Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Glasgow GC - Killermont Course - Course no 628

Glasgow GC is the world's 9th oldest golf club.  As might be expected of such an old institution, it has undergone some radical changes over the years, the Killermont Course being its 5th different location within the city since the club was founded in 1787.  The present course at Killermont was laid out by Old Tom Morris in December 1903, and was the Great Man's last course design.   The course has undergone some tweaking since then by James Braid and more recently by Dave Thomas to bring the course into line with developments in golfing equipment, but much of the course and in particular the sites for greens, remains as originally designed by Old Tom.  Factor in the magnificent Georgian mansion at Killermont that still serves as the clubhouse and a round here is an experience to be savoured.  This is a view of the clubhouse from the 1st Tee.

The Glasgow Golf Club also owns and operates the fine old links course at Gailes on the Ayrshire Coast on links land between Irvine and Troon, with several other celebrated links courses within easy driving distance. Indeed, the Glasgow Gailes course has been chosen by the R&A as the sole Scottish Final Qualifying Course for the Open Championship for the next 3 years, recognising Glasgow GC as one of Scotland's most prestigious clubs and the Gailes course as amongst the best of our links courses.  I'd played Glasgow Gailes some years ago, before I started the challenge of playing every course, but I'd not managed a round at the Killermont Course.  It's perfectly possible to phone the club to make playing arrangements, but I was fortunate that David McG, one of my former work colleagues is a member, so a few text exchanges later and we'd arranged a friendly 4-ball for 28 October 2013 (me and David McG versus Alastair, another Glasgow GC member, and David L, my best buddy from Glen GC). 28 October was supposed to be a day of sunshine and the occasional light shower, with the weather deteriorating as the week progressed, so we boldly (and as it turned out, foolishly) ventured out.  The bad news was that the 14th and 15th holes were closed following heavy rain on the 27th and a problem with a water pump used to drain that part of the course.  Accordingly, I'd be unable to play every hole on the course.  I'll need to return to Killermont and play the full layout, but given the quality of this course, that's a pleasure I'm really looking forward to.   

The Killermont course measures 5678 Yards Par 68 from the Yellow Tees.  A temporary green was in place at the short Par 4 1st, but otherwise, we were playing to the full 16 holes that were in play and the course was playing quite long due to the wet and sometimes boggy underfoot conditions.  The 1st hole is pretty straightforward, but Killermont's 2nd is an absolute beast, a Par 3 of 241 Yards off the White Tee. Thankfully it's slightly more manageable at 229 Yards off the Yellow Tee but I still needed a good 3 Wood to reach the front of the green, setting up  my first par.  This is a view from the tee, with the autumn colours in full splendour.  As a caddy, I prefer to offer advice on lines to take rather than hazards to avoid, unless they are not immediately visible, so it was good on the 3rd Tee to hear my partner listing exhaustively all of the places that our opponents should avoid - we won the hole but it's amazing how a little negativity can influence things in friendly match play.

We'd started in dry overcast conditions but it wasn't to last and the first shower arrived just as were tackling the slightly uphill semi-blind 4th, a 138 Yard Par 3 that played a lot longer than it looked.  There's OOB beyond and a gully to the left of the green, so an accurate tee shot here is important.  I'd just missed the green front right and this green was particularly slow, but a bogey 4 was still disappointing.  The 5th is a really good 505 Yard Par 5, slightly downhill back towards the clubhouse, as shown here.  I was just short in 3 and a poor lob wedge to 15 foot short was never going to leave an easy putt, so another eminently avoidable bogey was recorded.  Next, the Stroke Index 1 hole, a 418 Yard uphill Par 4 that played a lot longer.  I'd only an easy third shot sand iron pitch to the green, but by the time we'd finished the hole the rain was fair battering down and I'd scored yet another avoidable bogey. The weather improved on the next 3 holes, all short Par 4s.  I parred the 7th and 8th and was only 10 feet away in 2 on the 339 Yard Par 4 9th.  I missed the birdie putt but was still out in 40.

