There is a new kid on the block amongst the star-studded names of Ayrshire’s golf coast. We take a look at what it’s like to stay and play at Dundonald Links.
In the heart of Ayrshire’s golf coast lies Dundonald Links – one of Scotland’s best golf courses. Located near some of the world’s most iconic layouts – Turnberry, Royal Troon, Prestwick, and Western Gailes to name a few – Dundonald is less than 30 miles from Glasgow Airport and has become a must-play course for anyone planning a break on Scotland’s west coast.
The Ayrshire gem was the first course to stage both the men’s and women’s Scottish Opens in 2017, with the women’s event returning again in 2023 – Celine Boutier sealing back-to-back victories following her Major win at the Evian Championship. It has also played host to Final Qualifying for The Open and welcomed a host of golf’s biggest influencers, including Rick Shiels, Peter Finch, and Good Good, to create hit YouTube content.
Originally designed by Willie Fernie, the Champion Golfer of 1883, Dundonald opened in 1911 and, at 6,700 yards, it was one of the longest courses of its time. Sadly, following two World Wars the course was nearly unrecognizable.
It underwent an extensive renovation by California-based architect Kyle Phillips two decades ago, quickly becoming one of Britain’s best golf courses with its rippling fairways, challenging bunkers, and undulating greens. It is everything you’d expect from a modern links.
Under new ownership, Darwin Escapes has made heavy investments to evolve Dundonald into a high-end golf resort and the ideal base for a golf break. Guests can stay in either the modern hotel or a collection of luxury self-catering lodges, situated around a large putting green and all just a stone’s throw from the golf course and clubhouse.
Inside the clubhouse, you’ll find a full gym, packed with the most up-to-date equipment, along with a sauna and steam room.
Head upstairs and you’ll find the Canny Crow restaurant and whisky room, which pay tribute to the resort’s heritage while maintaining a contemporary feel.
Let’s take a deeper dive into one of Britain’s best golf resorts.
On the golf course: Dundonald Links review
Dundonald Links is characterized by rolling fairways, natural dunes, and challenging coastal conditions.
One of Europe’s best courses, it set is back from the coast but still offers views of the surrounding Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Arran. A clever and considered links test, it takes some serious beating.
Each hole feels like it’s in its own amphitheater. Rarely do you play a hole where you can see players on an opposite fairway.
Expect some blind tee shots, hidden bunkers, and burns that run across or parallel to the hole, meaning precision off the tee is a prerequisite, as is some course knowledge so ensure you’ve got a planner or a decent GPS golf watch.
Dundonald has a lovely blend of long and short par 4s, which will have you using all of the clubs throughout the bag. It’s a true test of a golfer as it demands a complete range of shots.
Expect a tricky start with two tough par 4s to open proceedings. The 460-yard 1st hole is littered with bunkers left and right of the fairway, with out-of-bounds down the right.
The 2nd is a shorter hole, but it dog-legs right and demands a good tee shot. The big hitters can certainly take on the corner and gain a few yards but it comes with risk. A raised undulating green is protected by bunkers short right while a steep run-off to the left makes for a tricky up and down.
In our experience, Dundonald Links is always immaculately presented. As you’d expect at a championship golf course, you’ll find tee boxes that would be putting surfaces at some courses, along with immaculate greens and approach areas, and well-sanded, perfectly raked bunkers.
The challenging coastal conditions, unpredictable weather, and undulating terrain make playing at Dundonald Links a true test of a golfer’s skill and adaptability. While challenging enough for experienced golfers, the course is often designed to be playable for golfers of various skill levels.
Dundonald is a course in which every type of handicap golfer can come play and enjoy it. However, to score well you need to adapt to the variety of holes on offer, they will challenge different aspects of your golf game, including accuracy off the tee, approach shots, and putting.
Like many links courses, Dundonald features strategically placed bunkers that require golfers to think about their shots and club selection.
Dundonald Links: Signature holes
Dundonald Links: 9th hole | Par 4 | 410 yards
A tricky finish to the front nine, this 410-yard par 4 has danger off the tee and around the green. The blind tee shot is made even more intimidating by the two pot bunkers in the middle of the fairway.
If you can get your drive away, you’re best off favoring the left-hand side of the fairway to give you the most chance of hitting the green with your second shot.
Hitting the 9th green and posting a good score relies on hitting a short iron, otherwise the hole will more than likely play as a three-shotter with trouble short and long of the green.
Dundonald Links: 11th hole | Par 3 | 120 yards
The shortest hole on the golf course is definitely not the easiest. Located on the far side of the golf course near the luxury lodges it looks simple on paper, but miss the green and you’ll find that’s not the case.
Hit the green, and nine times out of ten you’ll be rewarded with a birdie putt, but anything else will leave you lucky to rescue a bogey.
Three deep pot bunkers protect the front of the shallow green with a hidden pot bunker collecting anything long.
Dundonald Links: 13th hole | Par 4 | 410 yards
One for the photo album, the 13th is a scenic par 4 which runs parallel to the train line. Hitting the fairway is essential, with the train line left and thick rough to the right.
