Golf on the Ayrshire Coastline = Links Golf Heaven. That is quite a claim, but as you read on, I’m pretty sure that you’ll agree.
The abundance of quality golf links on the Ayrshire coastline is unique. I’d go so far as to say that there is no other place in the world that can match such variety in such a concentrated area.
The 45 mile stretch from West Kilbride in the north of the county down to Girvan, is blessed with no less than 16 fantastic golf links.
Amongst them, Ayrshire boasts three Open Championship courses and several other wonderful and renowned links, many having been qualifying venues for The Open.
Despite being the newest course, opening for play in 2005, the Dundonald Links quickly made a name for itself, gaining such a great reputation that it has already hosted the European Tour Scottish Open and the Ladies European Tour Scottish Open no fewer than four times.
In this article, I’m going to run you through everything you need for the perfect golfing trip in Ayrshire – from the transport to accommodation options, to 7 of Ayrshires finest links.
The Beauty of Choosing Ayrshire
Similar to golf in St Andrews, because the courses are so close the beauty of choosing Ayrshire is that, once you find your accommodation of choice you can stay there for the whole trip and only have to decamp when you depart at the end of your trip. How nice is that?
This pillar-to-post option will have great appeal to regular visitors to Scotland, too – particularly those looking for a more seamless stay.
A golfing trip to Ayrshire lends itself well to hiring a car to allow you to travel to all the different courses easily, particularly if you decide to find accommodation on the coast.
The closest airport to Ayrshire is Glasgow Airport – just a 40-mile scenic drive to Ayr, the largest town on this stretch of coastline.
Accommodation Options in Ayrshire
You could go down two paths here depending on the desires of the person/group that is traveling. Those looking for a slower pace may head to the coast.
Others wanting some quality nightlife can base themselves in Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city. From here, it’s only around an hour’s drive maximum every day to your golf sites.
Option #1: The Quiet Life
There are plenty of inexpensive options for accommodation in both Ayr and the surrounding villages. Nothing too glitzy or glamorous but great for your pocket.
Staying out on the coast will appeal to golfing groups wanting a nice relaxing, stress-free trip.
The nightlife here will be quiet, but if all you’re looking for is some nice pubs to eat and drink in or a selection of restaurants serving good honest grub, then those boxes are more than ticked in this quiet life option.
Furthermore, your daily drive to each new venue will be no more than 30 minutes.
If you want the best, you would be looking at the Trump Turnberry resort – the most southerly location along this stretch of golfing paradise.
Related: Scotland Golf Travel Guide: 7 Days In Scotland + Itinerary
Dundonald Links have recently opened up luxury lodges if you are happy to go down the path of self-catering. Perfect for any group with a budding chef amongst them!
Option #2: The High Life
Glasgow offers everything you would expect in a vibrant metropolis. A wide range of hotels to suit all budgets along with a massive choice of quality bars and restaurants.
If you decide this is for you, then you may prefer going down the path of using a Tour Operator to do all the driving for the week. They, of course, would also book all the golf for your stay.
The recommended Tour Operators are detailed later in the article. I am sure many returning golfers will have their preferred Operator.
If you are happy to book all your golf, a secondary option is to just hire the transport for the week. I recommend St Andrews Executive Travel as they have vast experience with golf groups. This path will help with your budget.
If you can stick with the car hire option, be aware that every day you will be driving an hour to golf and then have the same journey back to the hotel after play.
Glasgow: Perfect For Trips With Non-Golfers
Over my 25+ years working in the golf sector, I have spoken with thousands of golfers from overseas. They all say they would return to Scotland more often if they brought their non-golfing partners with them.
Basing yourself in Glasgow opens this door. There are plenty of sights to see in the city itself with many options available on how best to see them.
Then you may also step outside of the city booking yourself onto several day excursions to see the real Scotland. The magic and mystery of castles, lochs, breath-taking scenery and so much more are all available in Glasgow.
Related: The Oldest Golf Clubs In The World
Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, is less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow and easy to get to by train. This opens up even more sights to see.
Plan your trip so that the golfer’s golf during the day, the non-golfers do their chosen sightseeing and you all meet up to enjoy great food and entertainment in the evening back in Glasgow.
I mention one must-do tour and use this as a link to show all the available options.
This is the amazing Glenfinnan Viaduct, Mallaig & Glencoe tour from Glasgow traveling on a steam train being guided through some amazing countryside steeped with history (pictured below).
You even pass Buachaille Etive Mor, which is featured in James Bond’s Skyfall – this was a big thing for this writer as I am a huge Bond fan!
