Dumbarnie Links - Fife - Scotland

Dumbarnie Links,
Upper Largo,
Fife,
KY8 6BF,
Scotland


  • +44 800 085 1280

  • David Scott

  • Clive Clark

  • Blair Cross

Dumbarnie Links lies within the 5,000-acre Balcarres Estate, a property that’s been in the hands of Lord Balniel’s family for more than four hundred years. With holes set out a short distance from the shores of Largo Bay, between the links layouts at Lundin Golf Club and the Golf House Club at Elie, Dumbarnie Links is a Clive Clark design which first opened its doors to the public as a pay-and-play facility in the spring of 2020.

Course construction by American contractor Landscapes Unlimited was supervised by project manager Paul Kimber (formerly the lead architect for David McLay Kidd on the nearby Castle course at St Andrews) and it was he who brought a tight, 6-month build to completion prior to a lengthy grow-in period in advance of the official opening. Scottsdale-based company OB Golf Sports Management now oversee operations at the course.

The links occupies a 350-acre portion of the estate, with an out and back routing to bring holes tantalisingly near to the beach on both the front nine (at #4 and #9) and the back nine (at #10, #13 and #14). Like Kingsbarns, everything here was fashioned by man, including the separating low dunes and the softening contours that enable a smooth transition between the coastal holes and those laid out on higher ground further inland.

There’s plenty of movement in the greens, with ample run off areas to allow recovery shots to be played. There’s also a great mix of bunker styles as some are eco-bunker pots, some are irregularly shaped hazards, while others are basically large sand scrape areas fringed by native vegetation. And, for golfers who like elevated tee positions, holes 6, 8 and 9 all call for shots from raised platforms facing straight downhill towards the Firth of Forth.

The par four 1st hole sets out the stall rather well for what lies ahead, featuring a wide fairway bounded by sandhills on either flank leading downhill to a huge green protected by ragged-edged bunkers. It all looks rather innocuous until you take a closer look and notice the burn to the left which then cuts across the hole a short distance in front of the green – so it ends up not quite as benign as it might appear from the tee.

Other highlight holes include the doglegging 5th and 15th (where split fairways offer options on the best route to take to both greens). All four of the par three holes (the downhill 8th in particular is a little beauty) and short par fours at the 3rd 11th and 17th, with the last of these holes a “signature hole” contender, playing uphill to a heavily sand-protected three-tiered green that lies beyond a 300-year-old stone wall.

In advance of the course opening, Lord Anthony Balniel said: “There was an air of uncertainty when my family was first approached about building a golf course on our land. Fast forward several years and we simply could not be more pleased. What Clive Clark and his team have done is nothing short of outstanding. I have been struck not only by the beauty of what has been created… but also by the focus on the wildlife, plants and birds.”

In March 2021 – less than a year after first opening its tees for play – it was announced that Dumbarnie would host the Women’s Scottish Open. “We are honoured to have been selected to host the 2021 Women’s Scottish Open and look forward to welcoming the players to our genuine links course,” said Dumbarnie Links Founder and architect Clive Clark.

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Description: Dumbarnie Links lies within the 5,000-acre Balcarres Estate, a property that’s been in the hands of Lord Balniel’s family for more than four hundred years. It’s a Clive Clark design which first opened its doors to the public as a pay-and-play facility in the spring of 2020. Rating: 8.6 out of 10 Reviews: 23
TaylorMade
Alex Frolish

I had the privilege of walking these awe inspiring fairways the week after the spring opening in 2022 on a calm and clear March morning. It was a particularly special round for me as it was also the 500th course that I have been fortunate enough to visit worldwide.

My opening remark would be to mention just how wonderful this piece of land is to experience in person. It photographs well, but it is when you take it in with your own eyes that you truly appreciate the peaceful and majestic aura it exudes (well on a calm and clear day anyway). Only at Chambers Bay have I visited a waterside course so dramatically epic and tranquil in equal measure. There are many comparisons to Chambers Bay in fact, with the similar imposing and undulating rugged dune land, the feeling of being at one with nature and the associated playing conditions all evoking memories of my trip to the north west corner of the USA.

