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Dunbar Golf Club Feature Review

By: Robert Treanor | Mon 12 Aug 2019

Review by Golfshake Ambassador Rob Treanor, August 2019

Dunbar is a highly regarded, classic links course situated on the legendary East Lothian coastline. Golfshake members have long raved about the quality of the course with a faultless 100% saying they would recommend. As part of his road trip through the area, Golfshake Ambassador Rob Treanor stopped by this stunning, traditional club.

Pre-Round Thoughts

The East Links at Dunbar is an historic golf course. Tracing its roots all the way back to the mid-1600s, the layout playable today first opened in 1856 which places it amongst the oldest golf clubs in Scotland and therefore the world. A course with great pedigree and charm, it has been shaped by architects including James Braid, Old Tom Morris & Ben Sayers.

10 of the Best Golf Courses in East Lothian


The 6,500 yards of beautiful links turf dance right along the very edge of the coastline on a thin strip of land adjacent to the North Sea. A course of impeccable quality, Dunbar regularly hosts Open Qualifying and notably was also the venue for the PGA Championship back in 1968.

Front 9 Overview

This is old school golf, with the undulations of the fairways presenting subtle challenges at every turn. The two-consecutive par fives are a kind start to the round, allowing golfers to ease into the game. Both pretty holes, a burn protects the front edge of the green on the first whilst the second is defended by its length. The third is the last hole on the inland side of “the wall”. This par three is played from the top of the hill down to a thin green with glorious views of the historic clubhouse and trademark wall. Perfectly riveted bunkers provide defence to a green which slopes from front to back. Not an easy one to judge given the influence of Scotland’s special hazard (known around the world as wind), skill rather than strength is required to succeed on this and most other holes at this fantastic course.

The origins of “the wall” are a little mysterious, though Dunbar was previously a garrison town meaning it may have served as a defensive mechanism during the Napoleonic Wars. Passing through this historic feature to access the 4th tee is a dramatic experience, as the tee box is just a few feet away from the sea. The course turns the sound up to eleven at this point and begins to feel wild and a little dangerous!

The 4th is a beauty of a par four and hugs the sea all the way along the fairway. Framed by the sea on the left and “the wall” on the right, this is an intimidating hole. In reality it is not as tight as it looks and a decent shot will open up a straightforward approach to the green, meaning this hole poses more of a mental challenge.

Golf is a huge part of daily life in this part of Scotland meaning the connection to the game is closer than in most other places. There are plenty of well-behaved dogs enjoying the course with their owners and hordes of friendly members ready to welcome guests. We even bumped into Stuart who is part of the greenkeeping team at Dunbar and just happens to hold the course record down the road at Winterfield. Golf runs deep in East Lothian!

Back 9 Overview

The course plays out along the shoreline to its farthest point at the 11th before turning about for the home run. The 13th is a unique hole which has a mountainous knoll dissecting the fairway just in front of the green. This feature means that the approach shot is played blind and will need a wee bit of luck and a favourable bounce to kick close to the flag. One of the attractions of links golf is the need for a little assistance from Lady Luck from time to time and this hole is a great example of a quirky feature which can only be found at places like Dunbar.

The shape of the 15th really catches the eye from the tee. The hole has the trademark views of Bass Rock and hugs close to the edge of the shore as it winds to the left towards the green. There is a real momentum being built at this point on the course and a real sense of coming home. A short par four defended by a small green, a mischievous hidden bunker and of course Scotland’s special hazard blowing in off the North Sea, this plays a lot harder than it looks on the card!

The course breaks from the shoreline and passes back through the wall heading for the clubhouse after the 17th which is a short par four. The green on the penultimate hole is defended by the familiar burn meaning that that the longer the drive, the easier the approach shot will be to stop on what is quite a small, slimline green. The course is firm, fast and fair and the sandy dunes and sea breeze provide a hugely enjoyable challenge. Blustery, buffeting and beautiful, you will know you have played a game of golf when you walk off 18 at Dunbar!

Post-Round Thoughts

This is an unfussy, stoic golf club which proudly owns a golf course of the very highest quality. Perhaps sometimes overlooked for some of the more well-known courses in the area, Golfshake members have known they are on to a good thing for a long time now based on the outstanding independent reviews on the course.

The club is about to start work on a major project which will see a new clubhouse installed at the top of the landscape, plans to add a par three course and will make some significant changes to the routing of the existing course. These updates will further cement the excellent reputation Dunbar enjoys amongst those who have experienced it.


This course is a must play. A very friendly club, I could not have enjoyed my round more. The members pride themselves on maintaining a good pace of play, the conditioning is world class and playing on the superbly designed course with the sea air in your face is a truly wonderful experience.

There may be more famous clubs situated nearby, but trust me, if you seek Dunbar out, you will not be disappointed.

Top Tips

  • Visit soon to experience the old-fashioned clubhouse before the club transitions to a new, state of the art facility.
  • Distances to hazards such as the burns and bunkers is key so invest in the high-quality course guide.
  • Whatever the weather, remind yourself the club has a “malt of the month” which is sure to warm you up soon after.

Overall Rating - 9

Course (Conditions) - 10

Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 10

Course (Green Condition) - 10

Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 10

Club Facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 8

Practice Facilities - 7

Friendliness/Hospitality - 10

Pace of Play - 10

Value for Money - 9

Related Content: Scotland review course

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