The undulating fairway hides the burn that runs across the front of the green, ready to claim any poorly judged or struck shots. The steep two-tier green makes finding the right level critical if you want an easier putt.
Dundonald Links: 18th hole | Par 5 | 560 yards
The iconic 18th hole at Dundonald is almost always a three-shot hole… unless you’re Rafa Cabrera Bello. The Spaniard’s 3-wood from 275 yards made it to eight feet as he claimed victory in a playoff at the 2017 Scottish Open.
Keeping the ball down the left off the tee will avoid the fairway bunkers, and you should stay on that path with your lay-up to give the best angle into the green and boost your hopes of a birdie putt.
Those who choose to go for it in two are relying on the perfect club selection and strike with the snaking burn wrapping around the green from front to back ready to gobble up anything loose.
Off the course
The clubhouse and facilities at Dundonald Links are of the highest standard and beautifully maintained, as you’d expect at a venue of this caliber. Expect a warm welcome at the door from the friendly staff and a fantastic place to relax and prepare for the 18 holes that lie ahead or to celebrate/commiserate after your round.
The two-storey clubhouse is a masterpiece, providing a panoramic view of the golf course, the Ayrshire coast, and the Isle of Arran in the distance.
It’s everything you’d expect from a modern building designed with Dundonald’s long-term commitment to sustainability and conservation in mind. Assembled with natural local materials, the beautiful whinstone brick and a grass-covered roof contrast beautifully and blend in perfectly with the surroundings.
Inside, you’re greeted with a world-class pro shop capable of making a serious dent in your pocket. Walk through and you’ll find the high-performance gym, which has been designed to replicate those available to tour players with equipment to help target specific areas of the body for golf.
Recover from your trip to the gym with a recovery session in the sauna and steam room before making use of the extensive changing facilities to spruce yourself up for your drinks, lunch, or dinner.
Dundonald boasts some of the finest culinary experiences in Ayrshire at The Canny Crow. Whether you want fine dining, an intimate dinner, or a post-round club sandwich, the restaurant is perfect for all.
Hidden behind the bar at the top of the stairs is the renowned Whisky Room – a dream for the connoisseurs out there. Dundonald worked with whisky consultant Blair Bowman to curate the whiskies for the room, which gives the feel of a private members’ club. It has choices to suit every budget, taste, and occasion with more than 100 options.
If you’ve made the effort to get to Dundonald and want to take advantage of all it has to offer then staying on-site is. a must. There are 22 hotel rooms located just a stone’s throw from the clubhouse, each incorporating the style of the surrounding landscapes and the perfect place to relax.
Designed similarly to the rooms, the 18 luxury lodges offer ultimate comfort. The lodges have everything you need for a trip with your friends and family, whether they’re golfers or not.
There are two, four, and six-bed options, all with en suites, and fully equipped with all of the essentials for a home away from home. All of the lodges include 65″ televisions with Sky Sports, unlimited super-fast wifi, equipment storage, and everything you’ll need to barbecue in the Scottish sun. The larger lodges also include a pool table as part of the open-plan living!
And if you’ve had a bad day around the greens or just want some post-round fun with your mates, each lodge faces onto the huge practice green and you have unlimited access throughout your stay.
Things to see and do nearby
Less than ten minutes in the car, located near the old Eglington Castle estate, Eglington Park is the perfect place for a stroll with miles of scenic routes. Enjoy a picnic in the sun, cycling, fishing, and even horse riding.
Less than three miles from Dundonald, the beautiful golden sands of Irvine Beach should be on your list if you can tear yourself away from the lure of the links.
At the mouth of the River Irvine, the beach boasts beautiful grassy sand dunes, and picnic sites all with spectacular views of the Isle of Arran.
Hampden Park Stadium Tour
The Scottish national football stadium with a capacity of 51,866, Hampden Park plays host to the latter stages of both the Scottish Cup and league cup.
It’s often used for music concerts and other sporting events such as when it hosted the athletics in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
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About the author
Golf Equipment Writer
Will Shreeve-Peacock is a golf equipment writer for todays-golfer.com, specializing in golf shoes, GPS watches, rangefinders, and training aids.
He has a degree in journalism from Sheffield Hallam university and four years of experience working in golf retail with American Golf. Will was part of the sales and fitting team, making him the perfect man to review golf equipment.
Will started playing golf more than a decade ago at Thorney Lakes Golf Club, Cambridgeshire and is now a member at Burghley Park Golf Club in Stamford, Lincolnshire. His handicap index is 5.8, largely thanks to his scratch-standard short game.
Away from golf, Will enjoys going to the gym, cooking, spending time with his friends, and watching his beloved Manchester United.
Will uses a Cobra LTDx Driver, Cobra LTDx 3-Wood, TaylorMade P790 2-iron, Callaway X Forged 18 Irons (4-PW), Wilson Staff Model Wedges (52°, 58°), TaylorMade White smoke IN-12 Blade putter and the TaylorMade TP5x Golf ball.
When he’s not testing golf shoes, he chooses to wear FootJoy Hyperflex or Under Armour Charged Phantom. He uses a Shotscope Pro L2 rangefinder and his favorite ever training aid is the PuttOut Pressure Putt Trainer and mat.