The ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle lie on the Northumberland coast, between the villages of Craster and Embleton. Just to the north of this 14th-century fortification sits the self-deprecating 18-hole layout of Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Course, where the fairways run out close to the sandy beach of Embleton Bay.
Owned by the National Trust but maintained by staff at the course, the links has been used for golf since 1900, when a 9-hole layout was first established. The estate was sold to shipping magnate Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland in 1919 and he wasted no time in calling in James Braid the following year to modify the course.
Braid lengthened four holes, shortened four holes and designed a new one. The course was then extended southwards in three stages to a full 18-hole layout: three holes were added by 1929, another three-hole extension was completed two years later before the final three holes were brought into play in 1936.
Several holes have since been modified to add overall length and eliminate blind shots at the par four 2nd and 3rd, along with the short par three 13th, located at the nearest point to the castle. Nonetheless, what remains today is largely Braid’s work, making it one of the old master’s comparatively rare links layouts.
There’s only one par three on the front nine here, the 166-yard 4th (“Plateau”) which, as its name suggests, plays to a raised green with bunkers protecting the front right and left of the putting surface. The lone par five on the card arrives at the 527-yard 14th (“Crags”), where out of bounds threatens all the way down the left of the fairway.
In the modern era, the course measures 6,263 yards from the back tees and par is rated at 70. Holes 1 to 6 are laid out to the north of the clubhouse with the remaining holes routed further to the south. The two par threes on the back nine at the 13th and 15th are both terrific holes, but then so are all three of the short par fours at holes 5, 7 and 11.
I think that Cumbria and Northumberland are probably the most under-rated areas for English golf.
Brilliantly located for golf en route to and from Scotland the scenery is wild and remote, the people friendly and the golf fun and great value.
We played Dunstanburgh when it was a Gem on this site and loved its understated charm. Excellent holiday golf, with the par 3 13th standing out in the memory as an outpost with lovely views of the castle and coastline. Highly recommended - as noted it could be even better with a little work, but definitely worth making the trip.
I was just looking for a venue near Newcastle, not being Goswick Golf Club, Bamburgh Castle or Alnmouth Golf Club, since we had played these courses already. Just by pure luck I picked Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Club, and how lucky I was. Dunstanburgh is a golf course I really enjoyed: it has a very natural & links feeling, and I'm very much surprised it does not make the top 10 of Northumberland. I'm not a fan of rating courses against each other, but I believe Northumberland would easily pass the test when compared with most venues on the Northumberland list.
The round starts a bit funny: after a inviting opener, two (blind) holes play on the top of the hill left of the clubhouse followed by a - impossible to par - par 3. But then the track shows its beauty as a true links course: proper turf, blind (tee) shots, funky bunkered & undulating greens, all the works. At the far end of the premisses, hole 13 is the short par 3 overlooked by the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, the occasional hiker and the colony of seabirds that have their nests at the seashore cliffs. The stretch of holes back to the clubhouse is as nice as the stretch that got you there.
Although they call it a clubhouse, the restaurant is open to the public and serve all that come by: golfers, hikers but also the tenants of the seaside summerhouses that are scattered around the dunes nearby. This results in a very non-golfing, vibrant atmosphere, not often experienced before in the UK. It is a pity the kitchen was already closed after our round, the menu looked very inviting.
Not sure who is in charge of the Northumberland list, but maybe he/she should put on the good old golfing boots and book a tee time at Dunstanburgh and reconsider the ranking of Dunstanburgh on that list.
OCB, your Dunstanburgh Castle review is timely. We are currently in the process of updating our North East England rankings. Following recent evaluations, Dunstanburgh Castle has been elevated from a GEM (although it is still a gem) to #7 in our Northumberland Best In County rankings. We’ll be publishing our 2017 news release for the North East region by the end of this week.
I will be honest and admit that Dunstanburgh Castle wasn’t really on my radar of courses to play. Mainly because it wasn’t included in the book ‘True Links’, a publication that supposedly includes all of the genuine links courses in the World.
Leaving Dunstanburgh out is a clear omission because this course is not only the real deal when it comes to links golf it’s one of the most enjoyable I’ve played.
OK, let’s get things into perspective first. It’s not going to be hosting The Open anytime soon and Goswick, just up the coast towards Berwick upon Tweed, is king of the links in this part of the country but Dunstanburgh, designed by the legendary James Braid, is good and at times excellent.
There’s little doubt that this is a links course from the moment you drive through the tiny village of Embleton and crest the hill of the single track road that leads down to the golf course. You are faced with rippling linksland separated from a sandy beach by large shaggy sand dunes. The pulse quickens.
Admittedly, the opening tee-shot is less than promising but as soon as you reach your drive and the green comes into view things start to improve. The contouring of putting surface is superb and this is a feature that repeats itself several times during the round. From the tee Dunstanburgh is solid but it is the green complexes that bring the course to life and make this Angel of the North shine brighter than most.
After the opener you play a lovely cluster of holes on higher where the exposed, table-top par-three fourth and short par-four fifth stand out. The latter having a wicked green where being on the wrong side can prove extremely harmful to your score.
If you are a true lover of links golf you will more than enjoy a round at Dunstanburgh Castle. Paired with a round at Goswick this would make for a tremendous 36 hole day of links golf in an area that often doesn’t get the true credit it deserves.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Now Dunstanburgh Castle was a surprise packet. Yet to be reviewed on this website but as it made The 240 Real Links courses of Britain & Ireland list I felt compelled to play it as I was in a B&B just 75 miles away in Gullane.
The opening 6 holes is a loop that brings you back to the clubhouse. These holes were quite tough in places with plenty of gorse to keep you honest. Chuck in a few doglegs, some elevation and a blind shot or two and you have a neat parcel of golf territory but nothing to get too excited about.
The fun starts on hole 7 in what is the start of an out (holes 7 – 13) and in layout. Large, rugged dunes line the left of these outward holes that make their way to the foot of the castle. Some great holes here – the dunes come into play for any pulls so it is a slicers course. There are dips, blindshots, narrowing fairways, incredible views, pot bunkers, rumpled fairways and all other facets pertaining to links golf.
The 13th is a short par 3 that is played a cross a ravine. It may take anything from 4 mins to 20mins to play, depends on the number of walkers that stroll straight across the front of the green. There was no-one on the course so I waited to see if any of them acknowledged there was a golfer standing on the tee 121 yards away. Of the 40 or so people I waited for not one even looked. So be patient at this point.
The inward strip of holes are also interesting. Out of bounds on the left and outward holes on the right, again favouring the slicer. Some fairways are very wide, some quire narrow, there are plenty of patches of rough to lose your ball in and the Standard Scratch of 71 against the par of 70 on this 6263 yard course suggests it is not a pushover.
With a bit of TLC and smartening up this could be a strong 5 balls. It reminded me of Brancaster. The greens were well kept and the layout was fantastic. The first 6 holes are 3 ball standard whilst holes 7-13 are 5 balls and coming home 4 balls so 4 balls it is. Warren from Aust