Organised golf has been played in the Mauchline area since at least early in the 20th century. Mauchline Golf Course at Bogwood Farm was officially opened on 22nd May 1909 by Lieut. Col. W. K. Hamilton-Campbell D.S.O. with Miss Hamilton-Campbell (presumably his daughter) playing the first tee shot.
An exhibition match then took place after the opening ceremony between J. H. Irons and F. W. Kennedy from Pollok Golf Club in Glasgow, who were billed in posters for the event as “ex-holders of the “Evening Times” Trophy. It’s not known when this course fell into the NLE “No Longer Exists” category.
The Alexander family who own the Ballochmyle Estate, where Rabbie Burns wrote two of his songs (“Farewell to the Braes o’ Ballochmyle” and “The Bonny Lass o’ Ballochmyle”), decided to convert part of their land into a golf course and this 9-hole layout was formally opened by Mrs R. J. Dunlop of Barskimming on 22nd June 1937.
Today, the 18-hole course at Ballochmyle Golf Club extends to 5,972 yards from the back markers, playing to a par of 70. There’s only one par five on the scorecard, at the 497-yard 18th (“Waurslin Hame”), where the fairway plunges down from the tee then takes a big turn left and up towards the home green, with out of bounds running along the right side of the hole.
The par threes at holes 3, 14 and 17 are all fine one-shotters but it’s the short par fours that really excel here, especially those played back-to-back at the 290-yard 9th (“Paukie Skelp”), doglegging down and right to the green, and the 272-yard 10th (“Stey Brae”), which rises sharply uphill to a well bunkered green that slopes wickedly from back to front.
I’ll be honest here and say that I’d heard of but didn’t exactly know where Ballochmyle was. I’d been alerted to it recently by several Top 100 Scottish panelists who ranked it in their respective Ayrshire Top 20 charts so it was only right that I should pay it a visit last week to see what all the fuss was about.
The opening hole, featuring a blind tee shot down to a green at the bottom of a hill, didn’t exactly fill me with golfing glee as it’s a rather pedestrian opener. In fact, the next two holes weren’t exactly top drawer either – at this point I was wondering if the other reviewers who’d nominated Ballochmyle had actually been to the same course!
In fairness, things picked up at the well bunkered 4th, the right doglegged 6th (where the fairway skirts some adjacent woodland), and the short par four 9th which ends the front nine in fine style as it heads slightly right and downhill to a small, heavily contoured green.
All the same, fewer than half the holes on the outward half passed muster for me, which was rather disappointing, to say the least. Thankfully, the back nine turned out to be a far better proposition, with the course moving up several gears from the 10th hole onwards.
Hole 11 plays through a narrow gap in a line of trees before heading sharply right and downhill to the green. The left to right slope of the two-tiered green on the 12th has to result in lots of head scratching when it’s set up with certain pin positions and the wall along the right side of the uphill 13th beautifully frames this short par four hole.
The 15th hole was my favourite on the course, dropping down to a landing area that veers right and up to a well-bunkered green which is benched into the hillside. The par three 17th is also fortified by sand, playing slightly uphill to a putting surface that’s protected by bunkers to the front, right and centre of the green.
Ballochmyle’s located ten miles south of Loudon Gowf – which has dropped out of the Ayrshire rankings in favour of this course – so it’s a case of one hidden gem being replaced by another, which is fair enough as it’s an unsung track that deserves a little recognition within the district.