The 10th hole is one of the best at Killermont, a 394 Yard dog leg left Par 4.  I'd hit a good drive down the left of the fairway but the optimum line is well right of centre, to avoid having to go over high trees at the corner of the dog leg.  The heavy rain was back on and didn't ease until we'd reached the 16th.  I'd struggled to keep my club grips relatively dry and was reminded that I needed a new wet suit, but our opponents had struggled too and we were dormie after the 13th.  With the 14th and 15th obviously unplayable and closed for the day, we only needed a half on the 16th, a 133 Yard Par 3, as shown here.  My good 7 iron looked OK but only reached the front of the green and the actual hole was still 50+ feet away.  I hit a really solid putt but even that came up 6 feet short on the by then  saturated green. I don't much like 3-putting at the best of times, but between us David and I had scrambled a half, winning our match - setting up a "return" at North Berwick GC sometime next Spring.

Here's Alastair and the two David's doing some pitch mark repairing on the soft 18th green, with the impressive clubhouse in the background.

With 2 of the holes out of play, I scored 73 gross for 16 holes, with 30 putts.  The missing holes are a 366 Yard Par 4 and a 436 Par 5 and I'm guessing that I could have done them in around 10 strokes, but I'll need to return to play the full course sometime to find out.  I'm really looking forward to that, since Killermont was still a joy to play, despite the weather.  I strongly recommend you try to play here sometime.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Balnagask 9 Hole Pitch and Putt Course - Course no 627

Coby and I played this little course on 24 October 2013 immediately after our round over the 18 Hole links course at Balnagask. Although this is referred to as a pitch and putt course, the holes range from 64 to 145 yards, so full shots are definitely required on most holes.  The course is laid out on land that became available as a consequence of the re-modelling of the 18 Hole course in 1976. This little course is ideal for general practice and for giving youngsters a first start in the game, without the potentially intimidating pressures of playing alongside adults on the bigger course.  As with most other short courses, the greens are pretty small and difficult to hold, so although all of the holes are Par 3s, the course isn't as easy as it looks.  Indeed, we both took bogey 4s on this the 104 Yard 1st hole.

The course runs from the Stater's Hut out towards The Battery, a formidable defensive fortification from Napoleonic times, before turning back towards the Torry district of Aberdeen. The course also provides great close-up views of the Harbour and at 1010 Yards, Par 27 is ideal for a quick warm-up before playing the bigger course or just lunchtime etc. practice.  Coby works next door to the course, lucky man!  

Here are some general views of some of the holes and the adjacent Aberdeen Harbour.

I managed a birdie at the 93 Yard 2nd hole, but that was as good as it got, since a few further bogeys took me to a gross 31, 4 over par, with 16 putts. A good little course.  Thanks again to Coby for his excellent hospitality, friendship and a very generous contribution towards our Cancer Research UK fund-raising efforts.  Hopefully, we'll see each other again as the challenge to play every course in Scotland continues.

Balnagask Golf Course - course no 626

It's always good to hear from readers of my blog and particularly from those who invite me to play at what for me is another new course. Craig, Stu and I enjoy each other's company when we play new courses together but since their still working full-time and I'm not, I usually play new courses by myself.  That's good, but it's so much better to play with a local member (apart from anything else, it prevents me from getting completely lost on courses without adequate signage and advice on lines to take and the history of courses etc. can really help add to the enjoyment in playing new courses). Accordingly, I was delighted when Coby got in touch with me a few months ago about playing at Balnagask, his local course in Aberdeen. This is Coby and me by the Starter's Office when we played at Balnagask on 24 October 2013.

Balnagask is an 18 Hole links course on the south side of the Dee estuary, overlooking Aberdeen Harbour and is owned and operated by Aberdeen City Council.  The course is also home to Nigg Bay GC, Pecten GC and Marine GC (a small non-course owning club set up by Coby and some friends).  Regular readers of my blog will know that most of the "Cooncil" courses that I've covered in blog reports suffer from chronic under-investment and are rarely very memorable. Aberdeen Council suffers from the same financial pressures as other Scottish local authorities, but I'm pleased to say that this doesn't show at Balnagask, which is an absolute gem of a course in terms of its design, condition and above all the tremendous views from almost every hole.  The course sits on the Balnagask Headland between the Dee estuary and Nigg Bay and there are great views out to sea, the Girdleness Lighthouse and across to the Harbour and the city beyond.  The course is operated for the good of the local community, but £12 for a round on such an excellent course is an absolute steal, particularly when contrasted against the far higher visitor green fees at other privately-run courses in the area. Visiting golfers to the Aberdeen area will naturally focus on playing at Royal Aberdeen, Murcar and Trump International etc. and whilst those courses are justifiably famous in their own right, Balnagask is probably more playable by the average golfer.  OK, there's maybe no great kudos in playing a Cooncil course that's also a public park (popular with dog walkers etc.) and a couple of holes overlook a jaded-looking housing development, but anyone who turns up their nose at the thought of playing here is really missing out on a quality course.

