Dunbar Golf Club Course Review
GF Round: £95 Mon-Wed, £110 Fri, £130 Sat-Sun
Par 72, 6,597 yards
GM Verdict One of a kind with plenty of memorable holes - a traditional links with a twist
Favourite Hole The par-4 6th, SI1 with an old wall lining the right all the way and a burn just short of the sloping green
Enjoying an unusual interweaving configuration, the otherwise seemingly conventional links at Dunbar is very much one of a kind. Shaped by its at times perilously narrow strip of land, it has an unusual opening trio of holes before really taking off from the 4th. The club dates back to 1856, and the course is a James Braid and Ben Sayers modification of a design by Old Tom Morris. I was very pleased to return having only played it once before on a freezing January day.
While some people seem less impressed by the opening at Dunbar, that is probably because the first three holes are on the landward side of the wall and separate. The first two are par 5s with the approach to the opening green offering an early way to settle any nerves.
The third is an excellent short hole played from an elevated tee to a well-bunkered green with the clubhouse on the left and the Pro’ Shop to the right.
The 4th hugs the shore before a second short hole crosses inland towards the wall that borders the adjacent park. You follow this from the 6th tee to the 10th green via a series of very interesting holes that include excellent par 4s at both 6 and 7. If the wind is from the west, this is where you really need to make your score.
The 8th is a little less scary as the green is further from the wall.
The 9th is an undulating par 5 with a blind drive, then along a ridge before dropping to the green.
The back nine opens with an excellent par 3, Sheiling, named after the old building just short and left of the green. It’s now time to turn for home via two long but very scenic par 4s that run along the shore side. Just the position of the green on the 12th justifies the green fee.
There is one more hole back in the other direction, the 13th, which is played to a very sloping green in a dip where three putting is sometimes just about acceptable!
Many people consider the 14th to be the signature hole. The green is perilously close to danger between the 8th tee and the beach. The green at the drive-and-pitch 15th is equally well positioned.
The par-3 16th has a green which, if it were extended either to the left or right, would mean putting whilst out of bounds or on the beach! Only straight will do here. There are not one but two burns to cross on the 17th, and the closing hole is a tough four into the wind with the wall back again waiting ominously all the way on the right.
Scotland’s Golf Coast is an area of outstanding golf, and Dunbar is up there among the best golf courses in East Lothian. It has a long record of hosting important tournaments and is more than capable of testing the very best, especially if the wind is up. It is also, due to its unusual routing, its characterful holes and frequent flirtations with the beach, a very enjoyable and memorable course that should appeal to any keen golfer. I was delighted to return to this Next 100 course and appreciate more of its many subtle characteristics and charms.
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Rob Smith has been playing golf for 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012. He specialises in course reviews and travel, and has played more than 1,200 courses in almost 50 countries. In 2022, he played all 21 courses in East Lothian in 13 days. Last year, his tally was 81, 32 of them for the first time. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but seven and a half... i.e. not the new 9 at Carne! Of those missing, some are already booked for 2024. He is a member of Tandridge in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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