Wow! This is simply a world class golf course, easily putting the traditional top 3 of Australia in the shade. As a Scotsman I was keen to sample this course as soon as I saw the pictures that reminded me so much of the great tracks back home…and was not disappointed. The drive in allows you to see glimpses of the course in amongst the dunes and you already know this is going to be a treat.
Like most modern courses these days the 2 9s come out and back towards the clubhouse. Actually the first two holes are a tame start that initially had me questioning whether the course was going to live up to the hype. We start with a very generous fairway on a decent par 5 followed by a fairly standard par 4 with the highlight being the charter planes landing directly to the side of the fairway. From then on however we go on a sequence of utterly great holes one after another. 3 and 4 are short par 4s but magnificent risk/reward holes where you are introduced to huge waste bunkers carved out of the slopes. The walk from 4 to 5 takes you to the top of hundred feet dunes overlooking the waves crashing on the beach, It really is like the best of the Ayrshire coast in over 30 degree heat! 5 was possibly one of the best par 3s I have ever seen but then it was outdone by the signature 7th, only 120 yards but guarded by cavernous bunkers and perilous drops to the back and right. It almost always plays into the breeze and required a punched 7 iron and plenty of hope!
The strange thing is that looking back, although I would say holes 3-8 are possibly the best of any course I’ve played (including 7 open venues) I think I somehow prefer the back 9 which only underlies the relentless quality of the course. I wont go on about each hole but a few deserve special mentions. The 12th (another drivable par 4) is a sensational hole uphill with huge waste bunkers and dune to the right but at only 250 yards just begs to be attacked. I did and was rewarded with a great memory of birdie! 13 is a par 3 that has an enormous and quite hugely undulating green where my partners had to role the ball about 15feet off line for it to track back down the hole towards the cup, some may call it crazy golf but we absolutely loved it. Following on is another beautifully bunkered par 5 and then the 15th that is visually stunning with the river and lost farm to the right, huge fairway bunker and well guarded green.
There are a number of similarities to some other great new courses ive played but I think Barnbougle comes out on top. The bunkering is very similar to Castle Stuart but Barnbougle looks like it has been sitting there for hundreds of years and is just a slightly better collection of golf holes. Kingsbarns too was in my top 3 courses but now slips down one place. I don’t tend to include clubhouse service, etc when thinking of and reviewing my favourite courses because I think it should be all about the course but Ill just say the food was excellent, staying in the huts was overlooking the course was great, (and allowed me to sneak on for a cheeky 9 just before dusk) and at 98 bucks (60 quid!) its an absolute bargain.
Date: January 31, 2011