A classic modern links that belies its age

Dundonald Links

Dundonald Links Golf Club

Dundonald Links Golf Club

Date Reviewed
July 27, 2016
Reviewed by Ed Battye
In an area steeped in history and tradition Dundonald Links has, in the space of just over ten years, commanded the respect of golfers who flock to this part of Scotland to tackle Open Championship venues and other prestigious links courses.

Wedged between Gailes Links, Kilmarnock Barrasie and Western Gailes, and just up the road from Prestwick, Troon and Turnberry it is testament to the course that is has also gained the appreciation from neighbouring courses as well.

Created in 2003 this is essentially faux links. It has been crafted by man and manufactured to replicate the natural sandhills and rolling terrain of nearby courses. The man who played God was Kyle Phillips who also has The Grove in Hertfordshire and Kingsbarns in Fife on his United Kingdom CV.

He has done a remarkable job with what was a flat piece of land for Dundonald Links appears to have been there for over a century, certainly to the untrained eye. The shaping of the sandhills and dunes took three years alone and the result is they (almost) look as if nature created them.

Many decades ago the site originally housed Dundonald Golf Club but it fell into disrepair around the time of the two World Wars and eventually returned to wasteland. Then at the turn of the millennium a new course was conceived; Southern Gailes. But before that could open the owners of Loch Lomond Golf Club snapped up the site, appointed Phillips, renamed it Dundonald Links and the rest is history.

There’s not much eye contact with the sea at Dundonald but on this highly playable course, thanks to wide fairways and large greens, you will encounter pine trees around the periphery of the course, small patches of gorse throughout and deadly bunkers. The site is not hilly but offers pure and traditional links golf with plenty of undulations on a course that belies its age.

I’m not a huge fan of how the course loops back to the clubhouse but others will welcome this as it allows you to place a food and drink order on the ninth tee to collect before teeing off at the 10th!

Each hole is not only very individual in design but because of the way the dune system has been built up you play each hole in isolation for the most part. A stream runs through many of the holes and is used to penal effect at the 3rd, 9th, 13th and 18th although it’s not always clearly visible.

Many of the greens are typical of a modern links with lots of movement but pleasingly this isn’t overdone. The contours are not as severe or dramatic as somewhere such as Machrihanish Dunes.

The run of holes from the 11th to the 17th is very impressive. The only hole I didn’t much care for was the much lauded 13th that runs tight to the railway line. Perhaps this was because I have always played to a front pin position on a green that is severely two-tiered and therefore I didn’t get to fully appreciate the strategy of the hole.

On the strong back-nine the two par three’s really stand out. The 11th and 15th are challenging holes but have a real sense of class about them with daunting bunkering at the front in particular providing the main challenge. However, it was the 12th and 16th that I found to be arguably the best holes. The first of them is a medium length par four with a wonderfully fluid fairway and amazingly simple but cunning green complex housing a series of bunkers to protect the right-hand-side. Meanwhile the 16th is a longer two-shotter, along the railway line that separates the course from Western Gailes, that dog-legs to the right before rising up to another brilliant two-tiered green setting.

The 17th is littered with bunkers at the angle of its dog-leg whilst the 18th is also a demanding finishing hole with lots going on including; cross bunkers, a snaking burn, ominous greenside traps and an undulating green complex all to contend with!

Dundonald is a course that is maturing well and stands in very good stead for the future. The Scottish Open will be held here soon and is clearly more than capable of holding a top professional event whilst at the same time serving up a tremendously enjoyable day for the average golfer.

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