Played by NCG: Western Gailes
Reason for a Western Gailes course review
There was just enough daylight between doing some filming at the Ladies Scottish Open at Dundonald before pointing the car back towards Leeds and, given I had never been and the forecast was incredible, a colleague and I arranged a game.
Where is Western Gailes?
Around 30 miles south west of Glasgow and just north of Troon.
What to expect
If someone were to say ‘what does a typical Open qualifying course look like?’ then in your head it might well be like this. The proverbial classic links that dates back to the 19th century and sits between a railway line and the Atlantic Ocean.
There is nowhere more than two holes wide, there are seven holes to the north and 11 to the south and there are some of the best stretches of holes on the planet. When you turn back at the 5th you will play a collection of holes that run alongside the Firth of Clyde before turning back towards the clubhouse, which sits fairly centrally on the property, and having the railway for company on the run home.
The bunkers are just so, in fact everything is just so and it’s ranked inside the top 15 courses in Scotland which tells you plenty about its class and pedigree.
Some think it’s the best course in the area which is some praise given its proximity to Troon. The skill is navigating your approach shots to hold the greens or making the most of the contours to find them. The land is relatively flat but there is enough to capture your attention and a handful of well-placed burns might also catch you out.
The one hole that should surely sit in the memory bank is ‘Sea’, the par-3 7th that requires a longish iron to a green in the distance with just a lone path in between (see left).
To be able to locate this green, with the beach to your right, is particularly satisfying. Or you would imagine it is, both of us incredibly missed the green left.
Otherwise the green at the 17th, where a rather foreboding cross sits behind the green, is pretty special. It’s all you could want from a links approach – crumpled fairways, shiny bunkers, perfectly smooth greens and little swathes of fescue grass just off the putting surface makes for a cracking hole (see main image).
My best bit
Earlier in the round I managed to double-hit a pitch shot from 60 yards that might reflect some sort of technical inefficiency so parts of this round were played in a slightly spooked state. The high point was hitting a 6-iron to the 194-yard 15th (it was helping) and then rolling in the putt.
In truth it was to stay in the match, one shot later into some deep bund and we were shaking hands halfway down the 16th.
Western Gailes review: what to look for
On the closing stretch of holes you will be able to see Dundonald Links, home to both the men’s and women’s Scottish Opens last year, and there are not one but two brilliant putting greens just in front of the clubhouse.
And if you’re not familiar with the area then the island out at sea is Ailsa Craig which plays such a prominent backdrop to any coverage of the Open at Turnberry and is also where curling stones are cut from.
When I go back
I won’t be as rushed and I’ll get to spend a bit of time in the clubhouse, I won’t be quite so tentative off the 1st tee and I’ll commit to any shot that involves a burn.