If you live in the UK, you may have heard of Dundonald Links. If you live in Europe, the USA, or further afield, you will be less familiar with this Ayrshire Links.
Dundonald is a modern links golf masterpiece. Designed by Kyle Phillips, the course was home to the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open in 2015, 2016, and 2017, The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in 2017 and is set be the host of the 2022 Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open.
Dundonald Links sits across the road from Glasgow Gailes, over the railway line from Western Gailes, and over the out of bounds fence from Kilmarnock Barassie. Royal Troon and Prestwick are within easy reach, making this area the Monterrey Peninsula of Scotland, without the cliffs and sometimes without the sunshine, but all offer the true Scottish golf links experience.
There has been a course on this land since 1911 and it’s had its fair share of uses. From golf course to army barracks, to tank assault course, to the 2nd course for Loch Lomond Golf Club. Now it’s a fully-fledged Golf Resort thanks to Darwin Escapes who purchased the course from Loch Lomond in 2018.
Willie Fernie, who was the 1883 Open Champion, and also finished runner-up on 4 other occasions, designed the original Dundonald Links course. He designed dozens of courses, both in Scotland and in England. His most famous design has to be Turnberry’s Ailsa course, the 4-time host of The Open Championship. Dundonald Links was officially formed on March 23rd, 1911, and was to officially open within three months.
Fernie employed the services of John Tulloch, the Glasgow Gailes professional to supervise the work, and the two of them constructed one of the longest golf courses of its time. Expecting the day-to-day golfer of the age to tackle this 6700 yard monster was a big ask. However, with the advent of new grass cutting machinery for the fairways with better roll, and Fernie’s genius, the Dundonald Links course became extremely popular, especially with the elite amateurs and professionals of the day.
A mere 5 years elapsed before the club would have to close its doors in 1918 due to WW1. It remained closed for a further four years until June 1920. To re-open the course, the club organised an open amateur tournament. In 1922, James Braid visited and supplied a new bunkering plan of the course to the club.
Both the club and course prospered throughout the 1920s and 30s, but no one could have foreseen the disastrous circumstances which were about to unfold in the world.
In 1940 W.W.2 had arrived in Ayrshire and the military wanted the Dundonald Links golf course. The army quickly commandeered the course and clubhouse. The footsteps of golfers were replaced by the marching of men in uniform, and amphibious tanks careering over the fairways and greens.
According to the secretary of the club at the time, the course was unrecognisable within a week of their arrival. The military maintained their occupation of the site throughout the war years, extending their right to remain as an army camp into the 1960s.
Dundonald Links was purchased by Loch Lomond Golf Club in early 2003 to provide its global Membership with a traditional links challenge. They enlisted California-based architect Kyle Phillips, who had recently built Kingsbarns, to create a links masterpiece right here on the Ayrshire coast.
When Kyle Phillips came to Scotland and first laid eyes on the links at Dundonald in 2003, one can only wonder what his initial thoughts were. It had been 70 plus years since the last heavy machinery in the form of tanks had crossed the famous links, formerly known as Southern Gailes. Now a different type of machinery would commandeer the links once again, this time as the saviour, to bring the course back to life.
With the stunning coastal land that presented itself to Kyle Phillips, he saw the opportunity to create the ultimate modern links layout. Dundonald Links has wonderful undulations, deep rough, a generous helping of gorse bushes and unlike many traditional links courses, there are areas of the course that are framed by stunning pine trees.
In 2008, Dundonald was chosen as the venue for the first stage of the European Tour Qualifying School and it continued to host this important tournament until 2011. Over the last 10 years, Dundonald has hosted many an amateur and professional tournament. In 2017 it hosted the European Tour Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, which was won by Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Dundonald’s rebirth was completed in 2019 when Darwin Escapes purchased Dundonald Links and embarked on a £25 million development plan. New course improvements by Kyle Phillips, a new ultra modern clubhouse, and luxury accommodation all opened in 2021.
Dundonald Links now has the facilities the course truly deserves. With beautiful lodge accommodation and hotel rooms, a world-class Clubhouse, and a championship par 72 course, Dundonald Links is now set for an awesome future.
