Prestwick Golf Course is the birthplace of the ‘Open’, 1860, all championship golf resolves to here. Despite many little changes through the years, the course has remained surprisingly faithful to that which saw ‘Young’ Tom Morris lift the first prize (it wasn’t a claret jug in those days, but a silver buckled belt). Close to the putting green a stone cairn marks the tee of the original 578-yard first hole and reminds you that the pioneering players were actually quite good. Facing this monster, Young Tom Morris, armed with a hickory shaft and a gutty ball, managed to hole out in three. In 1868 when winning his second title, he also recorded the first official hole-in-one. Prestwick’s fairways are soaked in golfing history. One thing we do encourage folk to do is make an additional effort to arrive earlier than normal, as the club is aware of its place in golfs heritage and it does possess an under-stated sense of wow! It sets the scene quite nicely as you work your way along the monochrome collection of old photographs featuring the games pioneers in the clubhouse before stepping out to add your own personal contribution to it.


Founded 1851
Yardage Championship course white tees 6544 yds
Par 71
World Ranking 100 (Golf.Com)
Handicap Restrictions 24 for men and 28 for women



The Course itself

Prestwick last hosted an Open in 1925 amid mildly controversial circumstances. The patriotic press of the day suggested that perhaps the partisan crowd was guilty of wanting the local Scot to win just a bit too much. The truth is, the game was outgrowing this tight and confined course with all it’s 19th century idiosyncrasies. Stripping Prestwick of the event however, was probably a blessing at one level. It had the effect of relieving development pressure to accommodate new paradigms and therefore secured the quirky character you can enjoy today. The legacy is that the Prestwick Golf Course retains a lot of it’s essential personality and is surprisingly faithful to the 1860 layout, with half a dozen holes and greens still recognisable from those played way back then

The first hole is one golf’s classic opening assignments. An out of bounds railway line runs down the right, with the fairway narrowing to a keyhole entrance on the left. The Railway hole is a clever tantaliser to start you off. How far dare you play into this trap? If you lose accuracy going for length, you could find yourself in some horrible undergrowth. The shrewdie might go a little bit shorter, as working out where to play your second from is the key.

The third hole is one of the greatest par 5’s in Scotland. The hole takes its name from the ‘Cardinal’ bunker that presents a formidable barrier across the fairway, Europe’s biggest. Dare you try and drive it and land on the safe patch between the two bunker formations. Forget going down the right though, or do so at your peril. The entire duration of the hole is flanked by the Pow Burn, another out of bounds. Your second shot is likely to be played into an egg-box fairway on the dog-leg. The quixotic bounce you might get isn’t actually the enemy many imagine. Try not to let this play on your mind, as it can consume the paranoid player. You’re just as likely to get a lucky bounce forward remember. The bigger danger usually lies with the stance that you might be required to adopt for your third shot. ‘The Cardinal’ can require you to start improvising and adjusting relatively early in your round, be prepared to do so. An instinctive feel is one of the hidden secrets to success at Prestwick.

The fifth hole, ‘the Himalayas’ is another typically quirky Prestwick affair. It’s a blind par 3, played over a hill with sighting poles positioned along its crest! Yep…. you couldn’t make this up could you? For all the eccentricity that Prestwick Golf Course offers, we should say that American players (possibly against what you might expect) tend to be about the most enthusiastic who take to these links. They love it, precisely for what it is. You also have to ring a bell on the green to encourage the following match forward once you’ve cleared.

The 12th is still under its original configuration from 1860, and you face another original challenge at the 460-yard, 13th, which is played along a gully to a narrow, slanting green, before the 391-yard 17th. This is the last major test before getting back to the haven of the clubhouse and requires another blind second shot over the ‘Alps’ this time, to a green guarded by a huge bunker.

As you step off the 18th you might be left with a new sense of admiration for the eight pioneers of 1860 who battled their way’s around this slightly eccentric course. Sadly they played less holes in those days, and so it isn’t really possible to give you a score to beat, but the original prize of a red Moroccan leather belt with silver buckle was claimed by Willie Park, from the east coast, after rounds of 55, 59 and 60 allowed him to complete the required three wins that permitted him to keep it.

Every hole is interesting and many idiosyncratic. Every golfer should experience playing Prestwick Golf Course at least once in their golfing career. There might be more than just a bit of you left pondering whether or not the R&A could find a way of romantically awarding Prestwick something again, (albeit quite where they’d find another 1000yds from is anyone’s guess). It would be very interesting to see the reaction of the modern player though, that alone would make it worth it!

Amongst its claims to fame, Prestwick possesses the biggest bunker in Europe and the narrowest fairway. The vast Cardinal Bunker, stretches the entire width of the fairway at the point of the dogleg, on the 482-yard third, with the Pow Burn running all down the right. In truth Scottish bunkers are probably more defined by their depth rather than their size, and it wouldn’t be the hardest escape shot, but anyone landing in this particular trap can at least claim something beyond the normal visit to the grainy stuff.


Buggy hire, Trolleys, Caddies and Clubs

Driving Range Available Yes
Rental Carts Available No – due to terrain
Rental Trolleys Yes
Caddies Yes – gratuity discretionary
Rental Clubs Available Yes
Pro Shop Yes

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