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.

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