The small town of Seamill is well known in Scotland, to fans of a certain football fans at least. It was at the Seamill Hydro, a delightful hotel whose spa baths were said to have health-giving properties, where legendary Celtic manager Jock Stein used to take his team during their European Cup-winning glory days. It remains a popular venue – for accommodation, weddings and leisure activities – but 100 yards along Ardrossan Road is the main reason for sports fans to visit Seamill these days.
West Kilbride Golf Club was established in the 1800s with the assistance of Old Tom Morris and it is a simple, classically Scottish links which cannot fail to charm all who tackle her.
It is impossible to pinpoint the reason why, but West Kilbride is rarely classified alongside Ayrshire’s other wonderful seaside courses. It is not a Turnberry, a Troon or a Prestwick, but West Kilbride deserves elevation to the second tier alongside Irvine, Barassie and the Gailes.
In addition to the fine course, it is as friendly and welcoming a club as one could wish to visit, from the secretary John, to his staff and the members. That said, one was cursing that friendliness as a group of soon-to-tee off members gathered round the 1st tee as our visiting two-ball prepared to begin our round.
It’s not that West Kilbride’s 1st is especially exacting, just that as with much of this relatively short course, the opportunity to make a fool of yourself is all too evident.
It is not a Turnberry, a Troon or a Prestwick, but West Kilbride deserves elevation to the second tier alongside Irvine, Barassie and the Gailes.
The opening hole negotiated, one is very much aware of what lies ahead; tight turf, slick greens and a requirement to think your way down a hole. Fly the ball too far and it will bounce hard on the green and bound off the back or side. Often, a full shot is preferable to a tricky half-swing. Making a day of it and playing it twice, and having a chance to rectify earlier mistakes, is a wise move.
If the par-4 3rd is the toughest of the outward nine, don’t expect much change out of the short 9th, a par 3 which offers you many ways to ruin a tidy scorecard. It is a delightful hole which is an excellent introduction to the stellar back nine, where the views across the Firth of Clyde to Arran can be drunk in. The stretch from 12-17 is the best on this championship-standard links, which plays up to 6,500 yards and it is a proper test off the backs.
The finish is a little out of character with the rest of this links, whose character is based on simple seaside pleasures, but is certainly challenging. So, on your next golf break to Ayrshire, make sure you ink West Kilbride on your itinerary. At £30 a round after 3pm on a weekend, it is simply too good to miss.