West Kilbride Golf Club - 16th hole
You're separated from the beach by just a stone wall and footpath on the 16th
(Image credit: West Kilbride Golf Club)

West Kilbride Golf Club Course Review

GF £55-£70
Par 71, 6,146 yards
Slope 120
GM Verdict – A narrow, sleek and testing links pressed tight to the sea.
Favourite Hole – The par-4 16th runs parallel to the sea and combines everything that makes West Kilbride a hidden gem.

West Kilbride Golf Club - general view

You can see the sea from every hole at West Kilbride

(Image credit: West Kilbride Golf Club)

This peaceful setting for a golf course, on the edge of the Firth of Clyde in Ayrshire, offers a wonderful vista across to the Isle of Arran, itself home to no fewer than seven golf courses. The sea is in constant view for your round…. such is the gentle slope of this links as it feeds down to the shoreline. West Kilbride comes at the northern end of Ayrshire’s famous links and tends to be trumped by the Royal Troons, Prestwicks and Turnberrys of this world - all highly ranked among the best golf courses in Scotland - but it is well worth a visit. The original design belongs to Old Tom Morris but today’s layout is attributed to James Braid. Those are two names that add flourish.

This is a links of subtlety, pressed tight to the coastline. You start up high, next to the clubhouse, and work your way out towards the 10th green at the farthest point. The 10th is the first time you play along the coast but it is not your last as the most famous shoreline holes (13-16) are yet to come. Everything here is on show and you will encounter stone walls, golden wispy rough, splashes of gorse and wide open views… which means that if wind is your friend one minute it will batter you the next. It is everything you could want from a low, cunning links.

West Kilbride Golf Club - general view

Small, tight greens are the order of the day

(Image credit: West Kilbride Golf Club)

It is generally accepted that the back nine outshines the front, which comes as no surprise with those late holes coasting above the beach. The more inland opening nine is still good and it presents the perfect opportunity to familiarise yourself with the small, tight greens, the strong and smart bunkering, the narrow fairways… and the constant presence of OB as you play the perimeter holes. That OB adds considerable pressure when you know that it often accompanies you from tee to green. The 326-yard par-4 1st is the perfect example and serves as ample warning.

West Kilbride Golf Club - 16th hole

The approach to 16 with its distinctive white cottage

(Image credit: Kevin Markham)

Wind is not the only defence here: West Kilbride is known for the speed of its small greens and they are well protected with bunkers and/or some steep, tricky run-offs. In fact, staying out of bunkers will prove a challenge for the entire round. There are over 80 and their positioning is superb. In an intriguing balancing act, eight of the final nine holes are par 4s: the 11th is a dreamy and drivable 255 yards while the 17th is the longest at 431 yards. They don’t lack for variety and just one – the 13th – can be described as a dogleg. Barely.

Look out for the extra flourishes: a dry stone wall crowds the 14th green; dead ground short of the par-5 3rd will fool many; holes 6 and 17 are joined by a double green; the white stone-washed cottage beside the 16th green gives the hole its name (Hunger-em-oot); and a burn makes its late presence felt on 17 and 18.

Kevin Markham
Freelance writer and photographer

Kevin Markham stepped into a campervan in 2007, and spent the next 14 months playing every 18-hole golf course in Ireland… 360 of them. He wrote two books on the back of those travels and has been working in the golf industry ever since, both as a freelance writer and a photographer. His love of golf courses has seen him playing extensively in Scotland, as well as across Europe. In total, he has played over 550 courses including most of Scotland’s top 100, and over half of Portugal’s growing number. He writes for the Irish Examiner newspaper, Irish Golfer magazine, and Destination Golf, and is a regular contributor to Golf Monthly. He has his own photography website – kevinmarkhamphotography.com – and spends hours on golf courses waiting to capture the perfect sunrise or sunset.

Kevin can be contacted via Twitter - @kevinmarkham