The bosses at Dumbarnie Links are celebrating a successful first year in business, despite the trials and tribulations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The eagerly-anticipated Fife course was originally scheduled to open on May 16. However, measures imposed to halt the spread of the coronavirus in Scotland meant that the grand opening was pushed back to May 29.
Now, seven months on and having recorded in excess of 10,000 total rounds played, general manager David Scott is taking the opportunity to reflect on a quite incredible first year.
With the course now closed for the winter, Scott told bunkered.co.uk: “Lots of people are talking about our links and that’s great to hear.
“Everyone connected to Dumbarnie has been thrilled with the feedback and response from the guests who have been kind enough to support us in our first year. Many have come back multiple times as they tell us they love it so much.
“We got to the end of the season with not one significant complaint, so I'm so proud of all the team for delivering a consistent experience, both on and off the links.”
With overseas visitors ruled out of the equation for 2020, Dumbarnie has had to rely solely upon the domestic market to get through its first year, something that Scott says he was mindful of even prior to COVID-19.
“We were always very keen to embrace wider Scottish market because we would like people to talk favourably about us and, if they haven’t played the golf course, how could they talk about it?
"I was involved at Kingsbarns when it opened 20 years ago and, even there, we ensured that we communicated with the domestic market, offering them the opportunity to play by having a Scottish resident rate. I wanted to bring that experience and understanding to Dumbarnie, which we have done.”
With the the Clive Clark-designed links receiving rave reviews and very few tee times going spare, Dumbarnie has coped well in the face of adversity.
“We were thrown a massive curveball in March when COVID-19 hit our screens," added Scott. "It was a huge blow to us. All building work on the clubhouse halted and the thousands of rounds we had booked on our links from overseas players all disappeared in a matter of days.
“We had to create a temporary driveway onto the side of our driving range for a car park, hire in three Portakabins to create a makeshift pro shop, offices, toilets and a food and beverage area. We hired in a stretch tent that worked out very well, and it was much better to have people outside in the fresh air than indoors.
“Prior to opening, we had great coverage from bunkered as well as a superb video on YouTube, so there was already an expectation on us to provide a quality experience. The pressure was on, but the team managed to pull together extremely well in time for opening."
With a successful year under difficult circumstances in the books and the global pandemic hopefully entering its endgame, the focus is now turning to 2021.
When the new golf season tees off, Dumbarnie will finally have a clubhouse to complement its course. It is is all but finished, with only one final touch missing.
“We just have one piece of the jigsaw left, and that’s getting power connected,” says Scott. “Once we have this, we’ll get the building commissioned and then we will be able to get our offices set up, get the lounge filled with comfortable furnishings and the golf shop merchandising units positioned, ready for stock arriving in March.”
When it does open, the clubhouse will welcome the vast majority of the overseas visitors who had booked for 2020, with 90% of tour operators re-booking their Dumbarnie Links experience for next year. As a result, Scott is anticipating a bumper year in 2021, with many golf operators expecting business rates to increase by 50% more than in a normal year.
“Next year already looks to be a very good year. With a vaccine now approved, we’re much more excited about the year being a success. What we do hope is that the vaccine is distributed very quickly, so that, by spring, golfers throughout Scotland can travel freely again and if they wish to join us, then we’ll be delighted to welcome them."