On a visit to the southern part of the west coast of Scotland it is hard not to notice two things when golfing: The abundance of golf courses next to one another and the train line that runs through them all.
Some locals name the Glasgow to Ayr train fondly as ‘Scotland’s Golf Train’ as it passes through twelve links courses on its way South to Ayr. The picture at the top of the article (provided by Ayrshire Golf Scotland) shows the train passing Prestwick Golf Course, the venue for the first Open Championship in 1860.
Stations serving the golf clubs
The railway and golf in Ayrshire have a long history. Many of the courses along the line had their very own train stations that would service the golf clubs from the visiting Glasgow members.
The reason so many of these courses were founded by Glasgow city workers was because of the unique location, links land was sought after due to its draining advantages over its inland neighbors. Golf was also a winter sport back in the late 1800s early 1900s since during summer the grass grew too high and there was no equipment to cut it at the time. On some courses sheep did the job.
The railway played a significant part in clubs such as Western Gailes, Prestwick and Gailes Links. The members would arrive by train for their weekly game on the links, finish off with a drink in the clubhouse awaiting the train home. The club steward would stand watching for the approaching train and ring a bell to say ‘finish up the whisky’ as they boarded for the journey back to Glasgow.
Soon after another club formed and laid out their course on links land, Kilmarnock Barassie Golf Club, which is actually 20km from Kilmarnock, took the decision to build a course down by the sea but most importantly on the railway so the members could travel back and forth. Barassie Links to this day still has its very own train station.
There are now three train stations on the Glasgow to Ayr line (Prestwick, Barassie and Troon) which let you access eight links courses by foot (Barassie Links, Troon Lochgreen, Troon Darley, Troon Fullarton, Royal Troon, Troon Portland, Prestwick and Prestwick St. Nicholas).
The old stations like Gailes are no longer in service due to people making their way to the course by car. But one can still see the old Gailes station sign hanging proudly in Western Gailes clubhouse alongside that bell.
The train line also played a major part in its role with The Open Championship when it was played regularly at Prestwick Golf Club. As the event grew bigger and bigger with more spectators visiting to see the best golfers of their time, there were pictures of people hanging out the train windows looking to catch a glimpse of the golf. Prestwick train station is still to this day only a few meters from the first tee at Old Prestwick.
The modern day golfer now travels by car or plane to play golf but this still goes to prove the fact you can still get to play golf in Ayrshire getting there by train. Even better, being able to enjoy a pint after your round without the worry of having to drive.It is maybe just a romantic thought now but golf by train was the only way back in the day.
Read more: Ayrshire Golf