Dunbar Golf Club Course Review

Occasionally flying under the radar, the first-rate links at Dunbar Golf Club is an excellent and very distinctive test of golf

Dunbar Golf Club - Feature
The fourteenth green beside the old boathouse with Bass Rock way beyond in the Firth of Forth
(Image credit: Dunbar Golf Club)

Dunbar Golf Club Course Review

GF Round: £95 Mon-Wed, £110 Fri, £130 Sat-Sun
Par 72, 6,597 yards
Slope 127
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.

FRONT NINE

Dunbar Golf Club - Hole 1

A serpentine burn provides a nerve-jangling early challenge at the par-5 first

(Image credit: Dunbar Golf Club)

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.

Dunbar Golf Club - Hole 2 and 3

The second green with the par-3 third and clubhouse beyond

(Image credit: Dunbar Golf Club)

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.

Dunbar Golf Club - Hole 7

Looking back over the seventh green with the fifteenth hole and town to the right

(Image credit: Dunbar Golf Club)

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.

Dunbar Golf Club - Hole 8

The green on the par-4 eighth is protected at the front by a pair of bunkers

(Image credit: Dunbar Golf Club)

The 8th is a little less scary as the green is further from the wall.

Dunbar Golf Club - Hole 9

The ninth green with the Barns Ness Lighthouse around the bay

(Image credit: Dunbar Golf Club )

The 9th is an undulating par 5 with a blind drive, then along a ridge before dropping to the green.

BACK NINE

Dunbar Golf Club - Hole 10

At the far end of the course, the green on the par-3 tenth

(Image credit: Dunbar Golf Club)

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.

Dunbar Golf Club - Hole 13

The green on the par-4 thirteenth, appropriately named Pot

(Image credit: Dunbar Golf Club)

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!

Dunbar Golf Club - Hole 14

An aerial view of the fourteenth green with the fifteenth tee beyond the old boathouse

(Image credit: Dunbar Golf Club)

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.

Dunbar Golf Club - Hole 16

The sixteenth green is squeezed between the beach and out-of-bounds

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

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 (opens in new tab) 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.

Rob Smith
Contributing Editor

Rob Smith has been playing golf for more than 40 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly for over ten years, specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played more than 1,170 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2021, he still managed to play 80 different courses during the year, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. 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 nine. During the 2021-22 review period, Rob has played 34 of the Golf Monthly Top 200. He is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at r.smith896@btinternet.com.