-play list – it’s a genuine test and host to Open Championship Final Qualifying from 2014 to 2017.
Played 'Glasgow Gailes' last week and found the course in excellent condition. Over the past winters many of the trees and much gorse has been removed leaving vast sandy waste areas. There are new tees and the greens are the best I have played in the past year. The conditioning and definition of the course are first class and the members now have one of the best West coast courses, and arguably the best practice area in West Scotland. The three par 3s in particular have greatly improved and their green complexes are truly superb. I rate the experience just short of six stars but once the mooted dramatic club house improvements take place believe the club should be in the UK top 100. The R and A seem to agree as Gailes has been the final qualifying Open course for 4 years in a row. Well worth a visit to this superb track.
Excellent golf course which has to be close to the top 100 (albeit it is ultra competitive at that echelon). Like the gentle first few holes which ease you into the round (long iron, wedge). 3 and 4 are beautiful and strong par 4s. 5th is a top par 5 with an interesting green surround (banking on 3 of 4 sides). The par 3, 6th is a stunning short par 3. 8 to 10 are perhaps the weakest holes in terms of challenge but remain aesthetically pleasing. 11 is a brilliant par 4 and 12 is a tough 3. The closing stretch is strong culminating in a worthy last hole. Greens were very true and had plenty of grass on them. It is easy to acknowledge many previous reviews which have bannered the greens. Really good track with a good variety of holes.
The beauty of Gailes Links, laid out by Willie Park Jnr, is that it’s also a highly pleasurable course for any standard of golfer. I played here in October 2014 and then again in July 2016 and each time all four players in our group, each of differing abilities, enjoyed the course immensely.
There’s no view of the sea or huge dunes to set the pulse racing but here you face an abundance of heather and gorse, a links exposed to the notorious wind from the west and some taxing and fantastically sculptured green complexes. I can imagine the heather, of which there is plenty, looks amazing when in full purple bloom, however, regardless of the time of year it is a place to be avoided with your golf ball.
This classic links has tight but silky fairways and several well placed bunkers; none more so than the first one you encounter; approximately 250 yards from the first tee in an almost central position and dictating the entire playing of the opening hole. Indeed many of the fairway bunkers pinch well into the fairways and combining this with the heather you have a tough driving assignment. The second is a also a modest two-shotter but trouble starts 160-yards from the tee and the further you drive the more accurate you must be; I am a huge fan of this hole.
There are only a few changes in elevation during the round but despite the property being relatively flat there is a gentle rolling feel to it thanks to the rippling fairways along with some raised and sunken green positions. As a result there are some brilliant little drop-offs around the greens and the gathering nature of the bunkers adds to the conundrum that you must solve when playing here.
You can understand why Gailes Links has been chosen by the R&A to host Open qualifying. It’s a fair test, with only a few blind shots, and although it may lack the charm and quirk of some of the other oldest links courses in the world it has enough personality for you to really admire and respect this venue if perhaps not fall totally in love with it.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Very helpful and attentive pro.
Some very good holes and very enjoyable round with a variety of challenges.
Well worth a visit alongside the obvious big names in the very-well-populated-with-quality-courses locale
As previous reviewers have stated, the conditioning is good at the friendly Glasgow Gailes and there are some great holes in the middle of the round.
This is similar to Irvine Bogside, Dundonald and Hillside in that despite knowing you won't, you feel like you will be getting to the seaside sometime soon but it never happens.
Well worth a game, especially as part of the excellent Gailes Experience package as with several other reviewers, but this was bottom of the 3 and if playing one of the 3 it would be Western Gailes every time.
The par five 5th is rated index 1. This hole was lengthened by way of a new tiger tee so it now measures 593 yards from the back. This is a good looking hole with a very narrow fairway for the last sixty yards.
The inward nine opens with two solid par fours, each well in excess of 400 yards. The par three 12th is a real tester. It is 220 yards from the back to a green that is hard to see because of a thick patch of gorse about half way from the tee.
Sixteen is a long par four of 438 yards with rough and the railway line on the right. Three cross bunkers may catch the second shot. The round closes with two straightforward par fours, the 17th being the easier of the two.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.