Western Gailes - Ayrshire & Arran - Scotland

Western Gailes Golf Club,
Gailes,
Irvine,
Ayrshire,
KA11 5AE,
Scotland


  • +44 (0) 1294 311649

  • Golf Club Website

  • 3 miles N of Troon, off A78

  • Welcome Mon, Wed & Fri – contact in advance


Western Gailes Golf Club is wedged between Irvine Bay and the railway tracks on one of Ayrshire’s narrowest strips of links land. Western and its next-door neighbour, Glasgow Gailes, are the northernmost of the exceptional links courses located on this prodigious stretch of Ayrshire coastline.

Four Glaswegians who were fed up with playing on muddy parkland founded the club in 1897. They recruited the first keeper of the greens, Mr. F. Morris, to lay out the course on land leased from the Duke of Portland. Western Gailes is listed in the catalogue of Simpson & Company Golf Architects, but we don't know what work Tom Simpson may have carried out prior to Fred W. Hawtree developing four new holes in the mid 1970s to accomodate a new road.

Western is an unusual layout in that the clubhouse is more or less centrally located. The first four holes head north, parallel to the railway tracks. The next nine holes head straight back along the coastline in a southerly direction, passing the clubhouse along the way, and then the closing five holes head northwards, back towards the clubhouse and once more along the railway line.

Whilst the layout, as we have already mentioned, is unusual but ostensibly nine out and nine back, the holes are wonderfully varied. The fairways undulate gently, interrupted occasionally by three meandering burns that dissect this thin strip of land. The greens sites are cleverly located in naturally folded ground; some are protected by burns whilst others, like the 6th, are in hollows guarded by sand dunes. All the greens are fast, firm and subtly contoured. The 14th hole, a wonderful par five which often plays downwind, provides a huge temptation for big hitters, but numerous bunkers lie in wait.

Be prepared for a westerly wind that can be undeniably ferocious and cunning as it switches direction from south-westerly to north-westerly. On occasions it can be soul-destroying. Western Gailes is a suitably fitting name for this golf course.

Western is a very stiff golfing test – expect to use every club in the bag. The layout measures 6,714 yards from the back tees and Western has hosted a number of important events, including the 1972 Curtis Cup, narrowly won by the USA and the 1964 PGA Championship, won by AG Grubb. Additionally, the course is used for final qualifying when the Open is played at Troon or Turnberry.

Architect Tom Mackenzie sent us this exclusive quote in August 2020 regarding the work his firm was undertaking at Western Gailes:

“Mackenzie & Ebert’s work focuses on the bunkering with drive bunkers re-sited and re-styled to make them less severe but more visually stimulating. Tee positions are being adjusted with forward tees being added on some holes to make the carries more consistent in different wind conditions.

Some green surround reshaping is being undertaken on holes such as the 5th, 9th and 18th. The first phase was completed in early 2020 with a second phase completing the bunker work in the autumn of 2020. Further phases may well follow. This makes the course more forgiving for the shortest players and more challenging for the better players.”

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Reviews for Western Gailes

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Description: The holes at Western Gailes Golf Club are wonderfully varied. The fairways undulate gently, interrupted occasionally by three meandering burns... Rating: 8.6 out of 10 Reviews: 52
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Warren
Played this magnificent course as part of the Gailes experience in 2012. Dundonald and Glasgow Gailes are obviously excellent courses but WG is in another league. I’m from Australia and I would like to play every links course in the world. Luckily I have an English wife so for the past 10 years my annual trip has been to the UK therefore most years I get to pick and choose a place to stay for a week. When I chose Troon I was not interested in the Royal course, leave that till later, but did play these 3 along with the municipal courses (Darley a cracker) and Barassie. WG was simply stunning. The starter let me know in no uncertain terms it was far superior to GG and DD and I think everybody would have to agree. I won’t bore you with hole by hole descriptions, all you need to know is it is a course that is simply fantastic. Of the 33 links I have played so far (using True Links’ 246 as THE list) this is #2 behind the Old course. I can't believe there are, according to this website, 20 odd links courses better than this. I can't wait!
May 20, 2015
10 / 10
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David Worley
Western Gailes is laid out on a narrow stretch of land between the railway line and the sea. Except for the short 13th, all holes run north or south with never enough room for more than two fairways side by side.

