Dundonald Links Feature Review
Review by Golfshake Ambassador Matt Holbrook
Part of a magnificent coastline for golf in the west of Scotland, Dundonald Links memorably hosted the 2017 Scottish Open and is just 10 minutes from Glasgow Prestwick Airport and 30 miles from Glasgow itself. The modern Kyle Phillips design was opened for play in 2005 and has recently been acquired by Darwin Estates, a process that has seen the venue start work on a project that will create a new clubhouse, along with an onsite hotel and lodges as it looks to cement its place as one of finest destinations the west coast of Scotland has to offer.
We received a great reception in the Pro Shop at Dundonald, which was well stocked with all the essentials you could need as well as lots of crested apparel and accessories for all those visiting golfers - it is worth adding that work has already begun on the new clubhouse which will replace the existing set-up sometime in 2021. Outside you catch a glimpse of the 10th tee, but also the 18th green with its mounded run-off areas and riveted bunkers. The trains run past the course, with the Isle of Arran in the distance providing an inspiring backdrop that gets the juices flowing.
The grass bay driving range is an ideal place to get the swing going as well as the practice bunker and chipping/putting green that might come in extremely handy in preparation for the round ahead.
Front 9 Overview
The first two holes at Dundonald epitomise links golf for me and set the tone for the rest of the round. Driver might not be the best option from the tee in order to find the narrowing fairways and avoid the pot bunkers either side, but will leave you a good mid to long iron into the protected greens.
The first par 5 comes at the 3rd hole, and with it the first temptation to consider hitting driver off the tee. This doesn't come without its problems in the shape of a fairway bunker on the left and the ditch running all the way up the right - which eventually protrudes to the middle of the fairway and across the hole giving you a bit to think about over your second shot.
The par 3 6th plays a little shorter than previous par 3s but is littered with danger with the ditch that runs down the left, the deep bunker front left and back right, and the severely undulated green. The front 9 finishes with a tough par 4, again superbly positioned pot bunkers in the fairway and right side need to be avoided before a tough approach to the green that is protected by the ditch, and two bunkers between that and the front of the green.
Back 9 Overview
The back 9 fun really starts on the 11th with a short picturesque par 3. It only plays around 120 yards, uphill with the green sloping from back to front, three large fierce looking bunkers will no doubt come into play for anything short. The 13th plays adjacent to the railway line on the left-hand side, with the occasional train going past adding to the atmosphere in an otherwise quiet part of the course. The approach shot into a slightly raised two-tier green requires attention and correct club selection. Beware of the small ditch running in front of the green and those deep pot bunkers.
The par 5 18th to finish is a well thought out hole, but club choice can secure you a good finish. Bunkers to be avoided this time come on the second shot as the smart play is to lay-up between them and the ditch that runs in front of the green - unless of course you are Rafa Cabrera Bello and you can hit your approach shot 275 yards to 8ft, a moment commemorated by a plaque. The ditch runs in front of, then up the right-hand side of the green, so is tricky to avoid depending on what angle you have to approach, with the green itself being undulating and tough to read.
The experience at Dundonald Links is everything you would want from a links course. Fairways were immaculate and when dry would run and run, missing the fairways is punished by wispy rough that is ready to cause you problems. The riveted bunkers are all well placed. Those on the fairways will more than likely cost you a shot, and the greenside traps are deep and tough to escape from. The greens are undulating and pure and the wind off the sea could easily pick up and enhance the challenge.
The layout is fun, not too much of the same, with plenty of variety, the combination of long and short on the different pars mixes it up well.
The different tee options mean the course can play anything from 5,560 yards (reds) to 7,100 yards (black), ensuring that golfers of all abilities can play and enjoy the challenge on offer.
As you would expect of a course with such a high reputation, the condition is spot on, with the greens and tees well-manicured.
Dundonald Links can be described as pure links golf. Catch it at the right time of day and as the sun rises or sets, the views across the undulating greens and fairways are something to behold. The course is superb, and the conditioning is excellent. This is a must play for anyone visiting the area.
Overall Rating - 10
Course (Conditions) - 9
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 9
Course (Green Condition) - 10
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 8
Club Facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 7 *
Practice Facilities - 9
Friendliness/Hospitality - 10
Pace of Play - 10
Value for Money - 10
* During our visit in August 2020 work had begun on the new clubhouse and only part of the current clubhouse was accessible due to the pandemic requirements.
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