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The concept of a modern links course in Scotland is becoming a popular one, and Dundonald Links is a shining example of what it’s all about.

With elements of the classics in Scotland, mixed with the modernity of big-money ventures in the USA, Dundonald is clearly man-made, but it’s no less enjoyable for that reason.

Characterised by huge greens that have even bigger drop-offs and swales, it’s no wonder that since its opening in 2005, it’s been host to plenty of professional events. It’s the long-time host of the Women’s Scottish Open and also hosted the men’s version in 2017. While it might not appeal to some traditionalists, it’s undoubtedly a great, enjoyable test of championship golf, with a healthy dash of links golf thrown in.

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Before we get to the course itself, it’s impossible to ignore the facilities. The clubhouse itself has picked up awards recently and it’s no wonder. With brilliant views of the course from the top and top-notch locker rooms down below, you’ll not find many better 19th holes in Scotland. As well as that, there’s an excellent driving range, short game area and putting green, not to mention plenty options for on-site accommodation. We’d highly recommend.

Dundonald Links Clubhouse 3

The course is a Kyle Phillips design, and can be a tough test. I played it twice before reviewing, once in the summer from the ‘middle’ tees and once in the winter from the ‘medal’ tees. It goes without saying that increasing the yardage and lowering the temperature makes things significantly tougher.

The opening six holes are a good barometer of the variety you’re going to experience throughout the round. Two par-3s, two par-4s and two par-5s make up the opening third of Dundonald and there’s a good mix of power and precision required throughout them.

The opening hole needs both of those attributes, a tough par-4 where several fairway bunkers turn what would be a generous landing zone into a pretty stingy one.

The par-5 third is where Dundonald really starts to show its teeth. The fairway bunker you’ll see from the tee is one of those that’s probably not in play, but looks as though it’s going to hoover up your ball regardless. To its right, there’s a burn that runs along the hole, before it cuts across around 80 yards in front of the green. Visually, it’s pretty intimidating.

Another par-5, the fifth is one of the best holes on the front nine. A sweeping right-to-left hole where both the tee shot and approach shots are blind, it features one of the most dramatic greens on the course. It’s so dramatic, that when my ball hit the middle of the surface from 130 yards out, it didn’t become visible again until I was walking onto the green’s fringe.

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A challenge of a different kind comes on the sixth, where it will likely just be a short iron to a green that sits at an angle and is guarded by two pot bunkers and the same burn that cut across the third. If you find the green, you’ll be on a surface that mostly breaks towards the burn.

Three medium length par-4s follow, with the highlight coming at the ninth. A blind tee shot requires you to play over cross bunkers in the fairway, before hitting what should be a simple shot to a wide, shallow green. It’s made a lot trickier however by, yes, you guessed it, another burn in front of the green.

Dundonald

The 11th is another excellent par-3, and probably the hole that features the best bunkering on the course. Tee position and pin position dictate everything on this hole that is guarded by some of the fiercest bunkers on the course. Miss the green from 120 yards and you’ll pay the price.

After this, the course makes it way towards the railway, which comes into play on the 13th. It shouldn’t really come into play, but the fact it was there had everyone in my group intentionally missing the fairway in the right rough. The green here is no walk in the park either, with a huge ridge through the middle making club selection crucial.

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The 14th, a modest length par-5, is the final hole that presents a good birdie chance, and you’d be wise to take it before a tough finish.

The 15th is a par-3 that can play north of 200 yards, which is pretty tame compared to the 16th, a par-4 with the car park of Western Gailes to the right and some pretty uninviting rough to the left, it’s stroke index one for a reason. If you can hit this bumpy fairway you might still want to lay-up short of another two-tiered green. In the words of a certain 15-time major champion: ‘It’s tough. Really, really tough.’

Dundonald Links1

You might be confused as to why the 17th tee is still taking you away from the clubhouse, but all becomes clear when you make the sharp left turn towards what is likely the flattest green on the course. A word on the tee shot here, don’t try and take on the corner, the risk drastically outweighs the reward.

The final hole was the sight of a shot from Rafa Cabrera Bello in the playoff in the 2017 Scottish Open. Take a moment to stand beside the plaque on this fairway and appreciate a shot that seems scarcely believable.

Verdict

Dundonald presents a firm but fair test.

It’s really a course that you’ll struggle to play from anywhere but the fairway, but if you can keep your ball moving in the right direction, it’s hugely enjoyable.

It needs to be noted too, that throughout the winter, the condition of the course is really impressive. No winter tees, fairway mats or temporary greens and putting surfaces that roll exceptionally well. It’s a credit to the staff who clearly put in the long hours.

It’s a shame that you don’t really get a sea view until the 13th, and even then it’s at a distance, but even still, this plays every bit like a links course. There’s a reason the world’s best keep coming to play it.

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Standout Hole

Any of the par-3s could make a claim for this, but the 11th just about shades it. Playing 120 yards from the very back tees, you can still rack up a number here if you’re not careful. A shallow, wide green is protected by the kind of bunkers where playing partners and caddies get lost, never to be seen again.

Dundonald Links Winter Golf

Did you know?

The course was first designed by 1883 Open champion Willie Fernie, and opened in 1911, when it was known as Southern Gailes. Back then, at 6,700 yards, it was one of the longest golf courses you could find. With the equipment on offer over 100 years ago, that would be no easy task. Nowadays, after Kyle Phillips designed it in 2005, it can stretch to over 7,200 yards.

And another thing…

We mentioned the clubhouse facilities, but you also really ought to stop after nine holes and get something from ‘The Bothy.’ If you’re looking for a recommendation, get the steak and black pudding pie.

Dundonald Pie

Green Fees

Up until May 12, Scottish residents can get a game here for £75 each, with non-Scottish residents paying £95. In the summer, that jumps to £155/£195, up until October 15.

Find out more

dundonaldlinks.com

(0)1294 314000


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Lewis Fraser As bunkered’s Performance Editor, Lewis oversees the content that’s designed to make you a better player. From the latest gear to tuition, nutrition, strategy and more, he’s the man. A graduate of the University of Stirling, Lewis joined bunkered in 2021. Formerly a caddie at Castle Stuart Golf Links, he is a member of Bathgate Golf Club where he plays off four.

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