Experience planes, trains and automobiles -- and maybe even a hole-in-one -- on a golf trip to Scotland's West Coast
IRVINE, Ayrshire, Scotland – Jerry Kessell stepped up on the 14th tee of Western Gailes Golf Club ready to hit.
The metal railroad tracks next to him started vibrating, the noise and shake getting louder with each passing second. Kessell, the club manager and secretary, backed away to let the roaring locomotive rumble past.
Trains and golf along the west coast of Scotland go together like a mulligan and the first tee on munis across America. Railroad tracks run alongside many great links of the region – Western Gailes, the Old Course at Royal Troon Golf Club, the Old Course at Prestwick Golf Club, Dundonald Links and the Glasgow Gailes Golf Club.
A course in America running parallel to a train would be considered on the wrong side of the tracks. The noise and distraction would be considered a nuisance. Railroad lines along a Scottish links is a badge of honor, a sign of longevity and historical significance. Some railway lines were built just to carry golfers from Glasgow and Edinburgh to these fine courses.
“It’s amazing to ride the train and see golf course after golf course,” said Glasgow Gailes Clubhouse Manager Fergus McAins, as he pointed to an aerial photograph of the railroad in the clubhouse. We counted at least 10 courses along the tracks.
Pictured at the top of the page, Western Gailes sits on a thin piece of land between the railroad and the sea. The first hole on Prestwick Old – a pint-sized par-4 – and the mammoth par-4 11th hole on the Old course at Royal Troon are called “Railway.” The entire 13th and 16th holes at Dundonald run parallel to the tracks. The 11th at Royal Troon (see the photo below) is particularly memorable. The fairway feels so narrow, pinched by gorse on the left and the tracks up the right. That feeling of fright trying to hit the short grass has had a hand in a few Open Championships. Royal Troon will host the world’s oldest major championship again in 2016.
My second trip to Scotland was so cool, maybe the best golf trip I’ve ever had (that’s saying something). My plane rides were smooth. I safely drove my rental car and never got lost – even with a wheel on the wrong side and a car in the wrong lane, too.
I can honestly say most of my tee shots stayed reasonably straight and true as well. I played solid, inspired by the incredible sun and light winds we were blessed with every single day. It felt more like a mild Michigan fall than a place tormented by a cold spring. Sinking a hole-in-one on Turnberry Resort’s Ailsa Course, a beloved Open Championship venue, will forever be the highlight of it all (and probably my pedestrian golf career). A 151-yard 8-iron landed an ace on the 11th hole in the shadow of the iconic lighthouse. Check out the stunning 10th tee below. If only the golf gods were so generous all the time, then more people would play this wonderful game.
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Congrats on your hole-in-one and your good fortune of a week in Scotland with little wind and generous amounts of sunshine. I don't know which event is more unlikely.