As I have previously mentioned, I moved from the West Midlands of England to the South West coast of Scotland in summer 2014. Before I moved, I had the chance to take some lessons to boost my (re)beginner’s level a bit and I was able to play at a few courses in that neck of the wood.
Golf is nice in England but let’s be honest, I am totally biased and have to say that it is much better in Scotland! Especially for those of us who are able to play around South Ayrshire. One of the first things I did after moving was to go down to the local course and sign up for a South Ayrshire Golf membership. As I was joining more than half way through the season, I was able to take out an eight month membership, where I paid a set amount up front, followed by three subsequent monthly payments. I then get four months without having to make any payments and it settles down to a rolling, very reasonable, monthly payment.
I think the payment plans are changing for 2015 but the main point is still absolutely true – you can become a member for a very reasonable amount of money. And, the best thing about that is you can get access to up to eight courses across South Ayrshire! My level of access is the “restricted” membership which lets me play all but the top two courses, Belleisle and Lochgreen.
Last August I took advantage of the package to play at Girvan Golf Course. I hadn’t really thought about playing there until chatting with an old mate about the golf courses around Ayrshire; he described it is a “mini Turnberry” and sang its praises. I looked into the course a bit, checking out some reviews on Golf Shake and I liked what I was hearing.
It was apparently a James Braid designed course! Cool, I thought his courses were to be found in far more illustrious venues than a council course in a wee seaside town in Ayrshire. (In addition to the King’s and Queen’s courses at Gleneagles, Braid actually designed Belleisle in Ayr – I will review that one as soon as I have played the course!)
Girvan is to be found in the south of South Ayrshire:
It’s a bit far for me – over twenty miles and about a 45 min drive. What’s more, on the day I played last summer, I got stuck behind a tractor on the single carriageway road for a good few miles on the approach to Girvan. I was then late for my tee off slot by a few minutes – it was a lovely summer Saturday afternoon so the course was pretty busy. The young chap in the starter’s office rushed out to speak to a group of golfers at the 1st tee and came back to tell me that if I was ready to go then, they would let me go out ahead of them (they were a 4 ball and I was on my own). A nice, friendly welcome to the course!
At less than 5000 yards and par 64, Girvan is not a tough course at all for the decent handicapper. As noted, this was only a couple of months into my golf journey so that didn’t apply for me! It has no par 5s and eight par 3s so “on paper” doesn’t perhaps offer much of a challenge but some of the par 3s are pretty tough.
Girvan is somewhat similar to Seafield in that it is both a links and a parkland course. In fact, the contrast between the two differing components is even more than the Ayr course. The front eight sit right on the coastline looking out over the lower Firth of Clyde and (as long as the weather is clear) provide views of Ailsa Craig (hence my friend’s comments comparing it to its far more famous neighbour).
I will say it right here: the front eight are, in my opinion, worth playing the course for alone. I’ll talk more about them later but the back ten are a bit bland and nowhere near as exciting as the front of the course.
The 1st, 6th and 7th, being perched right on the coastline are probably the most spectacular and sure enough when I teed off on the 6th, my slice struck and I sent my ball soaring into the waves. I can’t really say it enough, if you get the weather, this is what links golf is all about. (The holes, not the putting your ball into the sea.)
The 8th is quite a tricky par 3, at 218 yards, I wasn’t likely to get on to the green in regulation.
And sure enough, I had to chip on and two putted for a bogey.
After the 8th, there is a wee walk past the clubhouse (closed for renovations when I visited) to the back part of the course which is the parkland section. I really should point out that I didn’t think it was poor or anything but just after the treat of the front eight, the last ten holes do disappoint somewhat.
The good thing for me was that, as the fairways were not narrow and the rough only longish grass, it is quite forgiving and I didn’t lose too many balls!
The Water of Girvan runs through the back part of the course and adds a wee bit of interest to proceedings. The 15th tees off over the river and while your tee shot doesn’t have to be long to make it over the water, it makes the shot a bit more exciting.
As I have already mentioned, the area comprising holes 10 to 18 is not as visually interesting as the start of the course but is a pleasant enough half round of golf. There are a couple of more challenging holes and the one that really springs to mind is the 17th.
At 213 yards it is quite a long par 3 and to make things even tougher, the green sits atop a rather steep incline. The green must about at least ten yards vertically higher than the tee and this is all just in front of the green – the fairway is flat out in front of the tee. There was no way I was getting up to the green with my tee shot (you may have heard me mention my slice…) so I layed up at the bottom of the slope then chipped up to get on in two.
With another par 3 to finish, the 18th has an almost completely blind (a tree blocks you LOS to the flag) tee off but is at least reachable in one!
I finished my round in under three hours – and this was when the course was pretty busy. It is not long and, if you can hit your tee shots straight, shouldn’t present too much of a challenge to even the high handicapper like myself. I absolutely loved the front part of the course and definitely intend to play the course again this coming season.