Kilmarnock Barassie Golf Club is a 27-hole links located in the heart of a wonderful stretch of links land in Ayrshire. Western Gailes is over the railway line, Dundonald Links is over the boundary fence and Glasgow Gailes, Irvine Golf Club, Royal Troon and Prestwick are all within easy reach. It’s in the centre of an outstanding area for links golf.
The Club was formed in 1887 and its first course was located in Kilmarnock and was only 9 holes. In 1894, land was purchased on the current site, which had railway access, and the Club moved to a new 18-hole layout. This remained until the early 1990’s when the Club purchased further acreage which allowed the construction of a further 9 holes. The Hillhouse Links has nine of the original course and the Barassie Links has the other nine along with the newer nine. In the last five years, the Club has introduced two new holes to improve the course routing and rewilded the ones that have been replaced.
The Hillhouse Course
The Hillhouse Nine is short, only 2791 yards off the white tees. However, like many short courses, it’s fun and challenging. You might not feel the need to hit the driver on any of the holes as 388 yards is the longest par 4. We hit the driver twice, although both holes we into the freshening breeze.
The difficult 2nd hole
The first hole is rather benign with a wide fairway. You must avoid the three bunkers down the left side of the fairway, do so and it’s an easy par. We hit 3 wood and then 9 iron into the green. After that easy start, the second hole, a par 3 is a toughie. It’s 222 yards, tight with a narrow entrance into the green. It was thankfully playing downwind. Our 4 hybrid finished pin high on the right side of the green and we were delighted to walk off with a par.
Our First Mistake
At holes 3 and 4, we hit 3 wood off the tee and found the putting surfaces with a 7 iron and wedge respectively. Four holes in and we were level par and enjoying the start to our day.
The short but tricky 5th hole
Our first dropped shot happened at the fifth, a 146 yard par 3. It was playing into the wind and we made the mistake of clubbing up and hit a 7 iron. It sailed over the green. We didn’t realise that the hole plays slightly downhill and although we tried to hit it easy, we flushed it. Why does that always happen when we hit it easy?
The Wind Wreaks Havoc
You can almost feel the wind blowing across the 6th green
Standing on the 6th tee, the wind suddenly gusted to 25 mph. We hit a very good tee shot with a driver on this hole which sweeps to the right. It went 210 yards! This left us 166 yards into a green that sat above us and the wind was now blowing left to right. As often happens, well to us anyway, we overcompensated with a 5 iron, came over the top and pulled it straight left into the rough. Now we had short-sided ourselves. Not only that, we were now trying to play a Mickelson flop shot and were downwind. It didn’t end well. A double bogey from the middle of the fairway.
Our Approach shot to the left pin to the 7th
We were very fortunate that there was a game in front of us as standing on the 7th tee, all we could see were gorse bushes and people. Watching the players, we realised that it was a dogleg to the right and at 302 yards, not long. The tee shot was into the wind. We hit 3 hybrid off the tee and it turned out to be the perfect club as we found the narrow fairway. One club short or one club more and we would have been in the gorse, it’s that tight. Our gap wedge finished 3 feet from the hole, we had our first birdie of the day.
Looking back down the 8th
There are instructions that come with the 8th hole. At 272 yards, it’s possibly drivable but there is trouble left and right, bunkers and a narrow green. The sign says to wait until the green and the 9th tee are clear before you tee off unless you are waived up. We decided to lay up short of the bunkers. From there it was a punched sand wedge and an easy par. Right decision! The last hole on the Hillhouse takes you back to the clubhouse. For us, it was a driver, then a wedge. In hindsight we should have hit 9 iron as although we were on the green, we were 50 feet short of the pin. We finished three over for our nine holes. It could have been better, it could have been much worse.
The Hillhouse Nine is great fun to play and is the perfect warm up for the main event, the Barassie Links. The course was in excellent condition and the putting surfaces were pure. The greens are small and many of the holes are quite tight from the tee. Having 27 holes makes Barassie perfect for golf outings, especially for us older folks who struggle to do 36 holes in one day now!
