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Gailes Links

Yardage
6903
Par
71
SSS
74
Built
1892
Architect(s)
Willie Fernie, Willie Park Jnr
Nature:
Flatish links with heather, gorse, fine grasses and brilliant Willie Park Jnr green complexes.
Location/Address:
North of Troon. SatNav KA11 5AE
https://www.gaileslinks.co.uk/
Secretary
John Craven
Telephone
+44 (0) 141 942 2011
Professional
John Greaves
Green Keeper
Brian Dickson
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glasgow golf club, gailes links, willie park jnr, running golf,
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Access Policy:
visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
Well behaved dogs welcome
Open Meetings:
Edward Trophy April, Tennant Cup June.
Fees in 1960s
25p
Fees today
£90

Review

Glasgow Golf Club, which has two courses, was founded in 1787 and was originally based at Glasgow Green and now for over 100 years at Killermont. Their Links course, Glasgow Gailes now known as Gailes Links was created in 1892 after acquiring land on the Ayrshire coast from the Duke of Portland. This course sits adjacent to Western Gailes and Dundonald Links (Loch Lomond’s sister Links course, which was formerly known as Southern Gailes).

Willie Fernie, the professional at what was then Troon GC, two miles down the coast, designed the first Glasgow Gailes course.

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Iconic red-sandstone clubhouse

Members used to travel by train from Glasgow and a new station was created alongside the course while the iconic red-sandstone clubhouse was erected.

The famous clubmaker Ben Sayers won the first professional tournament played at Gailes in 1895, beating a field which included Willie Fernie, Old Tom Morris, Willie Auchterlonie and Andrew Kirkaldy.

Willie Park Jnr, the twice Open Champion of 1887 and 1889 and designer of such wonderful inland ‘Running-Golf ‘ courses  as Notts(Holinwell), Sunningdale (Old), Temple, Huntercombe and the links at Formby, was commissioned in 1912 to redesign the lay-out. He was the first true golfcourse architect. He was a man of education and ambition, far more intelligent than the earlier type of golf professionals, who mostly rose from the ranks of caddies.

Park always believed Gailes to be one of his finest creations. Apart from increasing its length over the years to today’s 6,903 yards off the championship tees, the layout remains his. It continues to have the same brilliant and clever green complexes that need to be approached from the correct angle and with the agronomy being taken back to fine grasses, it can be enjoyed as he envisaged it to be played in ‘Running-Golf ‘ style rather than as ‘Target-Golf ‘. The greens are firm and true allowing it to be open all year round.

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The second green

Its first Open Championship Final Qualifier on behalf of The R&A was played here in 1973 and the Club has hosted numerous professional and amateur championships. But the golf course has only truly come of age recently.

Its name has been changed to ‘Gailes Links’ as part of a successful marketing programme to gain wider recognition as one of the finest links courses in Ayrshire. Not only did it co-host The Amateur Championship in 2012 but The R&A has nominated it as one of only four courses in the UK to be an international final qualifier for the Open Championship from 2014 and the only one in Scotland.

I am always a bit put-off when a club newly adds ‘Links’ to its name. It hankers unnecessarily to the American tourist market to whom the word ‘links’ is all important.  Nevertheless I suppose ‘Glasgow’ in the name was confusing.

The re-postioning has been achieved combined with considerable improvement to the agronomy of the course and the opening up of some of the vistas through the extensive gorse and also with the development of some of the best practice facilities to be found on any golf course.

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Dexter coming to help Brian and Lorne who are checking the grasses with a 40x magnifying glass.

I first played here and at Western Gailes in 1998 when I recall the extensiveness of the heather and in feel Gailes Links is similar to Southport and Ainsdale in Lancashire. Some of the heather has since been lost but Brian Dickson, the experienced course manager, advised by agronomist Richard Windows, is working hard to bring it back. His fairways are fast-running of predominantly fine fescue grass, with the small greens mostly comprising browntop bent with some fescue and suffering from  the amount of rain Ayshire has had in recent years, the inevitable patches of annual meadow grass (Poa annua).

