Set between railway and sea, the recently improved Western Gailes in Ayrshire delivers an exacting challenge over the purest golfing terrain

Western Gailes Golf Club Course Review

Top 100 Ranking 2021/22 – 47

Previous Rankings
2019/20 – 49
2017/18 – 52
2015/16 – 54
2013/14 – 52
2011/12 – 51
2009/10 – 46

Summer Green Fees

Round: £185wd/we; 36 holes: £245wd only

Visitor Times: Visitor Times: Mon, Weds, Fri – 9am to 12midday and 2pm to 4.30pm; Tues, Thurs – 2pm to 3pm; Sat – 3.30pm to 4.30pm; Sun – 2.30pm to 4pm (weekday rounds include lunch).

Medal Tee – Par 71 – 6,640 Yards

Website: www.westerngailes.com

Changes since previous ranking

There have been some significant changes since 2019 after consultation with Mackenzie and Ebert. Fairway bunkers that had been revetted for some time are all being restored to their former, more natural state.

A number have also been repositioned in keeping with the modern game. Others that were no longer necessary or in play have been removed, including some greenside ones replaced with impressive run-offs.

The burn fronting the 10th and 16th greens has been realigned to its original route on 16, with a new greenside run-off area now in place left of the 10th green. The ridge  dominating the 17th fairway has been removed and replaced with more fairway to complement the undulations of the existing fairway.

Western Gailes Golf Club Course Review

For many golfers, this venerable old course overlooking Arran on the Ayrshire coast just north of Royal Troon, gets pretty close to pure links heaven.

Western Gailes Golf Club

Western Gailes plays on a slender links strip between railway and sea (Photo: Getty Images)

It dates back to 1897 and plays over a classically slender links strip, often only two holes wide, between sea and railway. It heads first north then south for a long stretch, before a final five-hole northward trek back to the central clubhouse.

Related: Top 100 courses UK and Ireland

Sandhills and sea views abound as you tackle one glorious links hole after another. But despite its age and traditional feel, Western Gailes rarely relies on blind shots for protection.

Western Gailes Golf Club

The 6th is one of strong run of holes along the shore (Photo: Getty Images)

It prefers to use the natural terrain and a number of cunningly placed bunkers to make you think. That, along with the ever-present Firth breeze and some inconveniently located burns.

Those bunkers have been changing character of late as the club works to restore them to their more natural state under the guidance of Mackenzie and Ebert.

Some excellent new run-off areas have been replacing certain greenside traps to bring a different element to your short-game recovery options.

Amphitheatre greens

The sandhills may not be as towering as on certain 21st-century links. But few make as stunningly effective use of the natural routing between dune ridges as Western Gailes.

A number of holes play to isolated greens set in shallow natural amphitheatres. The 6th and excellent par-3 7th greens stand out in this regard.

The latter has an amphitheatre feel for its entire length on account of the dune ridge along the beach to the right and a slightly lower one flanking the left.

Western Gailes Golf Club

The 7th hole has a real amphitheatre feel to it (Photo: Getty Images)

There’s a real sense of awe and occasion when you play these holes, even if you’re on your own.

There are many great stretches of coastal holes around these shores. But there may just be no better run anywhere than Western Gailes’ southbound stretch from the 5th to 13th along the Firth of Clyde.

Assessor Feedback

I really enjoyed the visual appeal of Western Gailes. The superb bunkering and course conditioning really frame the holes and everything is “out there in front of you to see”.

Superb bunkering. The course is reminiscent of Royal Lytham in that the bunkering generally dictates your strategy for playing the holes across what is, essentially, flat linksland.

GM Verdict

Set between railway and sea, the recently improved Western Gailes in Ayrshire delivers an exacting challenge over the purest golfing terrain.