western gailes - 17 POINTS
Western Gailes is a classical Scottish links course. It lies on a narrow strip on land between the railway and the sea and while not the longest course in the world (measuring a 6,100 yard par 71 from the members tees) it is a great test of most of the shots in your bag.
This is a traditional course for sure, established in 1897, but the club extends a really warm welcome to visitors - similar to North Berwick they see you as being a member for the day, a really nice touch.
The course itself has the clubhouse in the middle of an out and back layout so you will have to deal with the change of wind direction on more than one occasion. Advice from the starter was not to worry about taking the driver on every hole, it is a lot more about keeping the ball in play here. The rough wasn't too horrible the day we played but getting out of position can make the approach to the greens a challenge. Water comes into play on several occasions with burns protecting the 8th, 13th and 16th greens - when playing those into the wind it's definitely worth taking more club than less. The 7th is one of the great links par 3s you'll find anywhere - measuring anywhere between 150 and 200 yards anything off line is likely to end in a bogey or worse, don't be distracted by the view!
The sheer variety on this course makes it great fun to play and despite the starter's warning it isn't impossible off the tee but positioning is important for the angles into the greens where most of the defence comes from the well placed and numerous bunkers so make sure you have a bit of bunker practice before heading out. You will need to think your way around this course. I would recommend having a good read of the hole-by-hole guide to the course on the Western Gailes site to get a sense of what is to come before your trip. I would also recommend that you pick the right tees for your ability moreso here than most courses. If you play off the white tees be sure of your abilities as you will be looking a lot of long shots into greens, quite probably into a strong prevailing westerly wind.
So there it is, great fun, a thinking person's course with some great Scottish coastal scenery thrown in.
BOOKING THE COURSE
You can book tee times on the Western Gailes site here. Times are available 7 days a week in the summer and weekdays during the winter months. Green fees range from £65 a round in the winter to £165 on the weekends in the peak of summer - these rates will include something to eat in the clubhouse as well. Day tickets are also available and represent good value.
However, if you are looking for a great experience in the area do consider booking the 'Gailes Experience'. In 2017 they were charging from £135 in the winter rising to £260 in the summer for 3 green fees - Western Gailes, Glasgow Gailes and Dundonald. To give you an idea of the value it would cost you £350 to book those independently so well worth looking at.
The Ayrshire coast is often overlooked and as quality golf is added to both the far north and north-east of Scotland the competition is only increasing. However, it is very accessible, easy to get around and a really classic links experience. Western Gailes is just south of Irvine, only 45 minutes south of Glasgow Airport. Where to base yourself probably depends which other courses you are looking to play but you could do a lot worse that use Troon as your base, it certainly has more to offer than Irvine and is less than 15 minutes away from Western Gailes, Glasgow Gailes and Dundonald. We stayed at the Marine hotel, overlooking the 18th green and a short way from the harbour which has lots of eating and drinking options. Alas Pebbles, the pub-come-nightclub which looked like it was someone's front room, is now closed but there are still plenty of options to enjoy.
As with the Gailes experience for tee times keep your eyes out for packages to this area. £300 gets you three rounds of golf, 2 nights bed and breakfast and a dinner here!
Western and Glasgow Gailes and Dundonald would all be good additions to any tour, and probably in that order. The obvious other big guns to add would be Prestwick, host to 24 Opens, and current rota courses Royal Troon and Turnberry, which is 40 minutes to the south.
I would thoroughly recommend a trip to this part of Scotland and you will experience some great value links golf.