Balnagask measures 6121 Yards Par 70 and has been substantially re-modelled over the years since it was first established in 1905 as a 12 hole course.  Given its strategic location, the course it was commandeered for military use during and after both World Wars.  Indeed, the course was closed completely for 15 years before re-opening in 1955, under the Council's control for the first time. Over the years it has varied between 11, 12 and 18 holes, with James Braid and Hawtree & Son making substantial design changes at different times.  The current layout dates back to a major re-alignment  (designed by Hawtree & Son, now better known as architects of the Trump International Golf Links and many other famous courses) in 1976.  This work involved larger greens and extensive layout changes that avoided some of the steeper parts of the headland, making the course an easier walk (and providing land for what is now an excellent 9 hole pitch and putt course, closer to the estuary and the Aberdeen Harbour entrance).  I'm indebted to Coby for this insight into the history and development of the course and for his in-round descriptions of the former layout and other features on the course.  

Balnagask now begins with an intimidating looking 368 Yard Par 4 with a blind second shot played steeply uphill, with OOB coming into play on the left side of the fairway.  The course is still quite undulating and if you ever play here, you'll probably linger for a while to enjoy the panoramic view from the 2nd tee, offering your first clear view of the sea beyond the course (and the Harbour, miles of sandy beach and the townscape beyond).  This is a view of the 2nd hole, a 447 Yard Par 4, from the tee and below that, a view from the fairway down to the green.  Coby and I clearly had a warm sunny and almost wind less day for our game!

The tough start to Balnagask continues with the 3rd, a largely uphill 406 Yard Par 4.   As Coby noted, there's space behind the tee to stretch this hole into a Par 5 or make it even tougher, but I think it's fine as it is.  The wall behind the green is OOB, as shown here.  I'd started with a run of 3 bogey 5s, but I was determined to keep a 6 off my card and play to my handicap.  It was an ideal day for golf, I'd great company and the course was in great condition for the time of year.  Just perfect really.  The 4th is a short steeply downhill 360 Yard Par 4 and another chance to really go for a long drive.  I played an easy wedge to the green but I really needed a fuller swing, as my ball got stuck in heavy rough just beyond a path that runs in front of the green.  Another bogey and my hopes for a low round were fast receding. 
The 5th is the shortest hole on the course at 133 Yards, steeply uphill, but the tee markers were forward and my easy 9 iron looked good all the way.  A first par, at last.  Next, the Stroke Index 1 6th, and at 432 Yards, an excellent links-style Par 4.  I had a comfortable bogey there and managed to birdie the shorter 7th, as shown below (at only 310 yards, this was just a drive and an easy wedge).  More steady play and I was out in 40 and loving the course.

The Front 9 is pretty open, but the Back 9 is a bit tighter.  For example, this is the 10th, a 483 Yard Par 5.  The drive is easy enough as the first 250 yards or so of the fairway is generously wide.  However, if you've hit a good one and fancy getting on in 2, your second shot must thread its way between gorse covered hillocks.  I played the hole as a 3-shotter and had a reasonably comfortable 5, despite leaving myself a 5 foot putt for par. The Back 9 is also significantly shorter than the Front 9 and with the first cut of rough being so light, a slightly wayward shot wasn't really punished.  Go further offline and it was a different story, as I'm afraid Coby found out.  His swing change will bear fruit but was still work in progress, but the man can play and was out-driving me - a feat that's becoming increasingly easy!  