With the lovely clubhouse more or less centred, the first four holes run north, followed by a brilliant stretch from the 5th to the 12th that run along the shoreline. These holes turn at the 13th so that the last five run north beside the railway line and back to the clubhouse.

The 5th is the first of the seaside holes. Index 1, it is 499 yards from the back tee. As it is a par four, you don’t want to be into the wind. The fairway bottlenecks 110 yards out from the well bunkered green.

Fourteen is by far the longest hole at 562 yards. The drive is over gorse to a fairway with plenty of rough and bunkers on both sides. Out of bounds and the railway line is in play on the right on all the holes from the 14th, with the exception of the par three 15th.

Western Gailes is such a joy to play that you will be very sorry to see the round come to an end. On a fine sunny day, there can be fewer better vistas than to stand on the 7th tee looking down the course. To the left is the fine clubhouse and to the right the peaks of Arran and the outline of Ailsa Craig further south.

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.
April 28, 2015
10 / 10
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Jim McCann

I love visiting this place as there’s an understated elegance about everything: from the locker room to the lounge, from the first tee box to the last green, Western Gailes effortlessly exudes an almost casual aura of golfing perfection. The 6th, 7th and 17th are three of the best holes in Scottish golf, with greens positioned to maximise the natural Western Gailes Golf Course - Photo by reviewercontours of the land (be it in the form of sand hills, hollows or ridges).

Although our group played in light rain for most of the round, we were fortunate to have only a slight breeze blowing at our back for holes 5 to 13, allowing a decent score to be made IF the ball was kept on the short cut grass.

Reasonable fairway width is an aspect of this course that I’d never really considered before but it’s an attribute worth mentioning, if only to reassure golfers playing here for the first time that you CAN start and finish with the same golf ball!

The starter told us before setting out that “80% of visiting golfers are from USA” and, judging from the number of American bag tags hanging up inside the starter’s box, that’s probably a pretty accurate percentage – just goes to show our cousins across the Atlantic might know more about links golf than they’re often given credit for…

Jim McCann

September 04, 2014
9 / 10
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iaincmccoll
Played this great links course in early Spring 2013. Not in it's best condition after long hard winter. Despite this the quality shone through, with holer 6,7 and especially 17 being classic risk and reward holes. Big disappointment was in the attitude of the members. Playing as a 2 ball we were held up from the 1st to the 18th by a four ball of elderly members. They spent over 20 minutes playing one hole, looking for 2 successive lost balls, and like middle lane motorway drivers appeared oblivious to our presence. I am sure the fact that my companion was a lady player, who drove two of the par fours was nothing to do with it! I would have given this course a 5, perhaps 6 star rating, were it not for the attitude of the members to visitors. Would not recommend if there are lady members in your visiting party. Come on guys, it's 2013, not 1953!
June 26, 2013
6 / 10
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Wee Jonnie
£85 twilight rate as a visitor was well worth it to play this magnificent links. Aesthetically (for lovers of links golf) this place is pretty hard to beat with its traditional layout of superb holes sandwiched between the railway and the sea. Henry the starter is a true gent and has many fun stories about all the greats of the game (banter with Rory when he drove the 1st into the wind with a ridiculous stinger 3 wood shot etc.). Holes 6 and 7 are ‘out of this world’. Double breaking par 5 with a green partially hidden into a dune and then one of the best par 3’s you could ever wish to play. Just go and play it as my words won’t do it justice. The 17th is a lovely par 4 and very challenging with a marker post the beacon for a challenging 2nd over some trouble. Most fun you can have playing links golf I think. Just pipped to the post by Turnberry Ailsa and Royal Troon as they have the ‘open factor’ but ahead of Prestwick old IMHO. 5.5 stars so rounding up to 6!
June 15, 2013
10 / 10
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Charles King
December 04, 2013
This is such a tough course to rate; firstly it's an old track - classic links if you like and all the better for it with angled fairways and a premium placed on accuracy off the tee. But, is it a 6-ball rating which puts it alongside Turnberry or 'just' a 5? Of all the Ayrshire links I'd say Prestwick and Western (save for Troon and Turnberry of course) are streets if not actually miles ahead of places like Dundonald and Barassie. The stretch of holes from 5 through 11 are all gems and not just because of the scenery across the water. In conclusion it's a strong 5-baller if that's the correct term.
Paul Harrison
Played this great course last weekend on our Annual Golf Trip and as ever it was a pleasure. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination always different depending on the wind strength and direction but it does not rely on length for defence. This year the rough was deep and thick resulting in a lot of ball searching and as a result a long tiring round but we were rewarded afterwards with a fine lunch. The first 4 holes were a gentle opener with an iron off the tee being suffice. When we turned though the course showed its teeth and the nine hole stretch south bound along the sea was tough going. There are some great holes along this stretch, the Par 3’s are good without being long, a fair test, some tough Par 4’s, the 5th, 11th & 12th amongst them and the Par 5 6th always a favourite. We then turned back towards the Clubhouse for the closing five holes, a fine finishing stretch with some strong holes including the bunker strewn Par 5 14th and the 17th with a blind second shot. A lovely course laid out many years ago but standing the test of time. However I would say Glasgow Gailes & Dundonald are closing the gap and as a three they make a great golf experience. Try them you wont be disappointed.
June 10, 2013
8 / 10
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Brian Ward