THE CHAMPIONSHIP LINKS
The course is perfectly balanced with a par of 36 and two par 3’s and two par 5’s on both nines. From the tips, the course measures almost 7,300 yards and there are 4 sets of tees to choose from 5,500 yards, upwards.
The improvements recently carried out under the guidance of Kyle Phillips are immediately evident standing on the new first tee. The tee has been moved to the left and now you can see the whole hole. It’s a fairly straight hole but at 460 yards it’s a stiff test as an opener.
My favourite holes on the opening nine are the 2nd, 4th, and 9th. The 2nd is a 410 yard par 4 which sweeps to the right. Avoid the pot bunker in the fairway and take plenty of club for your second shot which plays slightly uphill.
The 4th hole is a strong par 3 at over 200 yards and the green slopes from back to front. Ideally, you want to hit it pin high as landing on the green is not an easy two-putt.
The 9th is another 400 yard par 4 where you need to land on the fairway to have any chance of going for the green. A large bunker sits on the ideal line so make sure you avoid it. Your second shot must carry the distance to the flag. Anything short will end up in one of the hazards.
The back 9 holes are some of the very best designed holes anywhere. All nine are excellent and challenging and you will probably use every club in your bag when playing these holes. Our particular favourite holes are the short par 3 11th, the par 4 12th, the long par 3 15th, and the par 5 18th.
The 11th is only 120 yards however you play to an elevated green with three deep bunkers in the face of the upslope. A narrow treacherous green sits across you. Your tee shot must hit the green or you are looking at bogey or worse.
The 12th is my favourite hole on the course. At 367 yards, it might not seem that difficult at first but this hole is all about positioning your tee shot. An undulating sloping fairway means that the ideal position is atop one of the high points so that your second shot is not uphill to the elevated green. The green is on the horizon so it is difficult to judge the second shot especially as the prevailing wind is into your face. Do not be short if you want a par.
The 15th is similar in design to the 11th except that it’s almost 100 yards longer. The green is again elevated and the hole normally plays into the wind. Two deep bunkers guard the front left of the green. You should try and feed your tee shot in from the right-hand side.
The closing hole is an excellent par 5 and at almost 580 yards it’s a 3 shot hole for all but the longest hitters. The green is guarded by a burn that runs across the front and up the right-hand side. Beware a back left pin position as there are two bunkers to the rear of the green. If you end up in them, it will spoil the end of your round.
Dundonald Links provides an excellent challenge and leaves you wanting to head straight back out again, it’s that good. It doesn’t have the history of the courses next door but it’s on a par with any of them.
GREAT CLUBHOUSE, GORGEOUS ACCOMMODATION & GLORIOUS FOOD
The new facilities are outstanding. The clubhouse is ultra modern and spacious. On the ground floor, both locker rooms have a lounge area and a sauna as well as the usual amenities. The pro shop is well stocked with branded golf wear and accessories. There is also a gym for those who want to work out before or after their round.
On the upper floor are the main lounge and three dining areas. It’s open-plan but subtly zoned so it doesn’t feel like one vast space. There’s also a private dining/whisky tasting room. If you visit in the summer, there is an outside terrace which affords you great views over the course while you unwind after your round.
The lodges and hotel suites complement the clubhouse facilities and elevate Dundonald Links to a higher level. The lodges vary from two-bedroom to six bedrooms and all are ensuite. They also have fully fitted kitchens and comfortable lounge areas in which to kick back and relax. Each cluster of lodges has a practice putting green so you can practice your putting late into the evening.
The hotel suites are comfortable and close to the clubhouse so it’s a short walk for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks.
The food on offer is excellent. Everything from soup and filled rolls to exquisite fine dining so there are plenty of choices. It’s all freshly prepared and served with a smile.
Dundonald Links is now firmly established as a golf resort and is certainly a must-visit destination in the heart of Ayrshire.
At a Glance
- Large practice area close to the first tee
- Practice putting and chipping areas
- Championship links with multiple links courses within easy reach
- More Information at www.dundonaldlinks.com