I was scrambling pars and the odd bogey (with another birdie at the short 296 Yard Par 4 12th), but a hooked second shot on the 17th left me in heavy rough.  I had this bunker between me and the hole but I managed another somewhat lucky scrambled bogey. The last hole is a 216 Yard Par 3.  The ideal line is a chimney on the horizon, left of the green, to allow your ball to roll down the side slope onto the green. A bunker some 50 yards short of the green doesn't really come into play (and I'd move it far closer to the green, on the same line, to toughen the hole). As it stands, anything up the left side of the hole feeds off the side slope onto the green.  I finished just short of the green with my tee shot and a bogey from there was slightly disappointing, but I'd gone round in 81, net 70 with 32 putts. I'd matched net par and avoided a 6 on my card and thoroughly enjoyed my first ever round at Balnagask.  I hope to play it again sometime.  Coby was the perfect partner and we had perfect golfing weather (the following day was apparently stormy and blowing a gale!).  I strongly recommend you play Balnagask.  If you're very lucky, you'll get good weather too, but be warned, the course is seriously exposed to the elements.

Craibstone Golf Course - Course no 625

This is an excellent 18 hole parkland/heathland course just to the west of Aberdeen that was originally established in 1999 by the Scottish Agricultural College and since 2011 has been owned and operated by Marshall Leisure Ltd.  I played the course immediately after my earlier round at nearby Auchmill on 23 October 2013.  Although these courses are only a few miles apart and are built on similarly undulating land, the differences between the courses are like night and day.  Craibstone has clearly been built with far greater investment in drainage systems and overall was simply a joy to play from start to finish, despite the odd heavy shower and increasingly strong wind that added to scoring difficulties.  I'd arrived unannounced "on spec" at lunchtime and was given the warmest of welcomes.  The clubhouse Bistro was in full swing, but the course itself was pretty quiet.  I could start behind a 3 ball of members and with the surprisingly warm sun now out and almost 5 hours of daylight left, this was set to be a round to be savoured rather than rushed.  

Craibstone lies within a mile of the edge of the city but feels completely detached from it and only the occasional helicopter or plane overhead disturbs the peace of this place. I was hooked on Craibstone by the 1st hole, a downhill 323 Yard Par 4, as shown above. Good bunkering protects an undulating green, built to USPGA standards (and impressively firm, despite the recent rain).  An easy par there.  Next is an innocent-looking 130 Yard Par 3, but again, the green is far from easy to read (and I liked the attention to detail on the scorecard, with slope diagrams of each green).  The 3rd should be a simple Par 4 if you keep your ball straight.  Go left (like me) and a water hazard and heavy rough awaits - I escaped with a 5!  The 4th is really difficult so have a look at this hole from the 3rd tee and note the deep gully, bushes and water to be negotiated by your second shot.  The drive from the 4th tee is actually quite easy, but do not be fooled. Bogey here is good and infinitely preferable to the cricket score you could run up by being careless or over-ambitious.  The 3rd hole also offers you a good view of the long uphill Par 5 5th.  This hole is only 421 Yards but plays more like 500.  A heavy shower on the 4th and 5th holes added to the difficulty, as did being waived through by the friendly 3-ball in front.  I'd reached the 6th Tee in 3 over par.  Scoring well here would be far more difficult than at Auchmill, but I was loving the course, despite it's tricky opening holes and the uncertain weather.

Thankfully, the 6th offered some respite.  This 189 Yard Par 3 is actually slightly downhill and was definitely downwind.  The calm of the morning had been replaced by a stiffening breeze that would make the Back 9 "interesting."  The short walk from the 6th green to the 7th Tee goes past the clubhouse and the car park, but the 7th is downhill and officially the easiest hole on the course, so with the sun poking out from behind the rainclouds again, it was wet suit off and time for another par.  The 8th is another fairly simple hole, this time an uphill 296 Yard Par 4, but I'd found a greenside bunker and that cost me a bogey.  Holes 9-17 lie beyond trees behind the 8th and are more heathland in nature, suggesting that they were a later addition to a previous 9 hole layout.  I don't know if that's the case, but this part of the course has a slightly different feel to the holes nearer the clubhouse and as I was to discover, there were some fearsome challenges ahead.  This is the 9th, a 371 Yard Par 4 with a large pond and deep bunkering protecting the green.  I'd hit a good drive but the strong wind meant that I still needed a 3 Wood for my second shot.  I cleared the pond OK, but only just and a bogey meant I was out in 41.

