“A prodigious assemblage of courses,” wrote Bernard Darwin in, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, as he recounted them pell-mell as they came into his head. “As one approaches Prestwick, the train seems to be voyaging through one endless and continuous golf course.” It's true, there's a galaxy of excellent links courses on this relatively small stretch of Ayrshire coastline. Kilmarnock Barassie is one of the least well known, but it's one of the best.
Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club is located a couple of miles north of Troon, directly opposite the Barassie railway station. The club was founded in 1887. Theodore Moon originally designed the course, and it started out in life as a full 18-hole layout. Recently, the club added nine new holes. These new holes, and nine from the original layout, now form the Barassie course, which is used for Open Championship Final Qualifying. The spare 9-hole course is now called the Hillhouse. Confused? Well there's only one thing for it, you'll need to play all 27 holes and you can do this in a number of ways, but we won't go into it here.
The Barassie is now a serious test, which measures in at 6,817 yards from the medal tees against a par of 72. The SSS of 74 tells its own story. Rebecca Hudson won the Ladies' British Amateur Stroke Play Championship here in 2001. Her score - 300 strokes over the four rounds - turned out to be the highest winning score since 1988. This course is indeed a tough cookie and you'll need a full repertoire of shots to play to handicap.
This classic links course has everything - great conditioning, humps, hollows, undulations, blind shots, lightning fast greens and, above all, a great atmosphere. Whatever you do, don't rush past Kilmarnock (Barassie) on your way to play Royal Troon. Play here beforehand. You won't be disappointed.
The changes to the course this summer are excellent.
The 7th is now the 6th and has a tee next to the railway line - effectively straightening the hole out - and has reverted to SI1.
The Par 3 6th has therefore been replaced by a brand new Par 3 in an area between the 12th and 13th which takes away the long walk between these holes. The new hole is the 12th.
Aside from removing the walk, the hole itself is stunning with a slightly raised tee giving a great vista down the whole - but - look behind you. The views over the Firth of Clyde are fabulous.
The new layout is only open for a short period this summer but will be in full flow in 2019.
A good course just got better !
The Barrasie Links at Kilmarnock Golf Club is an extremely fine and well-presented golf course. It’s also a superb test of every part of your game and has a real consistent feel of quality to it.
Located on the outskirts of Troon on Scotland's West Coast the Club has an extensive history and dates back to 1887. The course is an Open Championship Final Qualifying venue to boot and has a well-deserved reputation for some of the best maintained greens in Scotland.
The Club has been host to a number of other quality events in recent years and in 2016 the R&A Junior Open Championship will be played here.
The course very much reminded me of nearby Irvine and Gailes Links in style; set slightly inland these courses have wonderful terrain that ebbs and flows effortlessly providing all the challenges and vagaries of pure links golf. The land may not be as dramatic as some of the coastal courses in Ayrshire and you do not have that inspiring connection with the sea yet the masses of heather, gorse and other broom give Barrasie Links an undeniable charm.
As for a test of golf you will struggle to find a sterner yet truer test than the 18 holes here. From the white tees the yardage is 6,852 and par is 72 (SSS 74) but there is also a set of blue tees that are not on the main scorecard which must stretch the links to in excess of the 7,000 yard mark. Big golf is certainly required here but so are finesse, guile and imagination.
Although I didn’t get to play the Hillhouse course on my visit you do get glimpses of it during the round. The sixth looked a very impressive hole as did seven and the green complex at the fourth was sensational. This is nine holes I will definitely make an effort to play on my next visit to Ayrshire because from what I saw these holes look as good if not better than the main course.
Kilmarnock would certainly make for a superb day of golf. Few would be disappointed with a nine-hole knock in the morning on the Hillhouse followed by 18 on the Barrasie Links after lunch.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I felt one of the weaknesses at Kilmarnock Barassie is that there are no standout par threes. The 155-yard 4th is the best of them. The green is slightly raised and has just one bunker which is front right, whilst the left is edged with sleepers.
Index 1 is the 439-yard par four 7th hole. A very accurate drive is essential as the fairway doglegs at around 230 yards. If you cut the right hand corner you hit a mound with heavy rough but if you are a little too far left then you can run through the fairway.
The par four 13th is an attractive hole, particularly when the gorse is in full bloom. A burn runs in front of the tee and then along the right of the fairway. If you play safe by being too far left then you might find a large bunker at the 227-yard mark.
The home hole doglegs right and requires a semi-blind drive. You need to keep a little right but if you stray too far right there are three bunkers. The green is large and has three tiers and just the one bunker on each side at the front.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.