Golf Article

Prestwick - Golf of Tradition

Prestwick Old Golf Course:  Crossing the "Himalayas"

By Peter Hellman


Last month I wrote about Turnberry.  It ranks high on my scorecard.  The contrast between the ruggedness of the golf courses, Ailsa a British Open stop and Kintyre a newly refurbish beauty, and the comfortable clubby sophistication of the Turnberry Hotel makes it a must stop for anyone seeking golf adventure and pampering in their itinerary.


Just up the coast, about 30 minutes from Turnberry, are the towns of Prestwick and Troon home of Prestwick Old Golf Club and Royal Troon Golf Club.  Prestwick, the less famous of the two, hosted the first British Open in 1860 and remained a host until 1925 when the popularity of the event made the venue too small to handle the numerous and enthusiastic spectators.


Founded in 1851, Prestwick was the home club of young Tom Morris, who went on to dominate golf in Scotland for many years.   He was the son of old Tom Morris; a famous greens keeper and club maker from St. Andrews, who moved to Prestwick with his family shortly after the club opened to be the greens keeper.  You can still find several holes that haven't changed since young Tom played them.


The course itself runs 6,544 yards from the tips and par is 71.  Prestwick has some of the most noteworthy holes in golf.  History stamps them as quaintly unusual.  I must admit, however, that should you find similar golf holes on an American course, we would probably call them a bit gimmicky.  The first hole, a 346-yard par 4 called "Railway", runs parallel to the railroad tracks.  A slice here at the right time will send your Titlest on the express train to Glasgow. 


The third hole called "Cardinal" is a tough 482-yard par 5 dogleg right with enormous bunkers (also called the Cardinal) protecting the upper fairway.  It may be short for a par 5 but few golfers will ever par this hole.  The fifth hole, "Himalayas", is 206 yards of blindness.  Described by some as a "hit and hope" golf hole, this par 3 is protected by large dunes (the Himalayas) that obscure the green from the tee.  A tall post serves as a guide for the perfect shot.  But, a perfect shot is tough on any of this golf courses wind blown holes.  Hit it short and your ball disappears into the tangled grasses and shrubs.  Hit another, for even if you found it, the chances of connecting club to ball would be unlikely.  Hitting your ball slightly right or left of the line will cause it to find deep protective bunkers.  A par here is truly something to be proud of.


The Victorian clubhouse awaits the challenged golfer with three choices for drinks and food.  The dining room serves lunch but women aren't allowed and the guys need a coat and tie to get in.  A better place for a bite and drink is the Cardinal Room where lunch is served Monday through Friday to both sexes.  I prefer the Cardinal Lounge located on the second floor.  It's got a great view of the 1st and 18th holes, prefect for reflecting between long draws of your favorit "pint" about how young Tom Morris might have played the course.


You have many good accommodations choices in the area.  On the modest end, you can't beat the Golf View Hotel.  It's directly across the street from the course, has eleven rooms and serves a great breakfast for about $80 a person/double.  The Piersland House located in nearby Troon is bigger and grander.  Its 30 rooms range in price from $130 to $180 per person/double.  The place has style and you are sure to find a good collection of single malts in the bar.  The Piersland, you see, was once the home of Sir Alexander Walker the creator of Johnnie Walker Red and Black whiskies.


Prestwick is part of the Ayrshire region of Scotland and is located about 45 minutes west of Glasgow in an area rich with golf.  In addition to Prestwick and Royal Troon, you'll find plenty of quality Open qualifying courses such as Kilmarnock Barassie, Glasgow Gailes, Western Gailes and Irvine Bogside.  Seven days playing Ayrshire golf is definitely worth the trip.