When Robert Adam, a young man from Leven in Fife, moved to Irvine, just north of Troon on the West Coast of Scotland in 1884, he found no golf course within comfortable travelling distance. His desire to rectify that situation, and the drive and leadership of one, James Stewart, led to a meeting of thirteen men at the King's Arms in 1887 to form a Club on land in Bogside, a tract of land belonging to the 14th Earl of Egilton.
Irvine Golf Club's current design owes much to the work of James Braid in 1926, and its status is confirmed by its regular hosting of national events including the Open Qualifying events held there prior to the Open Championship at Royal Troon and Turnberry.
Of medium length, it begins with one of five par fours over 400 yards, while successive shortish par fours, 4th and 5th call for accuracy on a course where gorse and heather define the fairways. A further long par four is again followed by a short par four, the 7th.
“Braid”, a 373-yard par four, opens the back nine, before we reach the longest hole on the course, 465-yard “Grandstand”, named because the remains of the old grandstand on the Bogside Racecourse lies to the west of this dogleg.
Views of Arran dominate the 12th tee, one of eight par fours on the back nine, which continue to test the golfer’s, resolve. The lone par three on the home nine is the 16th where a cross-bunker demands a solid carry to the green. The challenge on the 17th is more the green itself, while the 18th once again introduces sand as the main hazard.
Irvine Golf Club has produced three former Scottish Amateur Champions, a testimony to its quality and it provides yet another reason to travel to this wonderful golf country, the South West Coast of Scotland.
The club hosted the Women’s Home Internationals in 2009, when the amateur ladies’ team from Wales retained the trophy they’d won at Wrexham the previous year.
Irvine, with its 16 par4s and 2 par3s and 6152 yards from the yellow tee boxes, ably demonstrates the remarkable strength and depth of traditional Scottish golf. The course opened for play in1887 and is located on a piece of land lovingly known as Bogside, about half a mile inland from the Ayrshire Coast.
There are many fascinating holes on this inspiring course that has often been used for Final Qualifying for The Open when it has been held just down the road at Troon or Turnberry. The fairways are smooth and fast-running as are the excellent greens giving the course a strong linksy feel. Generally the upkeep is good although some of the bunkers are a bit untidy.
After a warm welcome, we started the round, with two tough par 4s averaging 425 yards from the tee, and from there the golfer gets one surprise after another. The short third has a devilishly difficult pitch shot to a sloping green whereas the best approach to the raised pimple of a green at 4 is almost to slightly over hit it and bounce the ball off the boundary wall to the adjoining railway line onto the putting green. The uniquely memorable nature of the holes continues at 5 with a blind pitch over a huge bunker to a hidden green, and 6 which is stroke index 1 and after a blind uphill drive requires a long downhill second shot to a distant green. And so the fun continues with only the two par3s offering a brief respite and more regular challenges, as the back nine almost maintains the glorious roller-coaster ride of the front.
There are perhaps too many blind shots, both from the tee and to the putting surfaces, for the more discerning golfer, but although some of the carries are long, the fairways are wide.
Irvine is a great challenge and offers endless enjoyment. This is a course that should be high up the list of every well-travelled golfer’s itinerary.
For the price that the green fees are at this course, I paid £35 on golfnow in September, this was the best course for that price range, absolutely not 1 bad hole on the course.
Ordinarily I would be sceptical towards a layout like this. Bogside proves that you can achieve as much variety without par 5s (although hole no 2 is a par 5 for the ladies and from the back tees) and only a couple of par 3s.
After two straightforward openers, the 3rd (Fulllarton) sharpens your senses. Not long at 351 yards from the back markers and 307 from the yellow tees, it nevertheless requires a perfectly executed approach shot to hold the green and avoid a very tricky recovery. The fun continues on the 4th (The Moor) with its green next to the railway boundary wall and the 5th (Sandface), with the huge bunker built into the slope up to the putting surface. You are likely to remember both these holes for the rest of your golfing life!
Now, what about the back nine? It is good, but not as unique. As a first-time visitor, I also felt that the blind/semi-blind drives at 13th (Snodgrass), 17th (The Warren) and 18th (Flagstaff) were perhaps one too many.
Found this a more memorable experience than many courses in the region which are rated higher (Dundonald, Glasgow Gailes, Western Gailes), but of course not on par with the very best. Whatever your own view, a tour to the region would gain in variety by substituting one of these three with Bogside.