The newly built clubhouse sits squarely behind the 1st tee and provides a perfect viewing platform to generate some extra anticipation before your round. From that position, you get a good idea of what the course is going to be about. The fairway doesn’t appear particularly narrow, in fact you could say it is inviting as it rolls gently down the slope away from you toward Largo Bay. The trouble is in view, and that is how it tends to be here. Hidden traps are not the challenge, neither are swathes of punitive rough lining the fairways (although the rough is there at the periphery to frame the view). The challenge is to suitably plot your way around the course, taking opportunities when they are presented and recognising when a cautious approach is the correct play.

The front nine sweeps to the western boundary of the property and back before crossing over to the eastern side from the 10th onwards. I can remember all of the holes without reference to the course guide which is always a sure sign I was engaged with the layout. Particular highlights come at the reachable par 4 3rd, the wondrous par 3 6th played towards the bay, and at the par 4 17th.

Dumbarnie is a great advert for a modern day course promoting shot making and strategy options while not pursuing a policy of removing too many balls from the average golfers bag. There is no greater example of this than at the wonderfully iconic and memorable 17th. I doubt you’ll lose a ball here, the green is in theory reachable from every tee apart from the championship tee, yet it is far from a hole to blindly tee it high and let it fly. A stone wall dissects the landing area (parallel to the general line of play) and asks a very simple question, do you go for it, or play safe? And even if you decide to take the wall on to the right, there is further planning required as to the line you take to avoid the myriad of traps on that side.

When we played, it was still very early in the season and the grass needed some warm weather to get the sustained period of growth required to promote the purest of surfaces, particularly on the greens. But for a course that was so heavily manufactured (there was significant earth moved to create the undulations) and in its relative infancy, the conditioning is in general, remarkable and I am sure will continue to improve as it matures. Presented with the opportunity to play here, I would highly recommend that you grasp it with both hands. Whether you play well or not, you will enjoy the experience and I’m sure that won’t forget your round here on the south Fife coast.

April 02, 2022
8 / 10
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BB

Today is an appropriate time to collect my thoughts on playing a newcomer like Dumbarnie. After all, it’s out with the old & in with the new. And coincidentally, I’m also writing this at the start of a new year.

This course is big on playability, scenic to the point of distraction, expansively well routed, and contains high quality greens & surrounds. It all adds up to great fun, approaching the dizzy heights of Castle Stuart in this regard. Like all courses that begin with a blank canvas, the variety offered up is very good, ticking many boxes. It’s a very nicely balanced collection of strong holes that offers up the instant sugar rush that traveling golfers crave.

There is a lot here to offer the average golfer like me. Driving greens on short par 4’s & reaching par 5’s in 2 shots is fun. This is the kind of experience we need every once in a while. Many tee shots are thrilling, whilst not offering up too much danger (although perhaps I just had a good driving day). The real challenge was scoring on or around the putting surfaces, conquering the shaping & sizings (although perhaps I just had a bad putting day). The design means you might not expend too many shots getting near the greens, but you’ll need to stay focused until you hole out. If this doesn’t sound challenging enough for a scratch player, I should mention we had plenty of wind to contend with and you can always chose a different tee if you wish to decrease margin for error (this course is elaa——aastic).

Dumbarnie has a perfect Spider Web location that will catch many a Golfing Fly arriving into Edinburgh and heading north to plug holes in their leaky bucket lists. This geographical fact, coupled with a course that cannot disappoint, and a price point that is reassuringly-expensive-yet-competitive-versus-Kingsbarns, means that Dumbarnie is set up for success. One comment on the architect Clive Clark: I only vaguely knew of him as a 70’s Ryder Cup player, but hopefully efforts like this will show developers that there are many out there who can design high quality golf courses.

Are there any negatives? Yes. Some of the shaping flanking holes is a bit pointy. The mixed bunker styles won’t work for everyone. I also wasn’t a fan of the water on the 10th hole. And the bunkering at the back of the otherwise excellent Par 3 16th felt unnecessary. But I can’t think of much else.

