Irvine Bogside Golf Club is built between the town, an old racecourse and the banks of the River Irvine, Bogside’s situation may lack the setting of some of the courses to follow but on arriving on the narrow road to the clubhouse you cannot fail to be captivated by the golfing terrain that lies ahead of you. Always immaculately manicured, the fairways and greens roll over heavy contours and high dunes dissected by copious amounts of traditional gorse and even more heather. Likened by some to Prestwick for its quirky individuality and blind approach shots, if Irvine is where you start your tour you will not be disappointed.
Irvine Bogside's neighbour is the public course of Ravenspark which is excellent value and a slightly lesser test of golf than others in the town.
A couple of miles to the south of Irvine are the two Gailes courses of Western and Gailes Links, both of which have been well known to the golfing visitor for many years. These two traditional links have been joined, and complemented, by the relatively new Dundonald Links which geographically slots perfectly into the parcel of land left vacant between Western and Gailes Links.
Gailes Links course designer, former Open Championship winner, Willie Park always believed this links to be one of his best creations. The classic layout is tough, fair and traditionally Scottish, wild heather and gorse define the fairways and the greens are guarded by strategically placed bunkers. Sandy Lyle, former Open and Masters Champion describes the course as “one of the world’s truly great tests of links golf’ and it has been selected by the R&A as a final qualifying venue for The Open Championship every time it has been at Royal Troon and Turnberry. At 6903 yards long from the back tees, Gailes is a great test of golf whilst the kinder forward tees provide a fine test for players of all abilities.
Just across the railway track and closer to the sea, the reputation of Western Gailes has become stronger and stronger over recent years, attracting visitors from all parts of the world and featuring as a must-play on many Scottish itineraries. This is nothing new; in June 1903 the great Harry Vardon arrived at Western celebrating his fourth Open victory to win the first professional championship held and promoted by the Club, whilst in 1923 its attractions were being lauded by the then US Open Champion Gene Sarazen who played the course.
Western Gailes’ setting is imposing being situated between the railway and the sea, both being very much in play as major features. The course is never less than an excellent test of true links golf with the almost central clubhouse situated between the seven holes to the north and eleven to the south.
Sitting across the railway line is Dundonald Links which since its opening has fast become one of the most impressive new links courses in Scotland. Designed by Kyle Phillips, the structure and shape of the course easily matches his better known design at Kingsbarns and the layout offers a great challenge from whichever set of tees it’s played off.
It has perhaps as fine collection of Par Threes holes that you are likely to encounter and a feeling of historic links golf that belies its youth and its quality has already been recognised with its inclusion as Final Qualifying for the 2008 British Seniors Open as well as host to the Scottish Open and Ladies Scottish Open in 2017.
When staying in the town, there is no better option than The Gailes Hotel which is no more than a par 5 from three of the courses. With its own driving range and short 9 hole course, it really is the place to stay on a visit to Irvine.