As you have probably already surmised, we love Scotland – the home of golf. Over the next few weeks we are going to highlight a couple of Scottish courses we think deserve your attention should you be planning a trip to the Celtic land.
The first course on our list is relatively famous, however often seems overlooked. Prestwick Golf Course was the first course to host the Open Championship. The tournament was designed to determine the best golfer in the world after the passing of Allan Robertson. Since then, Prestwick Golf Course has hosted ‘The Open’ twenty four times. Only The Old Course at St. Andrews has hosted the tournament more often. And just like The Old Course at St. Andrews, Old Tom Morris designed the Prestwick course.
A shot of the club house form 'back in the day'
An aerial view of the club house
Course map from 1925, the last year the Open Championship was played here
Today, Prestwick Golf Course isn’t part of the rotation of Open Championship courses however; this should not deter you from making the short trip from Glasgow to the Ayrshire Coast. The course shares a border with the famous Royal Troon (you can see the club house from the course) making it one of the famous courses on the Ayrshire Coast. Prestwick is a fabulous Club in all of its Scottish tradition. With your green fee, you are granted access to enjoy a meal in the Dining Room and Smoke Room where, as with most golf clubs of this stature, a dress code is observed.
The beautiful Dining Room. Jackets required.
The course is short by today’s standards but that shouldn’t deter you. The first hole – aptly named ‘Railway’ – is a 345 yard par 4 that is bordered by train tracks on the right hand side. The hole is one of the most famous opening holes in golf and draws comparisons to holes at Hoylake and Pine Valley. Shying away from the wall that borders the tracks leaves the player with quite a bad view of the green.
Hole 1 - 'Railway' - The wall to the right marks the train tracks
Hole number three is a 543 yard par 5 called ‘Cardinal’. As with St. Andrews, it possesses a famous central bunker (called ‘Cardinal’) that has been in play for 150 years. The green looks as if it blends with the fairway as Old Tom Morris did not place any bunkers alongside it.
Hole 4 - 'Cardinal' - Beware of the bunker!
The fourth hole is notable as it is often regarded as the first dogleg in golf. At 415 yards, this par 4 named 'Bridge' is also noticeable for having a water hazard along the right hand side. A bunker was added to the right portion of the fairway in 1908 in order to accentuate the dogleg.
Hole 4 - 'Bridge' - The first dogleg in golf
‘Himalayas’ is Prestwick’s fifth hole. At 230 yards, this aptly named par 3 delights the player with a blind tee shot. Prevailing winds often push the ball toward the five bunkers that adorn the left side of the green. A bell sits next to the green for players to ring after they’ve cleared the green. What is remarkable about this hole is that even though it seems daunting, a good shot is often rewarded. Actually this could be said about all of Prestwick. --iIt is a fair course.
Hole 5 - 'Himalayas' - wait for the bell before you tee off!
Yep it's blind!
The thirteenth hole is named ‘Sea Headrig’. The 460 yard par 4 is a beauty. One of the characteristics of this hole is that it looks as if man has never touched this plot of land. The bunker on the left hand side of the fairway is hidden. Players beware!
Hole 13 - 'Sea Headrig' - At a loss for words
The toughest tee shot on the course comes on hole 15--a 353 yard par 4 named ‘Narrows’. As if the hole wasn’t difficult enough, the green slopes from front left to back right making the work to be done with the shortstick difficult. From the fairway, you won’t see the cup giving you some idea of the slope the green sits on. This hole is a real looker.
Hole 15 - 'Narows' - Can you see the cup?
At 290 yards, the par 4 sixteenth named 'Cardinal's Back' is another short one. Because it is in Scotland, this pair of short par fours in a row is reminiscent of holes 9 and 10 at The Old Course at St. Andrews. This hole really gives you a sense of what it was like to play the links back in the day. The hole combines with the fairway of the thirteenth. Two pot hole bunkers guard the back of the green. Few modern courses are able to execute a short par 4 the way the sixteenth at Prestwick is set up.
Hole 16 - 'Cardinal's Back'
Often called the best hole on the course, the seventeenth hole, ‘Alps’ is a 395 yard par 4. This is the original 2nd hole from 1851. Finding the fairway on this one is primordial (actually you could say that for most Links courses) and will delight you with a blind shot to a green guarded by the famous Sahara bunker. Short shots will be engulfed by this monster. This one plays every inch of the yardage.
Hole 17 - 'Alps' - Sahara is waiting for you
After the tough assault of the last four holes, you are welcomed by a more ‘relaxing’ hole. The eighteenth is a short par 4 of 288 yards that is reachable and offers players a chance to end with a birdie.
Take in the views of the clubhouse and start salivating at the idea of a nice meal in the Dining Room washed down with a good pint of ale. A glass of Bunnahabhain might be better suited.
Hole 18 - 'Clock'
Have you played Prestwick? Share your memories with us!
I was born and bred in Prestwick and I am a member of Prestwick St Nicholas golf club which used to share the course with Prestwick golf club. St Nicholas is a traditional Scottish links located just along the beach front from Prestwick GC. I played Prestwick this evening in a fourball and even though I live in Prestwick, standing on the first tee, you get the same goosebumps down your neck as you do on the first tee at St Andrews. We had a wonderful evening and I managed to half the match with a birdie on 18. Next time you are in Prestwick make a point of playing St Nucholas too, it is the 26th oldest in the world and old Tom Morris was a founding member there too. I too is indeed a hidden gem.
Played Prestwick in 2008 on a weeklong golf trip. Even though I had to play it with a rental set while British airways was locating my clubs it was one of my favorite courses I played on he trip which included Turnberry and Carnoustie. If I ever make it back to the home of golf I will definitely include this gem again