Scotland’s Dundonald: An exceptional new links layout

Golf International Inc.
By David Brice

Most new golf courses are like wine – they often require time to mature and develop. But also similar to wine, there are some new courses that can be experienced young and are filled with character and personality from the moment they are first opened.

Dundonald Golf Club is such a course and the most recent addition to Scotland’s already links rich, Ayrshire coastline. Dundonald, opened in 2003, is the handiwork of California-based architect Kyle Phillips, who took Scotland and the golfing world by storm in 2000 with his first Scottish design effort, Kingsbarns, near St. Andrews.

Taking an 18th century, nine-hole layout that had been turned over to farm use during the Second World War, Phillips demonstrated his respect for the traditional and a remarkable sensitivity toward the complex qualities that make Scottish links courses unique.

Kingsbarns amazed even the most dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists from the home of golf, skyrocketing to the lofty heights of the Top 100 Courses in The British Isles rankings, where it quickly reached 13th position. Firmly ensconced alongside Carnoustie and St. Andrews Old Course as the regular triumvirate of courses to host the annual Dunhill Links Championship (previously The Dunhill Cup) it’s only a matter of time before the masterpiece at Kingsbarns is brought into the British Open rotation.

For Phillips, Dundonald was the opportunity for an encore and a chance to repeat his triumph at Kingsbarns. He has not disappointed. Similar to Kingsbarns, Dundonald was an ancient links layout that had fallen into disrepair some 70 years earlier. Dundonald did not have the glory of feeding a country at war; it merely became a wasteland. Surrounded by concentration of classic links such as Prestwick, Troon, Western Gailes and a dozen more, most locals had long forgotten this was ever a course in its own right.

Unlike Kingsbarns, Dundonald was pure Ayrshire linksland in the truest sense of the word — flat terrain made up of light, sandy soil that was once covered by the sea. Phillips saw the opportunity to bring his own design talent into play and take what might be the very last piece of real estate remaining in the Kingdom still available for golf course development, and build the ultimate links layout.

With modern design technology, the determination to build a course that fitted into its surroundings and a tremendous concern to preserve links tradition, Phillips has produced nothing less than a links masterpiece.

The thoroughly natural feeling to the layout belies the amount of manmade changes that have been introduced so effectively. In all fairness, the original Dundonald course was probably a little boring in comparison to some of its neighbors, but no more, the course is already among the most exciting layouts in a neighborhood filled with thriller links.

Measuring a heft 7,300 yards from the tips, only the most accomplished should ever dream of undertaking the full Dundonald challenge. Thankfully, a variety of tee boxes make it a test that even high handicappers can tackle with hopes of a good showing while enduring every test provided by a superior links – and a superior links it certainly is.

How good is it? Good enough for the exclusive Loch Lomond Golf Club to purchase Dundonald quite recently for a princely $20 million.

Loch Lomond Golf Club is one of a thankfully tiny minority of Scottish golf clubs that actively dissuades visitors. The only way you can play their home, parkland course, situated on the shores of Loch Lomond, is as the personal guest of one of its members.

For the time being, Loch Lomond is allowing a very limited number of visitors to play Dundonald, but there is no telling how long such generosity might last. This is a fine wine of a golf course and it’s ready to drink today; best get to play this exceptional new addition to Scotland’s links inventory while you can.

For a few suggestions on how best to add Ayrshire’s new Dundonald course to your Scotland golf itinerary, click here.


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