The 10th is a good looking 128 Yard Par 3, playing far longer in the increasing wind.  I'd just missed the green and took a bogey.  The 11th is called  "Gruesome Glen" and is the quirkiest hole I've played for some time.  For starters, this is an uphill 355 Yard Par 4 played into the low sun (out again!).  The fairway (all of 9 paces wide!) lies in a hollow between gorse on the right and rough on the left.  Find the fairway and your blind second shot will be severely uphill to a long and very narrow plateau green.  Miss the fairway to the left (as I did, by a mere yard) and chances are you'll have a hanging lie with the ball well below your feet.  My second shot from there was uphill, blind, into the low sun and a heavy wind.  I opted for a 3 Wood, just missed the green chipped on to 4 feet and holed the putt for an outstanding par.  This is, unsurprisingly, the Stroke Index 1 hole.  This rather poor photo gives only a weak flavour of this challenging hole.

Having survived, the 11th, it was a long walk to the 12th, mainly uphill, it seemed.  I've had to adjust the colours on the photo below, also taken almost directly into the sun.  The 12th is only 148 Yards, but played to around 190, slightly uphill and directly into the wind.  The pin was tucked away back right of the green, behind a 4 foot high mound.  I'd only just cleared the path leading up to the green with my tee shot, bringing this little mound into play, so my bogey was actually quite good!

I'd reached the top of the course, but stood on the 13th Tee I was faced with yet another hugely challenging hole.  This time the tee shot should be played downhill to a flat area almost surrounded by gorse, trees and heavy rough, leaving a blind second shot steeply uphill towards the green. This is not a hole for the faint-hearted, as this view from the tee suggests.  I decided to try to play it as a Par 5, with a Driver and a couple of mid-irons.  The hole is only 377 Yards, but I'd missed the fairway left, so I hit a 9 iron into position for a blind uphill shot to the green. That strategy came unstuck in one of the bunkers to the right of the green (invisible from where I'd played!) my third shot.  I took a 7 which could have been far worse, given the scope for trouble on this hole.  It wasn't my favourite hole and having played it I'm still not sure whether it's necessary to have such severe bunkers to protect a blind hole.

The rest of the holes at Craibstone are easier by comparison, or perhaps more accurately, holes where seriously high scores are pretty unlikely unless you do something really silly. Even so, I dropped another 3 shots on the last 5 holes for a round of 83, net 72 with 30 putts. This is a view of the 18th fairway and the remnants of a heavy shower that just missed the course late in my round. Craibstone is a seriously impressive set up. I'd love to play it again sometime and would strongly recommend it if you get the chance.  If you're tempted, just don't take Holes 11-13 too seriously.  Par all three and you will have my undying respect!

Auchmill GC - Course no 624

Most of the courses that I still have to play are located a considerable distance from home. British Summer Time ends officially on 27 October 2013 and the weather is becoming increasingly autumnal so it looks as though I won't be playing many new courses before next Spring.  I've a few day trips planned to play new courses in the coming weeks before Winter gets going, and I'm just back from a 2 day trip to Aberdeen when I managed to get 4 new courses done - probably my last overnight trip this year.  I'd set out very early on Tuesday 23 October 2013 with the idea of playing the Auchmill and Craibstone courses that day, before tackling the 2 courses at Balnagask on the 24th.  The weather forecast looked promising, but it's a 3 hour+ drive and shortly after I started, so did the heavy rain.  Thankfully the downpour stopped just as I arrived at Auchmill GC, an undulating parkland course on the west side of Aberdeen.  However, the damage had been done.  The course was soaking underfoot and would no doubt be playing long.  I'd arrived just before a group of hardy locals and was first out that day, just after 1000 hrs. A quick round was called for if I was to minimise the risks of a soaking and have enough time to fit in a round at nearby Craibstone.

