Western Gailes is the genuine article. A strong, hardy links that combines links and heathland where a railway dashes alongside many of the holes whilst the beach and sea provide the backdrop to the other fence line. There’s a ruggedness that I love about Western Gailes that can’t be recreated on new courses as you’re routed across low and bumpy duneland. I could see many a wily Scotsman plying their trade here with low, fizzing tee shots and bump and runs to keep their ball below the wind.
I really like how the course is skilfully routed across this slim piece of land. Rather than being out and back, 1 to 4 provide the appetiser along the train tracks, then comes the main course from 5 through 13 that bring in the lovely sea views including the best of the dunes, whilst dessert is served from 14 to 18 as they bring you back again along the railway.
The course starts off strong with a beautifully bumpy fairway at the opening hole and a sunken green on the 2nd but most people who’ve researched Western Gailes in advance will know that it’s at 6 and 7 where the most exceptional holes appear. These holes would grace any links course on the planet, 6 being a short par five where the second shot plays blind over high dunes to a wiggly fairway and a hidden green, whereas 7 plays into an amphitheatre-like dune with beautiful revetted bunkering carved into the green sides. I’d probably argue that Western Gailes is maybe two outstanding holes shy of being a genuine world top 100 contender, although I could also throw the 9th and 17th into the conversation of world class holes at Western Gailes. The 9th fairway is insane, a humpty-dumpty of a crumpled fairway where no flat lies will be found. And at 17, the fairway snaps at mid-point as you play semi-blind over a heathery ridge before hitting towards a raised sighting-cross over another lumpy fairway where sneaky pot bunkers lie beside the green.
In fairness, all of the holes could be described as being very good and I’d only have the minor quibble that the hidden burns buried in front of some of the greens felt a little repetitive in places. Also, whilst only my personal opinion, and I understand the reason for the fairway bunker changes where pot bunkers have been removed and blowout bunkers introduced, but pot bunkers are more to my tastes on a links course and I feel that the new bunkering takes away from some of Western Gailes’ unique character. I don’t want to finish on a downbeat note though as Western Gailes is pretty special and a course that I felt was better than nearby Prestwick and competes with its open rota neighbour at Royal Troon. A trip to the Ayrshire coast is not complete without a round at Western Gailes and you’ll be hard pushed to find a more consistently strong links across Scotland. This course with its thick rough will no doubt provide a test of your golf, but it’s a pleasure rather than a chore to be tested by Western Gailes.
Date: October 07, 2020