It took us less than 90 minutes to play the Hillhouse course, now it was time for some lunch. The clubhouse at Barassie is modern and inviting and you can’t beat the smell of home baking as you enter the lounge. The menu was extensive and after much pondering we decided to have the Cajun Chicken and Chilli Jam hot baguette. It was outstanding! Very tasty and a little spicy. We liked it so much that we might have it again later.
The Main Event
The Barassie Links is a tough track. It ranges from 6099 yards par 75 for the Ladies, to 6823 yards par 72 for the Gents. Play from the back tees and the slope rating is 137, which is too tough for us. We opted for the yellow tees at 6491 yards with a manageable slope of 131, the same as our home course. It turned out to be a wise decision.
Here We Go
The opening hole is a relatively straight 505-yard par 5. Playing a straight hole means you are required to hit straight shots. We hit the fairway with our driver, but our 3 wood second was cut. Thankfully, the rough wasn’t thick and we pitched on and two-putted for an opening par. Hit two straight shots and it’s a great opportunity to start with a birdie.
Lay up short of the burn on the second hole
The second hole is only 377 yards but it’s tricky. The three fairway bunkers aren’t really the issue, the burn beyond them is. You have to select a club that will come up short of it. We hit our 3 hybrid into the perfect position, 20 yards short of the burn. From there it was an 8 iron onto the green which is long and narrow. Thankfully, we managed to two-putt for our second par. Another par followed at the third which was playing into a strengthening breeze.
Par 3 Relief
No bail out on the 4th hole
The walk from the third green to the fourth tee takes you through an area of gorse and the view above awaits as you step onto the fourth tee. It’s a 160-yard par 3 which was playing into the wind. As you can see there is not much margin for error here. Our well-struck 6 iron found the putting surface and our par run continued.
The Glasgow to Ayr Train passing the 5th Green
Holes 5 and 6 run alongside the railway line that separates Barassie from Western Gailes so don’t go left off the tee! With the wind blowing left to right, our driver found the right side of the fairway on the 5th. This left us with a pitching wedge to the small green. Our par run continues…until we find a fairway bunker off the tee at the sixth, stroke index 1 on the card. We actually aimed at the bunker off the tee thinking that the wind would push it to the right, but it didn’t. We splashed out the bunker and hit our third shot to 12 feet but missed the putt. Bogey.
The 7th hole is a par 5 and at 521 yards, isn’t normally reachable in two for us. However, we had a helping wind for our tee shot which left us 240 yards to the green. Our 3 wood second landed short but ran onto the front edge. Three putts later we had another par.
When a Squall hits
Wind whipping across us on our second shot to the 8th
Standing on the 8th tee, the wind was now freshening further and was whipping left to right across us. We went with 3 wood to try and stay short of the bunker on the right. This left us 135 yards to the green but the wind was now blowing into us from the left. We tried to punch a 5 iron and hit it well but came up short of the greenside bunker. Our chip came up short of the pin and we missed the putt. Less than 5 minutes after we took this photo, we got caught in a squally shower. It only lasted a couple of minutes but it wasn’t pleasant.
Around the Turn
The ninth and tenth are best described as quirky holes, both doglegs to the left. The 9th, a 344 yard par 4, is all about avoiding the bunkers on the corner, do that and you are left with a gap wedge to the green. We hit our second shot to 2 feet to record our first birdie and made the turn in one over par. The tenth, at 369 yards, is similar and plays slightly uphill. For us, it was a driver then a 9 iron into a wide green. Another par.
Beware the Bunkers on the 11th hole
The eleventh hole is the start of a fine run of holes. It is almost dead straight with great fairway bunkering and a tiered green. Our drive managed to come up short of the last bunker and we hit a 6 iron onto the front of the green. To be honest, it was the first time in years we had found the green in two at this hole so we were delighted with our par.
