If fault can be found with the golfing heaven that is the west coast of Scotland, then it is that the more indecisive among us may be left in a permanent quandary as to which of the plethora of world-class golf courses should be played first.
With Western Gailes, Dundonald Links, Prestwick, and Troon just a few of the courses that adorn this magnificent stretch of golfing coast, visitors could easily spend weeks, if not months, feasting upon the golf goodies that Ayrshire has to offer.
Beyond the revered courses however, visitors are advised to linger a while and take in the more traditional and quirky layouts that also litter the shoreline.
Among the finest is Prestwick St Nicholas Golf Club, which, founded in 1851 by Old Tom Morris, is the lesser known offering in a historic golfing town which would play host to the first twelve Open Championships.
Once referred to by the great Henry Cotton as a ‘championship course in miniature,’ Prestwick St Nicholas certainly doesn’t possess the length to rival some of its neighbours, but the layout oozes an old-fashioned charm, which not only makes for an absorbing round, but also endears it to the golfer who appreciates the more delicate aspects of the game.
Anyone thinking that the short yardage equates to an easy round is very much mistaken. With out-of-bounds on no less than twelve of the holes, its exposed location on the Firth of Clyde making a strong breeze essentially a given, and gorse and deep bunkers featuring throughout, the course must be plotted with considerable thought.
As with many of the traditional Scottish links, Prestwick St Nicholas is utterly unique, with the “Salt Pan” buildings behind the 1st green which date back to the eighteenth century, criss-crossed fairways, and a flooded quarry between the 7th and 8th, just some of the course’s many quirks.
In truth, it’s the opening and closing holes that will win you over, carving their way through the wild humps and hollows which run adjacent to the sea with remarkable effect.
At just 232 yards, the 3rd is perhaps the shortest par- 4 you are ever likely to encounter, but played from an elated tee down towards the beach, is also among the most spectacular, and on a clear day, the golfer is afforded magnificent views across the Firth to the Isle of Arran.
Having played away from the clubhouse between the water and the railway line, a journey which will give you a close-up glimpse of the area’s historic links, the final holes are situated on a narrow strip that runs back into the town.
The 18th serves up one more surprise, a tight par-3 with an early trip back to the car park awaiting anyone who pushes their ball right.
A friendly welcome awaits in the traditional clubhouse, which perched on the edge of the beach, also enjoys spectacular ocean views.
For more information visit www.prestwickstnicholas.com
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