The Golf: 7 Of Ayrshire’s Finest Links
The first two courses on the list are the current Open Championship venues:
#1: Royal Troon
Host to The Open on nine occasions, this incredible course is well worth the hype. Established in 1878, the course boasts a beautiful and traditional “links” design running along the stunning Ayrshire coastline.
If you were watching The Open in 2016 you may recall the amazing final day shoot-out between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson – played right here, at the Royal Troon.
Running southwards, the course begins alongside the sea and heads inland in the middle of the round set among hilly dunes and thick Scottish vegetation. Then, the course runs back and finishes heading northwards to the clubhouse.
Home of four Open Championships, Turnberry’s legendary Ailsa course was reborn in June 2016 by a number of inspiring changes. These included the creation of five dramatic and stunning new holes, plus a range of smaller alterations throughout the course.
Set alongside the glorious Ayrshire coastline, Turnberry also is curtained by the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig, providing a stunning backdrop.
Even better – there’s a hotel on site. The acclaimed Trump Turnberry Hotel was created in the early years of the 20th century and was voted winner of Scottish Hotel of the Year at the 2018 Scottish Hotel Awards.
Prestwick Golf Club is steeped in history that stretches back over 160 years. Old Tom Morris moved from St Andrews to Prestwick to create the original layout, which at the time was just a 12-hole course.
His unique design proved popular, and the club enjoyed a meteoric rise hosting the first Open Championship in 1860 within 10 years of its formation. The last and 24th Open Championship at Prestwick was held 65 years later in 1925.
With its unrivaled history, charismatic course, and warm welcome, there are few places like it in the world of golf.
#4: Dundonald Links
Dundonald Links is a true modern links that opened for play in 2005. The course was designed by Kyle Phillips, his second championship layout in Scotland. He was also responsible for the magnificent Kingsbarns layout in Fife near St Andrews.
It has quickly become a must-play. The 18 holes on this par-72 layout have been cleverly designed to be played as a comfortable course for all levels as well as a championship venue, with yardage options varying from 6,415 to 7,300.
Situated next to the Firth of Clyde on stunning coastal land, the course features everything you would expect from a world-class modern links course.
Dundonald Links has generous undulating fairways, big sloping greens, some troublesome deep rough for errant shots. As with most links, there is a generous helping of gorse bushes but unlike most others, there are areas of the course that are framed by stunning pine trees.
#5. Western Gailes
Western Gailes has a reputation for being one of the more exacting courses along this stretch of the Ayrshire coastline. It first opened for play in 1897.
The course is situated between the railway and the sea, so typical of many older links layouts. Both are very much in play for the errant golfer.
Many of the ﬁnely contoured greens are cleverly located and set in the folds of the surrounding dunes.
Together with the line of dunes running down the coastal stretch from the 5th to the 13th holes, the out-of-bounds wall from the 14th onwards, the plentiful supply of pot bunkers plus the meandering burns, all combine to present variety and a memorable challenge.
#6. (Glasgow) Gailes Links
Gailes Links is a part of the prestigious Glasgow Golf Club and was established in 1892.
The club has hosted 32 International competitions since 1927 and has been an Open Championship Qualifying course on four occasions since 2014. That is a lot of pedigree!
Like its neighbor (featured above), it is a stern test of golf notorious for its gorse and heather-lined fairways that will punish errant shots. Then you add in the railway line and perimeter fences and you have a package that makes many of the holes fraught with danger.
Gailes Links is kept out of the limelight because of the other legendary courses on this stretch of the Ayrshire coastline, but it remains a must-play option. You will not be disappointed.
#7. (Kilmarnock) Barassie Links
Barassie Links was first opened for play in 1894. The last 30 years of the 19th century were the golden era for links courses opening for play in Scotland.
That said the modern-day championship course is now laid out on 9 of the original holes and a new nine that opened for play as recently as 1997.
It has played host to the British Amateur Championship as well as being another Open Championship Qualifying course. These accolades alone confirm that it is another great test of links golf.
That’s the golf covered for 7 days. All you need to decide now is the path you go down in terms of booking.
Get Ready for Ayrshire
Do you book everything yourself? This will have a dramatic effect on your budget – and in a good way. If so this article will help greatly in making informed choices. To drive or be driven? To stay on the coast or in Glasgow?
You may still prefer the easier option in using a Tour Operator. Once again I list the recommended choices:
These are very much my choices of playing the great Scottish links, the finest that Ayrshire has to offer. You may wish to consider other options along the coastline that may not have the pedigree but still have all the charm. Hidden Gems are abundant throughout the land.
Once again, this article concentrates on an itinerary where you can settle in one place for a relaxed seamless holiday on the gloriously rugged west coast of Scotland.
Before You Go . . .
. . . why not check our other travel articles – full of tips, tricks, and recommendations.