Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club Feature Review
The West Coast of Scotland - Ayrshire, to be precise - plays host to a compilation of great links golf courses steeped in history that provide a true test for any visiting golfer.
Included on the list is Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club, commonly known as just Barassie, which has been offering up its own challenge since 1887.
A members club that treats its visitors in the same warm manner, Barassie is less than three miles from Royal Troon, seven miles from Prestwick and neighbours both Dundonald Links and Western Gailes, and more than holds its own within the area and has also held prestigious events such as The Women's Amateur Championships, Final Open Qualifying, and The Junior Open Championships to name just a few.
The Barassie Links, which is the main 18-hole layout, is a combination of nine new holes added to the site in 1990, along with nine from the original course. It’s a testament to the development of the course that the difference between the two sets of nine is hardly noticeable, if at all.
The second nine of the original layout is now known as the Hillhouse Course which is a fine full length 9-hole course that is kept to the same standard as the main 18.
In fact, if you have time, why not just go and play all 27 holes at Barassie.
Right from arrival, I got the feeling that Barassie was steeped in history. It was quiet, you can just hear the waves crashing on the shore a few hundred yards up the road and the odd mew from the seagulls overhead - the last time I got this feeling was when I played Prestwick, the birthplace of The Open Championship.
I knew from research that Barassie rated as Highly Recommended on Golfshake and was eager to find out why.
I walked through the old locker room. A locker room in every sense as the walls were literally that. Old wooden lockers that came with a certain smell that only golfers that frequent this type of venue can relate to.
The food is very well spoken of locally, unfortunately we didn’t have time to take in the delights but there was a great menu on offer. The professional shop is manned by Gregor, who has been here for 25 years and can give you then run down, in-between joking with some members on the putting green asking if the greenkeepers had in fact cut any holes as all balls stayed above ground.
A couple of hits in the practice net and a quick putt and you’re ready to set off.
Front 9 Overview
What more could you ask for than a nice gentle par 5 with a railway line running up the right-hand side?
Ok, so there are a few fairway bunkers to avoid, a couple to the right and one to the left, and a fourth a bit further down on the left. But a good tee shot won’t leave you too much into the green, which runs away on approach so keeping it on the putting surface will be a task in itself.
Par 4s to navigate around at the 2nd and 3rd mean that driver off the tee might not be the play. Both holes have Gailes Burn running through it. You will need to play short of it on the 2nd to leave a mid-iron into a long narrow green protected by bunkers on the left.
On the 3rd it's closer to the green after a tight tee shot with the boundary brick wall running up the right-hand side.
A fantastic par 3 at the 4th, again with Gailes Burn running down the left-hand side, but below the level of the raised green, at 150 yards playing into a wind more often than not, anything tugged could spell disaster (as I found out) and you could be looking at three visits to the burn in the opening four holes.
The next two holes run adjacent with the railway that separates Barassie and Dundonald Links with Western Gailes on the other side, before making a turn back to another fine par 5 where the wind might finally start to help slightly.
The snaking fairway has a couple of bunkers to avoid, but another chance to get on in two isn’t out of the question.
The final hole on the opening 9 is a nice dogleg from right to left. Take note of the three bunkers you can see from the tee - these signal the end of the fairway.
The hole is only 350 yards but plays a bit less if you wanted to take on the corner, I promise you it’s very tempting!
Back 9 Overview
The fairway on the 10th really narrows down as it turns from right to left, while the collection of bunkers right in the middle - I counted four but who really knows! - need to be avoided, otherwise a 4 is less than likely as there will still be a good distance to cover from the traps.
You'll be pleased to know that Gailes Burn turns up again on the 13th. This time down the right-hand side of a hole that looks cracking from the tee. A slight kink from right to left with the burn protruding into the fairway from the right, another couple of good shots is required to find a tough green with some severe slops - especially on the left-hand side.
A 475 yards par 5 awaits at the 16th but don’t get lured into thinking this is an easy par 5. Bad news normally comes in threes and this is certainly the case as far as the bunkers are concerned. The first trio comes in the landing zone from the tee. The fairway does look inviting from a slightly raised tee box, but the wind will more than likely be coming in from the sea - in this case right to left and two traps on the right and one left need to be negotiated.
The next trio are probably around the second landing zone for those needing to lay-up. Another two smaller pot bunkers on the right will stop the 'chase on' shot and the one on the left should be avoidable for most.
The final trio come in the shape of green protection. Two more deep pots front right, and one middle left means whether you are having a crack in two, or opting for the lay-up, you'll still need to hit two or three great shots to have a good look. Oh, did I also mention that the green is raised from the fairway? A really great short par 5.
A similar story on the finishing hole as far as bunkers are concerned. In fact, stood on the 18th tee you'll feel you actually see more bunkers than fairway but it's maybe not as tough as it seems. A couple of good shots will leave a nice chance for a finishing birdie with the pro shop and clubhouse in full view as you finish an extremely enjoyable round of golf at Barassie.
Barassie is a really enjoyable golf course. We actually played it off the yellow tees and found it a great test, as for longer hitting you really have to think about what to hit from the tees, while the shorter players will also need to club down from time to time.
The course is in superb condition, the fairways were fantastic, and the greens were as good as you'll find and the attention to detail was there to be seen too.
I want to bring your attention to the fairway yardage markers as they are all in the shape of the green you are playing into, which I have never seen before and caused quite a stir when I shared them on social media. A very clever idea from the guys at Barassie. Special mention for the tee markers too.
More on @Barassie_KBGC later this evening when I'm home, but how cool are these fairway yardage markers - also in the shape of the green you're hitting too. @golfshake pic.twitter.com/Oc9MfL5BxH— Matt Holbrook Golf (@MattHolbrook86) November 1, 2022
Barassie provides a test for all golfers, naturally it will play tougher on more windy days, but that’s natural and given the amount of rain that had fallen in the two previous days there wasn’t a puddle in sight. The greenkeepers are doing a great job.
It's worth pointing out that the team at Barassie are always trying to move the course forward and make improvements, one hole was closed (what looked like a cracking par 3) when we visited. Personally, this doesn’t bother me as much when a course is trying to do its best to make improvements for its members and visitors, which deserves credit.
We also played as a two and were let through by every group we came to without hesitation. Each group enquiring where we were from, what we thought of the course, etc. So refreshing.
Overall, Barassie is a great place to play golf. It provides a warm welcome, history, and a challenging course in great condition that will only get better as the years progress. And in an area where it would be easy to look past Barassie - only a fool would do so.
Overall Rating - 9
Course (Conditions) - 9
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 9
Course (Green Condition) - 9
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 8
Club Facilities & Clubhouse - 8
Practice Facilities - 8
Friendliness/Hospitality - 10
Pace of Play - 10
Value For Money - 9
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