The current 18 Hole Auchmill golf course is formally owned  by Aberdeen City Council and measures 5724 Yards Par 70 off the Yellow Tees.  Auchmill was first opened in 1975 as a 9 hole parkland course and quickly proved popular with local golfers. Indeed, the Council extended Auchmill to 18 holes in 1989, such was the pressure on the course.   There was no clubhouse, but thanks to the commitment and dedication of local players the Auchmill GC was established in 1992 and now has over 400 members and its own clubhouse overlooking the 18 green, as shown here.  In recent years the future of the course was threatened by pressures on the Council's budget, but in 2009 the Council agreed to rent the course to Auchmill GC, with its members taking over the management and operation of the course.  The future now looks secure and I really applaud the commitment and determination of the club's members to keep "their" course open.  

The course is well laid out and is quite hilly in places, such as here, on the 3rd hole, a 334 Yard Par 4.  The tee shot is blind, but  I'd hit a good drive leaving me a short pitch steeply downhill to a small sloping green.  An easy par there and at the short 172 Yard 4th and I was only 1 over after the first 4 holes.  The 5th is a really tricky 332 Yard Par 4.  Your tee shot will be blind and steeply uphill and the hole dog legs slightly to the left  I'd hit what I thought was a good drive but needed to draw my second out of light rough, since the green was tucked away out of sight.  I'm not very good at drawing a ball at the best of times so a scrambled bogey 5 was actually quite good in the circumstances.  The next couple of holes are short Par 5s at 476 and 472 yards respectively.  The 6th is the Stroke Index 2 hole but I had easy pars at both holes.  A weak drive on the 8th cost me a bogey, but I recovered well to go out in 38 after an easy par on this, the 156 Yard Par 3 9th.  This hole is steeply downhill and looks out over Aberdeen Airport in the distance, directly in line with the main runway.

The 10th is a 319 Yard dog leg left Par 4, as shown here.  I decided that I'd try to draw my drive around the corner of the dog leg, which probably explains why this photo is taken from the extreme right side of the fairway, within feet of trees that are OOB.  An easy 8 iron and a couple of putts saved the par but Driver on this hole is not recommended unless you know you can draw the shot.  The 11th was, for me, the most difficult hole on the course. This is a 480 Yard Par 5.  A water hazard was out of range from the tee, but just when I needed something straight, I hit an unwanted draw into the trees to the left of the fairway, en route to a double-bogey. 

Not good, but a good drive and even better wedge to the 337 Yard Par 4 12th, as shown here, gave me my only birdie of the round. Next came the steeply uphill 13th, all 322 Yards of it, dog leg right.  From the absence of footprints on the wet greens I was first out that day and hadn't seen another soul on the course, until I met a local senior citizen out walking his dog.  To those readers who've not had the pleasure, the local accent in Aberdeen and more widely the Doric dialect can be tricky. I understood the opening "foozyedaein?" easily enough (how are you?) but of the rest, I think I was being advised that the rest of the course beyond the 14th was relatively flat.  The finishing holes are indeed easier on the legs after some of the earlier elevations.  The 14th is actually the Stroke Index 1 hole but I'm not sure why.  At 392 Yards downhill, this Par 4 is little more than a drive and mid-iron, with a wide fairway.  A bunker comes into play if you under-club the second shot, as I did, but this hole looked to be significantly easier than my nemesis, the 11th.  It is definitely far easier than the formidable 451 Yard Par 4 18th.  This slightly uphill dog leg left hole is a really strong finishing hole and I was happy enough to be 30 yards short in 2, with an easy chip and run to the hole.  A poor chip still left me 30 feet short on a wet green, so a bogey from there was not too bad in the circumstances.  I'd gone round in 76, net 65 with 30 putts, net 5 under par. I'd gone round in just under 2 hours.  Indeed, the 4 ball who teed off just behind me looked pretty surprised to see me play from the 18th Tee, just as they were approaching the 9th!

Auchmill is a pretty good course, well worth playing if you're in the area and at £10 a round is great value for money.  I'd played it in heavy underfoot conditions and was glad to be wearing waterproof shoes and it's very probably an even better course in dry sunny conditions. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Kilmarnock Barassie GC - Hillhouse, Traditional and Dundonald Courses - Courses 621, 622 and 623

