Ayrshire is home to some of the best links golf in the world, so it is no surprise that it has a rich history of elite championship golf. You see, St Andrews may be the where it all started but Ayrshire has a claim of its own.
Prestwick is the home of major championship golf. This was where The Open Championship was born and between 1860 and 1925 it hosted golf’s oldest major twenty-four times. It has a similar energy to St Andrews when you visit.
As a golfer, you know you are standing on hallowed turf and you can feel it. The Old Tom Morris design is like no course you will ever play. The clubhouse is one of the most special tributes to the history of our great game and is packed with stunning memorabilia.
It’s not just about Prestwick though, just forty minutes from The Home of The Open is Turnberry. This was the site of the exhilarating ‘Duel in the Sun’, the 1977 Open Championship that saw Tom Watson triumph over Jack Nicklaus.
Not only that, in 2009 Tom Watson thrilled us all again by nearly winning the event at 59 years old. The Ailsa course was re-imagined by McKenzie and Ebert and has been worked on by many great architects through the years including Willie Fernie.
The Ailsa is arguably the most visually stunning courses on the Open rota. With views out over the Firth fo Clyde onto Arran and beyond, it is the perfect backdrop to a beautiful course. There is a natural ruggedness about Turnberry that captivates.
Many would argue with you that the Ailsa at Turnberry is the best course in the world, you would have a tough job finding something better. This is the complete links course from the heritage to the unsurpassed quality of the golf on offer.
Heading back toward Glasgow from Turnberry along the Ayrshire Coast, you pass back through Prestwick and travel just ten minutes further to Royal Troon. The site of one of the most flawless rounds in Open history, Henrik Stenson’s 2016 victory over Phil Mickelson.
With nine Opens in the bag and another coming in 2024, Royal Troon is another jewel in the crown of Ayrshire golf. From the short but tricky opening holes you make your way through some sublime links golf and then you arrive at the infamous Postage Stamp.
The shortest hole on the Open rota and the 8th at Royal Troon, this is the perfect test of your accuracy. Just 123 yards to a tiny green, “A putting surface skimmed down to the size of a postage stamp” as Willie Park famously said. Take a three and run!
Royal Troon, like Prestwick and Turnberry has been shaped by some of the greatest architectural minds in golf. Willie Fernie and James Braid created the course we see today after the greenkeeper of Prestwick, Charlie Hunter, originally laid it out.
Ayrshire isn’t just an Open Championship playground though. Dundonald Links hosted the Scottish Open in 2017, won by Rafa Cabrera-Bello. This masterpiece by Kyle Phillips sits on a stretch of golfing land that is adorned by some wonderful courses.
In the Gailes region of the Ayrshire Coast you will also encounter Kilmarnock (Barassie), Glasgow Gailes and the magnificent Western Gailes, more on that later. Dundonald Links is one of the finest examples of a modern links course in the World.
There is a luxury to the playing experience at Dundonald, it requires more modern shot making and length at times but you can feel its authentic links heritage. Many new links courses have popped up in Scotland recently, Dundonald may be the best of the lot.
When in Ayrshire you simply must treat yourself to a round at Western Gailes. It may not have held the famous events like some of the courses mentioned above, but it is very comfortable sitting at the table with them these world-class courses.
The stretch of holes in the high dunes on the front nine is simply majestic. The locals keep this one for themselves and it has an understated confidence about itself as a course. Don’t be put off, it is open for visitors and visit you must.
Ayrshire is just packed with great courses that have held some of the greatest events in world golf. When it’s time, experience these championship links and savour your own slice of golfing history as you stroll the fairways walked by legends.