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 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, 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The original course, despite a few in-house changes since it was first laid out in 1894, was becoming outdated and too short for steel-shafted clubs and more resilient balls, so Mathew M. Monie (aka "Theodore Moone") was called in to ring the changes in 1931.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 minature 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 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.
I played in a four ball in November 2002 when the revised course layout had just been put in place. A new locker room had just been installed in the freshly decorated clubhouse and, all in all, the facilities off course were very good.
The course retained puddles of water in places, though it had been raining heavily for days (if not weeks, as I remember!) beforehand. The club had undertaken an awful lot of quality bank reinforcing work to the burn that meanders across the 4th, 5th and 6th holes.
Seventeen regular greens were in play so we got good value for a half price winter green fee. The only real surprise feature on the course was the large gorse patch in an undulation to the right of the short par 4 16th hole which caught three of our party out. A fair test of golf over a decent course.