I'd played the 18 Hole championship course at Kilmarnock Barassie GC (known as the Links Course) on 16 June 2010. See my Blog entry 308 for details of that round.  However, there are 27 holes at Barassie and to complicate matters further, there are 4 separate course layouts, with 4 separate scorecards.  In other words, there are 4 separate golf courses here, each of which count towards our all-courses challenge. There used to be only 18 holes, but when another 9 were added in 1997 to toughen up the championship layout, the club created the 9 Hole Hillhouse layout from the remaining holes. It also opted to retain occasional usage of the traditional layout (The Traditional) and created an alternative and slightly shorter 18 hole layout (the Dundonald). The Traditional and Dundonald layouts aren't played continuously or even regularly, since that would disrupt usage of the main Links Course, so I clearly had a problem.  I could readily play the Links and Hillhouse Courses, but access to the other 2 seemed almost out of reach.  After a discussion with the Club Secretary, my only realistic option was to play the Links Course again together with the Hillhouse layout and compile composite scores for the other layouts, based on my scores for each hole.  I'd be playing all of the available 27 holes, but I'd obviously not be playing each course in sequence. That's disappointing in a way, since our ambition is to play every course, but at least I can claim to have played every hole on each of the 4 layouts. So, I returned to Barassie on 8 October 2013 on a cool and overcast morning, starting with the Links Course.

I'd really enjoyed playing the Links Course in 2010 in the summer heat, but it was now a distinctly cool October morning, so would I enjoy it as much and could I beat my poor gross 90 score? The course was just as impressive as before and in fabulous condition for the time of year. Some coring of the greens was underway, but those that hadn't been done yet were in great condition. I started steadily enough, parring the opening 501 Yard Par 5 hole. I also avoided the stream that runs across the fairway on the 2nd, but I missed the green and only saved a bogey after a good pitch and single putt from close range. The 3rd on the Links Course is the Stroke Index 1 hole. This hole is only 365 Yards but with OOB to the right and a narrowing fairway nearer the green with bushes and trees coming into play for anything wayward, this is a tricky hole. I'd taken a 7 in 2010 without troubling the stream that runs in front of the green but I wasn't so lucky second time around. I'd hit a decent drive, but I was still 160 Yards out and my feeble 27 Degree Rescue was only ever heading one place. Finding the water hazard led to a double bogey 6 this time.

I'd liked the 4th last time but with the wind coming from the left, the water hazard that runs up the length of this little hole was really in play. This 149 Yard Par is the first of the newer holes (and a 400 yard walk from the 3rd) and is one of the best holes on the course. The left side of the green is supported by a 5 foot high wall of wooden railway sleepers, adding character to the hole. I'd played a 6 iron towards the left side of the green but only succeeded in finding the water hazard. I then fluffed a lob wedge close to the railway sleeper wall and needed a good recovery onto the green and a decent single putt to escape with a double bogey. Not good. I wasn't doing very well and finding bunkers at seemingly every reasonable opportunity meant I was out in 44.

I couldn't remember the layout of the 10th and was momentarily puzzled by the sign warning golfers against driving the green unless they were certain it was safe to do so. This hole is a 346 Yard Par 4 and with no mention of "trying" to drive the green, either there was a dog leg or the local players on the course that day might have been stronger than they looked. It was indeed a dog leg, but with gorse in abundance a drive over the dog leg would be a huge gamble.  I played the hole conservatively, as Driver, Sand Iron and 2 putts and was happy with that. The best hole on the Back 9 is probably the 13th, a 387 Yard Par 4, as played after another long walk from the section of the course containing holes 4-12.  A stream runs laterally up the right of the hole and has to be carried from the tee.  I hit a good drive, but caught a bad bounce, typical of links courses, and my ball ended up in the hazard. That cost me a double bogey.  I'd caught up with John, Jim and Ian, 3 local members who asked me to join them for the last 5 holes.  I enjoyed their company but rather lost any semblance of concentration. I parred the 16th, a good-looking 475 Yard Par 5 requiring a very accurate drive, but other than that, I finished quite weakly, for a homeward 44. I'd gone round in 88, net 77, with 31 putts. Slightly better than my previous effort, but I'd dropped some silly shots.  I'd need to play better over the 9 Hole Hillhouse Course if I was to record decent composite scores on the Traditional and Dundonald layouts.