Four of us visited Western Gailes last week on our annual trip to Scotland and were all mightily impressed by this classy lay out. We were told beforehand that we would enjoy this course the most and sure enough we did. We loved every second of walking the famous fairways of Royal Troon and Prestwick but for us Western was the star of the show. The welcome we received on arrival and inside the clubhouse was first class. On top of that the starter was extremely helpful offering us lines from the tees as well as a friendly warning of the dangers to come on some of the holes. We were lucky enough to play the course on a calm, sunny day and the views across to Arran particularly from the nine holes that run along the beach are simply stunning. My favourite holes are amongst the dunes, particularly 6 and 7 but there are so many good ones to choose from. The burn running in front of the green on 8, 13 and 16 only adds to the excitement and the railway line down the right of the closing holes keeps you on your toes until the end. Every hole offers a different challenge and there is not a weak one on the course. On top of that, the greens were as good as anything I have seen this year. This place may be overshadowed by some of its neighbours when it comes to the history of the game but should be very much viewed as an equal when comparing the quality of golf on offer. Brian W

August 12, 2012
9 / 10
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Richard Smith
What a wonderful golf course. I last played here almost 20 years ago in some of the most severe weather I ever remember encountering in the UK, yet I always held fond memories of the course and the club. On a calmer day during a recent trip I was able to enjoy and admire the subtleties of the course. The layout is indeed unique, with 4 hole out, nine back, and five returning to the clubhouse. There are two great par 5's, 6 and 14, which are as good as any par 5's in the UK, especially the 6th with it's devilish green tucked away behind the dunes. 7 is a justifiably famous par 3, but in truth I really enjoyed the variety of the par 4's. There are a number of shorter holes requiring strategy rather than strength, but enough longer holes such as 2, 4 11 and 12 that require strength as well as skill. Overall this is a great club with a wonderful, welcoming staff that all lovers of links golf should take in on a visit to the west coast of Scotland.Richard Smith, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
August 08, 2012
10 / 10
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B.G. Donaldson
Western Gailes was the first of a nine course tour our group took recently, and it was an excellent opener. We were greeted kindly by George, directed to the changing rooms, then had lunch which was included in the fees. We found the course excellent, in great condition, scenic and eminently playable. Our experience was complemented by four of the best caddies we had on our tour - helpful, knowledgeable, hilarious, and no one was spared, neither ourselves or themselves. It was a course that one could enjoy playing for the rest of one's life. Only the comparison to Turnberry prevents me from giving Western Gailes a six-ball rating. It is a very strong five.
September 11, 2011
8 / 10
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steve guzik
I played at Western recently and I cannot really fault the course or the setup. As has been mentioned, you are met by the starter and given a full run down of where everything is etc. The course was in very good condition and the holes through the dunes are excellent. On a nice day (as we had), the views to the beach and sea are spellbinding. The 17th is also a great, tough hole where many rounds will be made or broken. I have a few slight criticisms however that make this only a 5 ball instead of a 6 ball rating. 1)At £120 it is a bit overpriced - this is on a par with the Old at St Andrews or Carnoustie. 2)A ridiculous 'sock' rule where you have to have your socks up to your knees (if you are wearing shorts) and 3) No warm-up area / nets for hitting long irons or drives before your round.
May 03, 2011
8 / 10
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