To me it is Willie Park Jnr’s green complexes that make this course sing, and Brian’s run-offs enhance them being firm and cut low without that parkland-looking edge to the semi-rough. When your approach shot is not quite right it is carried away to a gathering bunker or keeps rolling, eventually coming to a halt in some gully from which that best of all percentage shots, the bump-and-run, can be made, rather than needing ‘Michelson’s Magic Wand’, the lob-wedge, to extricate oneself from lush rough.

The course is on the inland side of the railway line and is generally flat like proper linksland and is authentic bump-and-run terrain. Right across the course there are subtle movements with some holes enjoying deep undulations and plateau greens.

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The third green approach

After a gentle, flat opener the second drive is tight between bunkers to a valley fairway. The tiny raised green slopes back to front as do many others, each best played with a running-in shot to stay below the pin for an uphill putt. The full, through the air, approach is unlikely to bite enough from your backspin and a more difficult downhill putt ensues or a pitch from behind the green.

We are then into a great 427 yard swinging, right-hand dogleg requiring a running long iron through the swale in front of the green, before we face a 430 yard straight hole in the opposite direction back into the prevailing wind.

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The sunken sixth green and Angelika without shoes.

There are not many par fives that can be called perhaps the finest hole on a course but so good is the sixth that, now we are warmed up, we can tackle this 536 yarder. Park has sunk the green over a knoll with a central pot bunker well shy of the green. Perhaps the grass content on the green retains its moisture and therefore is not as fine but a four here will be remembered.

After a pretty par three with a two-tier green from a raised tee and another tough par four with a semi-blind drive into a fairway bounded by beautiful heather, we come to a loop of three holes, so one is well advised as a visitor not to depart the seventh green by striding down the eleventh hole!

The eighth and ninth are short par fours both with raised greens. Here, it is all about hitting and staying on them.

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The tenth drive

The tenth is a demanding, blind drive  back into a tight heather-bound fairway, and similar to the seventh and third, is best played with a running iron to the front of the green leaving an uphill putt to another sloping back to front green.

The eleventh, at 419 yards, has a delightful bump in front of the green to make you scratch your head before deciding how to play your approach shot.

The 182 yard next is to a long green, again raised and best played with more club than it looks, so as to successfully reach the back.

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The twelth green

If you can avoid the left hand drive bunker at the thirteenth it is as good a birdie chance as any to be found on the course and brings us to another hefty par five dominated by the railway line down the right, two good drive bunkers and a ridge across the fairway 100 yards out from the green.

Fifteen is the best short hole (152 yards) on the card and with the gorse helpfully cut down the small green, with deep bunkers right and a big drop-off left, can now be seen from the tee.

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The sixteenth with railway tunnel behind

Another tough straight par four into the prevailing wind with railway close by and a well-protected green provides a fair sixteenth hole, while the seventeenth, played downwind, has another ridge across the fairway. However, it is a helpfully straight hole, as is the eighteenth which, at 435 yards, offers a good stretchy finish.

This is not a quirkily designed course and most of the fairways are flattish and most of the holes straight so it does not possess the dramatic character of some of our very finest links but it is a great test of challenging golf across a good running agronomy with lovely heather and gorse and provides that wonderful FineGolf  ‘Joy-to-be-alive’ feeling.

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The eigth green, warehouses behind

The welcome I enjoyed was one of the warmest I have received anywhere which, along with the exceptional work the officers and team have put in, combined with the overall facilities of a traditional clubhouse and wonderful practice grounds, Gailes Links offers golf enjoyment of the highest level.   There is the odd industrial chimney  or estate in view at times but the wonderful ‘Running-Golf ‘ takes you away and allows you to focus on playing your creative game.

Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2016

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