Dundonald Links Stay And Play Review

Dundonald Links in Ayrshire provides a brilliant test on the course and an excellent experience off it

Dundonald Links Course Review
(Image credit: Dundonald Links)

Dundonald Links Stay And Play Review

GM Verdict - Dundonald Links is a modern links course that holds its own among all that Ayrshire golf has to offer. It serves up plenty of variety and strikes an excellent balance between difficulty and playability, while the new clubhouse and lodges add the magnificent final touches. 
Favourite Hole - The 11th is a truly wonderful little par 3 that can offer up birdies just as easily as it does double-bogeys. It measures only 120 yards but miss the target and all manner of trouble awaits. 

Dundonald Links 11th green

(Image credit: Dundonald Links)

Dundonald Links is a course that has the ability to challenge every facet of a golfer's game. Situated on a stretch of Ayrshire coastline that features an Open Championship venue and multiple Open qualifying layouts, this Kyle Phillips design still manages to stand out as one of the best golf courses in Scotland due to the variety on offer.

Originally known as Southern Gailes, it dates back to 1911 when 1883 Open champion Willie Fernie carved out one of the longest courses of its time at 6,700 yards. However, after the land was claimed as a military camp during WWII, it lay dormant for decades until it was bought in 2003 by Loch Lomond. Phillips, an American architect who was responsible for Kingsbarns, was then drafted in to create the ultimate modern links experience that exists today.

Although you don’t play along the seafront, with its undulations and firm turf, it undoubtedly feels like a links course when you get underway. The nature of the fairways and greens means it's imperative to have your wits about you. In particular, large putting surfaces with tiers and wicked slopes make them a handful if caught on the wrong level. Many of the greens are also upturned, which puts an emphasis on missing on the 'right' side.

Dundonald Links 16th hole

Big greens and undulated terrain feature prominently at Dundonald 

(Image credit: Dundonald Links)

Such has been the impression made that it was awarded the men’s and women’s Scottish Opens in 2017. Now, five years later, it has been named as a future Open qualifying venue itself from 2023 to 2026, while the women’s Scottish Open is set to return this year.

Not only does Dundonald provide a stern test for the game’s best, it is equally capable at serving up plenty of fun and playability for amateur golfers. This is highlighted, in particular, by the par-3s. 

The 11th especially is a brilliant hole and leaves a lasting impression. It’s only 120 yards but it plays uphill which makes the green look perilously small in depth. Three large bunkers at the front which sit well below the level of the putting surface are tough to escape let alone get up-and-down from, and two more traps - one left and one at the back - are also in play for stray shots. Making a par is no easy feat but whatever the number, it’s a hole that’s almost worth the trip alone.

Dundonald Links Course Review

Three large bunkers guard the front of the par-3 11th and are to be avoided at all costs

(Image credit: Dundonald Links)

The 6th is another great short hole that's guarded by a slopey green and a burn that runs up the left-hand side, while the 15th, at its full length of 215 yards, is a monster. Elsewhere, generous fairways ensure the course remains playable, as does the classic links turf that offers plenty of run most of the year.

Burns are a regular feature, with the first one on the par-5 3rd. It flows up the right and crosses over the fairway approaching the green, meaning positioning is key. A strategically placed bunker will catch tee shots played with too much safety in mind, while the green is surrounded by gorse and high grass to add even more danger. But at 540 yards from the back tees and 470 from the front, it’s still scorable - that’s a theme of the course.

Depending on your preference, Dundonald can play anything from 5,560 yards from the front tees to 7,100 from the championship tees, so golfers can easily tailor the length to their ability.

Dundonald Links 13th hole

They may be narrow, but well-placed burns at Dundonald pose a serious threat. Like this one on the 13th

(Image credit: Dundonald Links)

The 9th is a nice par-4 that takes you back to the clubhouse where there is a brilliant new halfway house. Two fairway bunkers must be avoided at all costs before golfers face-off with another burn that sits some 10 yards short of the green. 

Into the back nine, which is probably the stronger of the two sides, the par-4 12th has a raised fairway and green, which make accuracy essential. It also leads you up to the railway, which runs the length of the 13th and puts the fear of OB into golfers. But it's one of the most extreme greens you’re ever likely to come across that makes this hole stand out. Get it on the right level and you won't be far away; miss it and you could be made to look silly. 

The par-5 14th is like a long amphitheatre with large dunes either side, but it isn't the course’s most famous par-5. On Dundonald's closer, Rafa Cabrera Bello got down in two from 275 yards to win the 2017 Scottish Open in a play-off - an achievement that is now commemorated by a plaque.

Where Rafa Cabrera Bello played his amazing shot to the 18th during his 2017 Scottish Open victory

Dundonald Clubhouse Review

One of the things that always held Dundonald Links back from joining some of the elite venues on its doorstep was the lack of clubhouse. However, that’s all changed thanks to Darwin Escapes, who bought the facility in 2019 and embarked on a £25 million development project.

Part of that involved designing and building a new luxury clubhouse to match the course. Now, it has everything a golfer could dream of and more. 

Dundonald Links clubhouse

The clubhouse was built using the most sustainable and local materials, and also features a grass roof

(Image credit: Dundonald Links)

On the first floor, the Canny Crow restaurant provides an extremely comfortable environment to enjoy pre- or post-round, while visitors not golfing are also welcome to enjoy the excellent food and service on offer. Balconies provide first-class views of the course and the Isle of Arran, and there are also TVs, pool tables and a whisky lounge inside, which are further points of difference compared to other clubs I enjoyed.

Dundonald Links clubhouse interior

The inside of the stunning Dundonald Links clubhouse

(Image credit: Dundonald Links)

The ground floor is home to the club shop, expansive changing rooms, a sauna, and a new state-of-the-art gym. What more could you ask for?

Dundonald Lodges and Rooms Review

As well as the clubhouse, a major investment has been made in 18 new lodges and 22 rooms, giving Dundonald more of a resort feel to it. Golfers can now stay and play and really make the most of their time on property.

The lodges are laid out in clusters and are available as two-, four- or six-bed options, with outdoor practice putting and chipping facilities also included. I stayed in one of the six-bed lodges and loved it.

Dundonald Links lodges and rooms

The lodges and rooms have been kitted out to the highest spec

(Image credit: Dundonald Links)

It was comfortable, provided ample space for everyone, and it came with Sky TV. The bedrooms are of an equal standard and the shower is excellent. It's got everything for the perfect group stay.

For those visiting on their own, there is also high-quality hotel room accommodation located right next to the clubhouse.

Andrew Wright
Freelance News Writer

A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he decided to go freelance and now covers a variety of topics for Golf Monthly. 

Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.

As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.

What's in Andy's bag?

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)

Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)

Irons: Mizuno mp32 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)

Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x