Nice review, and hooray for the little man, but if you are planning a trip to the region, don’t take this literally and swap Western Gailes out for Irvine. That might be a mistake.
It's a links course. It's old fashioned. It's quirky. It's FUN.
I would rather play Bogside any day than a predictable perfectly groomed American designed course. David Laird
There are over a dozen fine links golf courses on the Ayrshire Coast. The Irvine Golf Club stands proudly as one of the best but perhaps the most unheralded.
The test of golf that this well-maintained true links course provides is without question and there is a real understated quality about it.
The Club has staged Final Qualifying for The Open Championship on a number of occasions and since the turn of the century has co-hosted The Amateur Championship (with Royal Troon) and the British Seniors Open (with Turnberry). A par of 71 coupled with a SSS of 73 confirms the challenge that lies is store.
Founded in 1887 Irvine is a course that often goes under the radar when people discuss golf in this part of the country and it can therefore rightly claim to be one of Scotland’s hidden gems. I would agree with this sentiment and suggest that a round at Irvine would complement a visit to any of the perceived ‘big guns’ in the area very well.
Offering a traditional links experience the course owes much of its present day character to the great James Braid, the architect of many fine golf courses throughout the UK. Set in a seaside location at Bogside, albeit mostly on higher ground away from the coast and without any real views of the sea, there are a variety of holes at Irvine that will ensure a memorable round. The sandy fairways are mainly divided by gorse and heather; this frames each hole beautifully but also draws out the excellent bunkering on many of the holes too.
There are many fine driving holes throughout the round. I particularly liked the one at the sixth where bunkers down the right encroach onto the fairway in just the right place but where a long drive can be rewarded with 50 yards extra roll down a steep slope. Meanwhile, the most terrifying tee-shot comes at the 13th where you face a wall of gorse and bracken; just a slither of fairway is visible and a small marker post acts as your only guide.
Irvine has an excellent mix of holes, provides a superb challenge and is a course I would seriously recommend visiting if you are planning a golf trip to Ayrshire or anywhere in the South-West of Scotland.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Very friendly pro shop and clubhouse staff.
Wonderful traditional Club.
Some very good holes including a Prestwick-like quirky stretch on front nine including one Troon-like hole which is closer to the usual railway line than most stations !!!
Enjoyed it despite sticking two balls on the railway line AND falling flat on my a*** leaving the green on the railway/wall hole !!!
Slightly unusual in that only 1 par 5 (off whites only) and only 2 par three's but no problem as some very good par 4's
We played Bogside in late March and had a great day at excellent value. Very friendly club, good condition for the time of year, and reasonable time despite being behind a senior competition. Similar to Glasgow Gailes with links feel away from the sea with trees. Recommended if you are in the area.
The 6th requires a very straight drive up a narrow fairway which then looks down upon lusher flat ground with the green against the boundary fence beside the River Irvine. Large fairway bunkers and a ditch add to the difficulty of the second shot.
The 9th, index 3, is a long, 456-yard par four that doglegs right. The site of the old racecourse is out of bounds along the left and there are bunkers at the right side of the fairway and at the front of the green.
Around the 12th and 13th, the holes are more like reclaimed farmland but the run home resumes the links feel. The 18th is a delightful par four, not overly long, but with an extremely difficult second shot.
An interesting design aspect of Irvine is that there are only two par threes and one par five. The remaining par fours are all different but at no time is there any sense of repetition.
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.
I’m a fan of the Irvine course but was very disappointed by my last winter visit in November of 2011 when tees were positioned on the fairways, yards in front of the tee boxes, which made it a very short round of golf. I know you pay a reduced green fee in winter but on that occasion you were also expected to play a substantially reduced course to match!
I jumped at the chance of playing here at the Gents Seniors Open a couple of days ago and boy, am I glad I did! Due to the dry spell we’ve had this summer, the firm and fast conditions of the course saw it in the best shape that I’ve found it when playing here.
If I’m going to be at all critical of the set-up, then a number of the holes really need to be played from the back tees to make any real sense of them (the short par four 5th, for instance) but, like at many clubs, these back tee positions always seem to be reserved for member medal play only.
That small gripe aside, Irvine’s a terrific track that deserves respect as one of the best in the west of Scotland. Add to that the ambience of a traditional member clubhouse and you have a golf experience that’s not to be missed at any cost.