Thankfully, the Hillhouse Course is reasonably short, at 2756 Yards, Par 34 from the Yellow Tees.  The 1st is a downwind 361 Yard Par 4. The fairway is generously wide and there's not much real rough, so it looked as though this course would be less demanding than the current Links Course layout. However, it doesn't help when your opening drive finds the adjacent 9th fairway, leaving a very difficult approach.  I really don't recommend that route and I was lucky to escape with an opening bogey.  Maybe a beer with my lunchtime steak and onion baguette would have helped, rather than the fresh orange juice!

The 2nd is another straightforward-looking hole, this time a 197 Yard Par 3.  I just missed the green but a good chip over the bunker to the right of the green set up a tap in putt for an opening par.  The 3rd is a 354 Yard Par 4 with another generously wide fairway.  The second shot is semi-blind due to a dip in the fairway and you only see the top of the flag.  I mis-hit a 7 iron second en route to another bogey.  The 4th is a 385 Yard Par 4.  I somehow managed to miss the wide fairway off the tee and needed a good single putt for par.  A poorly played hole.

This is the 5th, a 131 Yard Par 3.  There was a decent cross wind from the left adding to the difficulty and my 7 iron had just trickled off the green leaving a simple pitch up the green. This stopped an inch short, but the simplest of pars. Barassie is a few hundred yards from the coast, with a main  railway line and the excellent Glasgow Gailes GC between it and the sea. The 6th green and 7th tees on Hillhouse offer the only clear sea views at Barassie and the 6th itself is deceptively difficult. This 359 Yard Par 4 is the Stroke Index 1 Hole. Bunkers either side of a tight fairway come into play off the tee and the second shot is uphill, right into the prevailing wind from the sea on this, the most exposed part of the course. I'd hit a reasonable driver, but needed it again to reach the side of the green, setting up an easy par.

The 7th is another difficult hole, despite being only 296 Yards.  The tee is exposed and with a wind from the right.   A sea of gorse to the right and a sliver of fairway to the left will get your attention, but with the wind from the right, an accurate drive over the gorse is needed.  I went slightly too far left and could only see the very top of the flag, thanks to more gorse.  This is a view from where I should have been!  I found the green OK with an easy wedge, but this is a really good little hole

The 8th and 9th holes run parallel to the main railway line (the Barassie Station is adjacent to the clubhouse).  The fairways are wide and in both cases there's a decent line in from the left side of the fairways.  These holes are almost identical in length at 338 and 335 Yards, with the 8th, as shown below, being the more difficult.  The plateau green is difficult to find and hold (I'd missed the green to the left with my second shot), hence my bogey 5.

This is the 9th, finishing in front of the impressive clubhouse.  I'd managed to hook my tee shot (ironically close to the 1st fairway) and finished with a disappointing bogey for a round of 38, with 14 putts.  4 over par was still pretty good, but could easily have been better, since none of the holes are hugely difficult.  However, I'd at least scored reasonably well, so all that remained was to work out how my scores over the Links and Hillhouse courses would look against the Traditional and Dundonald scorecards.

The "Traditional" is the original course at Barassie, as made up from the pre-1997 holes i.e. Holes 1-3 and 13-18 of the current Links Course and all of the Hillhouse course and measures 6177 Yards Par 71, from the Yellow Tees. Based on my individual scores on 8 October 2013, I "went round" the Traditional Course in 84, net 73 (net 2 over par) with 30 putts.  The current Links Course layout is considerably harder than the Traditional layout that it replaced in 1997, and I suspect that 84 around the Traditional isn't much of a score.

The "Dundonald" is a combination of the 9 newer holes, as introduced in 1997, i.e. Holes 4-12 on the current Links Course layout with the "Hillhouse" Course i.e. the holes that were dropped from the former Links Course layout when the changes were made in 1997.  The Dundonald layout is thus 5819 yards, Par 69 from the Yellow Tees. I "went round" the Dundonald in 80 strokes, net 69, with 28 putts.  Not bad, but not great either. The Dundonald is a somewhat unbalanced layout.  The Front 9 is short, at 2693 Yards Par 33, whereas the Back 9 is a more formidable 3126 Yards Par 36, a product of the overall layout of the 27 Holes.

Overall, Kilmarnock Barassie GC is an impressive set up, with 27 holes that on both occasions I've been there have been in great condition and great fun to play. This place is well worth a visit, no matter what combination of holes/courses you get to play.