Troon and Prestwick – Old and “classy” Bogside, Dundonald, Gailes, Barassie. Prestwick St Nicholas, Western Gailes, St Cuthbert, Portland – memory fails – Troon Municipal (three links there) Prestwick Municipal, Irvine, Ayr. They faced the list with delighted smiles – Sixteen courses within ten miles.
“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 fine links courses on this relatively small stretch of Ayrshire coastline. Kilmarnock Barassie is one of the least well known.
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, but the club's original site at Holmes Farm was also shared with cattle, so a more suitable 123-acre, animal-free site was secured near the station in 1894. The first course at Barassie was laid out by John Allan, the professional at St Nicholas.
The original course, despite a few in-house changes since it was first laid out in 1894, was becoming outdated and too short for steel-shafted clubs and more resilient balls, so Mathew M. Monie (aka "Theodore Moone") was called in to ring the changes in 1931. The Barassie reconstruction would take fours years to complete.
The following paragraph is an extract from The Jubilee brochure - The Story of Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club 1887 - 1937.
"From 1932 till 1935 major reconstructive operations were carried out under the supervision of Professor R.H. Leitch, the green convener. The design of the course was strengthened and new features added with intent to abolish humdrum and heighten the interest of certain holes. Nature having conceived it her duty to make Barassie flat, the golf architect resolved that at least it should not be monotonous, even to the eye, and as the understudy of Nature he created miniature mountains and valleys - not solely for the purpose of providing new golf hazards but also to delight and refresh the eye. A feeling for beauty co-operated happily with art and science in the re-conditioning of Barassie."
More 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 weighs 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 and lightning-fast greens. Whatever you do, don't rush past Kilmarnock on your way to play Royal Troon.
Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club hosted The Boys Amateur Championship in 2010 and then the club initiated a programme of course changes in preparation for the 2012 Scottish Stroke Play Championship. Click here for more details.
Barassie represents a more inland variety on the links golf theme with heather, bushes and in places, low pine trees. We played it on the same trip as Prestwick, Irvine Bogside and Prestwick St Nicolas, having played the other higher-ranking courses in the region on previous occasions.
The club has 27 holes in play and we played the Barassie Links, which consists of 9 holes from the traditional course, presumably holes 1 to 3 and 13 to 18, and nine holes constructed later further away from the Clubhouse and towards Dundonald Links, holes 4 to 12.
When we played, it was clear that some relatively recent rearrangement and rerouting of holes had taken place as signage on holes 6 to 12 was not fully up to date with the scorecard and neither were our Garmin GPS watches. The pro shop commented that the latter should have been sorted, but check that your device is up to date if you normally rely on one. Otherwise, the pro shop still sells classical paper strokesavers which really would have helped us on that occasion.
Now, this little hopefully temporary stone in the shoe aside, does it belong on your itinerary?
Well, that depends. If you have Prestwick, St Nicolas, Royal Troon or Western Gailes in there already, then Barassie will definitely add some variety. It will be more of the same, however, next to Glasgow Gailes, Dundonald or another flattish heather-framed course.
Personally, I believe two other reasons also speak in its favour: accessibility and speed of play. Thanks to its 27 holes many members play the Hillhouse nine-hole loop close to the clubhouse so it is easier to find a starting time when you want. We could play without having to wait, starting at 9.00am on a weekday morning, a rarity at a members’ club.
Finally, make a mental note of the short walk from Barassie station if you want to get to the course the original way, by train.
The course is over-shadowed by all of it's near neighbours but it would be a shame to have it overlooked if you were in the area. I played it in January 2019 & found that it was in pretty good condition with the greens rolling well. The facilities were great and welcome warm. The course had 2/3 great holes but the rest were average, I don't mean that as a bad thing, just that 2/3 will live in the memory. The 4th was a great par 3, unfortunately I missed left which resulted in a challenge. You can praise the construction of the greens and bunkers which meant most approaches weren't plain sailing.
This is a good course at a good price.
Played the course in a event yesterday and I have to say I was very very disappointed with what we found. I had been told that Barassie was on par with Dundonald, Gullane 1 and Gailes but it was not in the same league. Firstly in was in terrible condition for this time of year, sand on every fairway, GUR everywhere. Hitting the fairway was not an advantage.
Holes 2 - 7 were the best on the course but after that it was very average with the exception of 11 and 13 which were better. I definitely would not go back to Barassie as the other courses in the area are far superior.
We are sorry you didn’t like the course after we’ve spent a great deal of time and money improving it (with more to come). New Paul Kimber designed holes ,extensive gorse removal and fairway reshaping to name a few.
The fairways had just undergone a reseeding program as a result of the exceptionally dry summer, work which we simply had to do, and we admit that they were patchy and sandy in parts. However on that day all the comments we received were positive, particularly about the greens and the course changes.
If you would get in touch we can arrange for you to play next season and give it another chance to impress.
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.