The South West offers more than just links golf
VARIETY is important when choosing a golf destination as it keeps you on your toes - and nowhere does variety quite like the South West of Scotland. Famous for its links courses, and rightly so, the region is also blessed with a stunning array of inland gems that are well worth adding to your diary.
Ballochmyle is located in the heart of Burns Country, some ten miles from the Ayrshire coast. With beautiful surroundings and a terrific atmosphere both inside and outside of the clubhouse, it may never attain the worldwide appeal of its neighbours but it is, nevertheless, a must-try.
Portpatrick has the fortune of offering two courses, but it is definitely the 18-hole Dunskey course that takes priority with visitors over the nine-hole Dinvin. Propped upon the cliffs above the village of Portpatrick this cliff-top course, which does display a few links-like traits, simply oozes charm.
Situated on the shores of Loch Ryan, Stranraer is another course set close by the sea but you’d never describe it as a true links. This takes nothing away from the incredible routing of James Braid’s design, which displays the accumulated genius of the legendary Scot. It is his last design, and it’s a beauty.
As we all know, Prestwick is an out-and-out golfing town, and in Prestwick St Cuthbert it has the perfect parkland answer to its famous links layouts. In Dumfries and Galloway, meanwhile, lies the hidden gem of Thornhill, which was once the home club of Scottish Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart. Crichton is perhaps another Dumfries and Galloway venue that has yet to gain the recognition it deserves given the wonderful condition in which it is maintained.
‘Straight and True’ is the motto of Dumfries and Galloway Golf Club, which perhaps gives you an indication that accuracy is the order of the day during your round at this scenic parkland gem.
Master designer Braid and his earlier fellow Open winner Willie Fernie should be given the credit for creating the archetypal parkland tract at Dumfries and County. Well-treed with lush fairways and greens, its modest yardage allows for the very best demonstrations of target golf.
In his travels around Scotland, Braid also ventured to the Isle of Bute, creating the only golf course there, Rothesay, in 1908. It circles around Canada Hill, which at 400ft gives spectacular views of the Firth of Clyde, the Cowal Hills, the Mull of Kintyre and Arran. Walter Hagen once played the course and said these sights could not be beaten anywhere in the world.
Like the links courses that it controls, special mention should be reserved for the inland venues of Golf South Ayrshire. While Belleisle is arguably one of the finest municipals in Scotland, the nearby Seafield is a delightful combination of testing greens and strategically placed bunkers.
Dalmilling and Maybole each lie in the heart of Robert Burns country and both will give you some indication of how the land in which he was born must have inspired the Bard, such is the beauty of this area of undulating countryside.