Of the 40,000 golf courses scattered around the world, only 246 are bona fide links layouts.
That was one of the conclusions drawn by George Peper and Malcolm Campbell in their excellent book True Links.
It was, therefore, entirely appropriate that Campbell should have a hand in the creation of No.247 – the magnificent Dumbarnie Links.
Located near Upper Largo, just ten miles from golf’s spiritual hometown St Andrews, Dumbarnie Links is Scotland’s newest course and one of the most eagerly anticipated new golf developments in a generation.
It occupies a huge, 345-acre site and sprawls along a mile-and-a-half of spectacular coastline on the Balcarres Estate, owned and occupied by Lord Balniel, Anthony Lindsay.
Golfers got their first look at the course when it opened in May last year and, despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, it has proven to be both successful and popular.
Unlike other new developments that open with bombastic claims and expectations tour events will soon follow, the approach of those in charge at Dumbarnie Links has been refreshingly different.
“Our entire ethos is about fun,” explained course mastermind Clive Clark, whose attention was drawn to the land by old friend Campbell. “We want this to be a course that all golfers can enjoy, irrespective of their handicap.”
That much is evident from his design. For one thing, the fairways are extremely generous, averaging 45 yards in width. If you do go off-line, the wispy rough will be well managed so that, more often than not, you’ll find your ball.
“We’ve made Dumbarnie with the golfer in mind,” added Clark. “We want them to enjoy their round, not spend it hitting 3-iron into every green and having to trudge around thick rough looking for their balls. That’s no fun for anybody and fun is what Dumbarnie is all about.”
None of which is to say that it is easy. Far from it. The greens are large but have multiple tiers and subtle borrows, whilst the strategic questions posed by the split-fairways and driveable par-4s will test your brain as much as your brawn.
The trade-off comes courtesy of the spectacular views. The Firth of Forth is visible on virtually every hole, eight of which play directly towards the water. The panoramas from the first, sixth, ninth and 18th tees – positioned on the more elevated part of the course – are particularly breathtaking.
A huge driving range and excellent practice facilities are supplemented by a large clubhouse which has floor-to-ceiling windows offering an unobstructed view down the first hole towards the sea.
No expense has been spared in creating a modern golf development that retains a classically Scottish personality.
“My ultimate wish,” said Clark, “is for them to leave and be desperate to return.”
The chances of that happening, it must be said, are rather good.
If it hasn’t already, Dumbarnie will soon take its place at Scottish golf’s top table. It is an absolutely exceptional addition to the country’s already enviable portfolio. Yes, it’s young. Yes, it’s a little immature in places. But that will all change in time. This is a course, and a place, that appears to be destined for great things and is already well on the way towards achieving it.
Clive Clark deserves every plaudit he will surely receive, both for realising this stunning piece of land’s potential and, every bit as importantly, for staying true to his principle of creating something fun and playable. The variety of holes and the options off most tees make this truly a course for all.
Some people will baulk at the green fee but the rates for Fife and Scottish residents are more than fair. Besides, in an economy where “you get what you pay for” feels like an increasingly inaccurate cliché, Dumbarnie actually delivers on the promise. From start to finish, both on and off the course, it is a superlative experience.
A future PGA Tour stop? Almost certainly…
The par-3 eighth is where the vast majority of photographs will likely be taken – and for good reason – but, for me, the true standout is No.17
. A short-ish par-4, it is driveable under the right conditions and from the appropriate tee. That, though, doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story. A 200-year-old wall diagonally bisects the hole leaving you with two options: play ‘safe’ up the left, or fly the wall and take dead-aim at the green, bringing a whole heap of trouble into play. This is what people mean when they talk of “classic risk and reward holes”. A complete and utter gem.
Did you know…
See all those dunes on the course? Every single one of them was man-made as part of the Dumbarnie course build – more than 600 of them. Impressive!
And another thing
Stick around after you’ve finished playing for some grub. The popcorn chicken is absolutely sensational.
The standard visitor rate at the height of the season – i.e. between April and October – is £258. However, that drops to £185 during the shoulder months, £125 for Scottish residents and just £98 for Fife residents.
You can also enjoy the very best value 'Stay & Play' deals at Dumbarnie courtesy of bunkered Golf Breaks. Check out bunkeredgolfbreaks.comnow for the latest offers.
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T: 01334 845945