The Two Newer Holes
The tiny green on the short 12th hole
The twelfth hole is a recent alteration to the course, maybe four or five years old. It’s the shortest of the par 3’s at 139 yards and it was playing downwind. The green is probably the most undulating on the course so difficult to hold at the best of times. We hit 9 iron and although it landed short of the pin, it hit a downslope and finished off the back. Fortunately, we got our putter on it and almost holed it.
The brand new 13th hole
Walking from the 12th green to the 13th tee is a bit of a trek, over 200 yards back through the gorse bushes but what we didn’t expect to find when reaching the 13th tee, was a brand new hole. The hole used to go the the right, now we were faced with the view above. It took us aback slightly as our GPS was still giving us the yardage of the old hole which was longer than the 360 yards showing on the card. We hit our 3 wood to the right of the bunkers then a wedge onto the new green, which turned out was way more undulating than the 12th green. These fairway bunkers are to be avoided at all costs. In our opinion, there is no chance of reaching the green from them and it’s not an easy up and down from short of the green.
The 14th is the last par 3 and also the longest. It’s 173 yards and plays uphill to a large green. Again it was into the wind and our 5 iron came up a yard short of the green. We managed to two putt and our level par back nine continued.
The pin looks closer than it is on the 15th hole
The 15th is stoke index 2 on the card but was playing downwind for us. A good drive left us an 8 iron on this 413-yard hole. The second shot is slightly deceptive as the green sits over a ridge and slopes from back to front. On this occasion, it was an easy par. While the 15th was downwind, the 16th, a 482-yard par 5 was into the wind. A good drive followed by a good 3 wood left us 30 yards short. A decent pitch to 10 feet gave us a look at a birdie. We missed and the par run continues.
The 17th is a straightforward par 4 of 402 yards. Again our driver found the fairway in the left to right wind. This left us a 7 iron onto a green which sits at an angle. Two putts and we had 8 pars in a row.
The Last Hole of the Day
The uphill approach to the 18th green
The last hole plays 370 yards off the yellow tees. We hit a good drive into the wind to the corner of the dogleg. We then hit an 8 iron when we should have hit 7 as the pin was at the back of the green. Our long putt was well hit and we got up the green to 6 feet. The pressure was on to sink it to come back in level par. Our nerve held and we sank it.
It was one of our better rounds when doing reviews, a one over par 73. We think the warm-up 9 holes on the Hillhouse certainly helped.
Summary of the Links
As you can probably tell from the photos, the weather was mixed for our day at Kilmarnock Barassie Golf Club. We went from brilliant sunshine and a light breeze to horizontal rain and gusting winds. What it didn’t do was detract from the enjoyment of playing the 27 holes of these links. Both courses were in excellent condition and a credit to the greens team. Favourite Holes? Definitely the 2nd and 6th on the Hillhouse, even though we had a disaster on the 6th. On the Barassie Links, the 3rd, 4th and 6th on the front nine and the 11th, 13th and 16th on the back nine.
As we said previously, we don’t normally play as many as 27 holes in one day but on this occasion, we are delighted that we did. Not only because we played okay but it also showed us that the is still life in the old dog….
Thank you to General Manager David Addison for hosting us and to long-time Head Pro Gregor Howie for his words of wisdom before our review.
At a Glance:
- 27-hole Championship Links
- 35 minutes from Glasgow City Centre
- 15 other courses within 10 miles
- Large practice area
- Modern and welcoming Clubhouse
- Well-stocked Professional Shop
Jim Callaghan has been a Category One Golfer for over 45 years. Recently retired from Club Management, he now walks the fairways of some of the best golf courses in the UK, Ireland and Europe and writes about the experience of playing and staying at them for worldsbestgolfdestinations.com
Now in his 60’s, he is still carrying his bag, although maybe not for much longer!
If you would like Jim to write about your venue, email him at [email protected] or call him on 0044 (0) 78522 88732