- +44 (0) 141 942 2011
20 miles SW of Glasgow
Contact in advance - not weekends am
Willie Fernie, Willie Park Jr.
“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 Junior 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) 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.
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.
Had the pleasure of playing Glasgow Gailes recently. The wind was quite something, at least 4 clubs into us for most of the front nine and verging on the unplayable. The heather made for an additional interesting complication and I can safely say I wondered after the first three or four holes if we would have to call it a day. However, the course was nothing but fair all the way and when we reached the turn and had the wind on our tail it became a real pleasure to play! The course was straightforward but very well laid out and in fantastic condition - the greens were true, if a little slow. The course was not too hard a slog (wind excepting) and really was a delight to play. I would say it wasn't quite up there with Western Gailes but gave Dundonald a run for its money and knocked the socks off the Kintyre at Turnberry. A very welcoming bunch, good value and lovely little course. Just stay out of the heather and try and try not to play in the middle of a gale......
Golfers can tell from the tee box on the opening hole that accurate driving will be a key factor in scoring well at Gailes by surveying a relatively tight fairway with wispy grass on either flank - heather and gorse will encroach close to the short cut grass on many of the holes during the round. The first green also bodes well for true links lovers when they see a wonderfully shaven front apron that allows a running shot to be played between a pair of protective greenside bunkers - many of the greens will allow this type of traditional links stroke.
The course is laid out on largely level terrain but - at my favourite hole on the front nine - brilliant use of a ridge and dip in the landscape is employed at the 5th to hide a wickedly contoured green beyond a narrow neck of fairway that kinks slightly right of the line of play.
I wasn’t overly fussed by the loop of four holes around the turn at the northernmost part of the property (I like to have holes revealed to me as I arrive at them, rather than see what lies ahead) but the elevated greens at the short par four 8th and 9th were really tough to score on if an over hit approach was played at the former and an under hit shot was executed on the latter - which is precisely the manner in which I underachieved at both holes, of course!
I loved the two par threes on the back nine; the target at the 12th is more visible now due to the removal of gorse to the left of the hole and the semi blind 15th shows no mercy to any tee shot played long or left of the narrow green as the fall offs from the green are quite severe. Three solid par fours conclude the round at Gailes, the best of these being the short 17th where a semi blind approach over a ridge just might yield a birdie before turning towards the clubhouse.
Willie Park Jnr’s redesign of Gailes marks its centenary next year and it’s only fitting that a course of this quality should be used to co-host the Amateur Championship (along with Royal Troon) as well as providing the venue for the Men’s Home Internationals in 2012. Those top amateurs will be playing from back tees that measure 6903 yards in total (with a standard scratch rating of three over par) but you take my word for it that the regular gents markers are more than capable of testing your golfing abilities to the full. Jim McCann