IRVINE, Ayrshire, Scotland -- Although it doesn't have a history of Open Championships, Western Gailes Golf Club still magically seduces golfers into loving this narrow links just as much, if not more, than its prestigious neighbors, Royal Troon Golf Club and Prestwick Golf Club.
Founded in 1897, Western Gailes might be the most linear layout in golf. Sandwiched on a mere 130 acres of links land between the railroad line and the sea, the 6,714-yard course never stretches more than two holes wide. The routing heads north for the first four holes before turning around, with the next nine holes along Irvine Bay. The final five reverse field, running parallel to the tracks back toward the centrally located clubhouse.
The host of the 1972 Curtis Cup and the 2007 European Team Championships featuring a young Rory McIlroy also serves as a qualifying site whenever the Open visits Royal Troon or Turnberry. It plays every bit as tough as other Open venues when the wind kicks up.
There's very little gorse and few blind shots to fret over at Western Gailes. Greens nestle naturally into the dunes (four are protected by burns). The hardest one to hit comes at No. 17, the end of a strong dogleg left par 4. The cross-shaped aiming post behind the 17th green symbolizes how golfers feel about Western Gailes Golf Club. This place is holy ground for links lovers.