I was momentarily frozen but I knew exactly what had happened before I glanced down at my pearly white Ecco golf shoes, the left one now not so pure. In lining up my approach to the first green I had stepped backwards into a freshly deposited cow pat.
I should have known better, or at least been more aware, because moments beforehand I had fired over a heard of cattle on my opening drive and had read the sign when opening the gate to the first tee that stated electric fences were located around several greens. I’ve played numerous golf courses on commonland before but this was the first time I’ve literally put my foot in it. And spectacularly so.
As it turns out cow shit is a lot easier to clean up than you might think and I was soon on my way around this riveting links golf course with rumbling fairways and rectangular greens located at Southend on the very tip of the Kintyre Peninsula.
I wanted to keep this review short and sweet – just like the golf course itself – but there is far too much good stuff going on at Dunaverty to make that even a remote possibility. For that I make no apology.
At just a stride under 4,800 yards this true links packs a massive quirky punch into its par of 66 where there is a joyful playfulness to the experience of golfing your ball here. The Club was founded in 1889 but the course was significantly remodelled before the second World War.
There are seven par threes (but it doesn’t feel like it) and they range from 123 to 245 yards. There are some absolute crackers amongst them with tons of variety. The blind fourth with a gathering sunken green is truly marvellous and has two marker posts; one at the top of the dune you fire over and another behind the green. There’s a wonderful sense of anticipation to finding out where the flag is located for the day and discovering how close your ball is to it.
However, it was the 180-yard seventh which impressed me the most. I would go as far as saying it is one of the finest short holes I’ve played. Playing from a gloriously located tee you must fire over tumultuous ground to an almost plateau green partially hidden behind a dune on the right and where the angles and slopes of all the surrounding landforms just make perfect sense. I suspect that the hidden pot-bunker some way short of the green on the right is visited more times than you may initially think.
The second has a lovely sloping green, the sixth at 245-yards is more akin to a driveable par four, the 10th named “Mount Zion” is a vertical pitch up to a benched green whilst 14 and 16 are both of the knob-to-knob variety but each plays quite differently. Dunaverty doesn’t do repetition amongst its short holes.
The same can’t quite be said for the par fours. There are ten altogether and seven of them play between 253 and 323 yards. Only the 8th, 15th and 17th offer more than a short pitch into the green, and the former of this trio, with it’s green hiding partially behind a sandhill, and the latter, where Conieglen Burn must be crossed with your approach, are both superb holes.
Of the shorties we often find ourselves driving blind over a ridge to a dell green, or sometimes we play up to a raised putting surface and in the case of the excellent fifth we must find a hogback fairway. They are all great fun and highly contagious.
The lone par-five doesn’t greet us until the 13th and again at just 446-yards it offers the chance of a birdie. It’s another excellent hole that funnels down to a secluded green.
It won’t surprise you to find that SSS is just 63.
You could argue that the course runs out of juice over the last few holes and in truth it probably does but the quality by no means drops off the edge of a cliff and indeed there are still some demanding shots to be played although the rumbustious golf slowly fizzles out.
One of the most notable features on the course are the square greens. It’s an unusual feature but works really well here and this is because the internal contours of the putting surfaces merge brilliantly with the external ones. Despite the greens being quadratic there is an amazing fluidity to the green complexes. I would never have thought that the combination of rectilinear greens located in punchbowl settings could work so well.
The course didn’t play particularly hard and fast like some links courses can do – there was a softer, springier feel to it at times – but that is relative because the ground game was still the preferred route into many of the greens.
The views are resplendent throughout the round with Dunaverty and Brunerican Bays visible from most holes and almost within touching distance during the opening exchange of the first six. The third is perhaps the most spectacular and I would advise you walk back to the white tee markers to not only play the hole but to soak in the views. If you can turn a blind eye to the caravan park to your left you have a beautiful expanse of water, a sandy beach, a near view to Dunaverty Rock – a place with a rather brutal and gory history -, a further one to Ireland and an heroic fairway arcing around the fescue covered sandhills separating the shoreline from the golf course. Sanda Island and Ayrshire can also be spied from the links. It’s a magical spot to golf.
The question I often ask myself when I play a wee course such as Dunaverty is; “Is it possible for a golf course to be too short in order for it to be great?”. Sadly, and often with regret, I personally believe that the answer is yes, however, the very fact that you are asking the question tells you everything you need to know about this brilliant layout.
I wonder how many golfers – I suspect thousands – have travelled all the way to Machrihanish and made the error of not driving another 20 minutes south to Dunaverty. I was guilty as charged back in 2014 but didn’t make the same mistake this time around and now know I won’t be a repeat offender.