Where does Dumbarnie fit in amongst the established Scottish golfing landscape? I think it could currently take a seat around 15 or so in Scotland. This means it’s a must play - a world class visit you won’t regret making. Potentially pushing Top 10 once it settles down. Scotland already spoils you for choice and doesn’t need any new golf courses. But if they are going to be this good, then they are most welcome.

January 01, 2022
8 / 10
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Jonathan Armstrong

Lets start off with just wow, looking forward to playing this course more in the future. The layout is fantastic and really enjoy the changes in direction of the holes. Stand out holes on here are 5th hole which an really fun tee shot deciding to go for left fairway or right and the 15th the par 5 where the bunkers just frame the hole perfectly. Fully recommend this course over its neighbours in the area.

December 07, 2021
9 / 10
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Gustav

A collection of 18 visually stunning holes, but difficult to keep track of where on the property you are or have been.

A real championship test with lots of variety, but easy to play as a resort course should be.

Easy to walk, but still takes 3 ½ hours to get round when empty.

These three contradictions summarise my first two rounds at Dumbarnie, so would not be surprised to see it quite high in the GB&I Top100, but perhaps not at the very top.

What I am very sure of is to recommend you to have a go yourself, at least if you like modern layouts and if budget is not a word you associate with your golf travelling.

If you happen to visit during a major tournament at St Andrews (like we did this time), by all means combine it with nearby Lundin, Leven and/or Elie for a nice mini-tour without much time behind the wheel if you also decide to stay nearby.

Highly recommended.

October 04, 2021
8 / 10
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David Oliver

I love Castle Stuart (played it 5 times) and feel that Dumbarnie is just as good – as such it is a top 20 calibre course in GB&I. It is visually stunning with the use of elevated tees to enable a view of most of the course from a number of tees.

The design is clever using very generous fairways that enable anyone to play and enjoy the course (as long as the correct tees are used). The difficulty / challenge of the course is found in the green complexes with the combination of fast sloping greens and undulating, tight lies on the surrounds, both of which are undoubtedly Tour quality.

There is little point nominating standout holes as they are all aesthetically superb and most have a manifestly strategic element, including a wonderful first hole which rivals the 1st hole at Doonbeg. There is one hole however that warrants some additional narrative. It has been a week since I played Dubarnie and I wanted time to reflect on this hole to ensure the likely scenario of me just not “getting it” is considered in depth. The hole is the “risk & reward” par 4, 17th.

Looking at this hole horizontally from left to right from the tee, it is essentially split into 3 sections. 1/. Fairway, 2/. General scrub land, gorse and a very large dune bunker 3/. Fairway (which requires a 200+ yard carry to reach) and a number of bunkers. My two issues are:- 1/. You can only see a sliver of fairway to the left so if this is the “safe” option to play the hole (leaving a longer approach), then in my view it should be more accessible from the tee, and 2/. The right side “reward” element, in my view, is just not worth the risk as there are 6 fairway bunkers in play off the tee in addition to 4 greenside bunkers. All 10 bunkers are penal and to miss them seems more down to chance than skill. The picture of this hole on the course guide illustrates clearly the design philosophy I just don’t believe there is enough “reward”. This hole contrasts with other “risk/reward” par 4s including the 5th hole, where hitting to the risk side of the fairway gives you a length advantage of 40-50 yards (if you hit a 25 yard wide fairway) compared against the safe route where you hit to a 45 yard wide fairway and the drivable par 4, 11th where the shortest route to the green is more fraught with trouble.

I also agree with Keith Baxter’s comment that the riveted bunkers were perhaps incongruous with the general natural appearance and flow of the course and too numerous on occasion (possibly required for the course to host tournament play)

After the round I had the privilege of spending 25 minutes with Clive Clark and General Manager David Scott. They explained the design philosophy in general terms as “interesting, entertaining with strategic choice”. We talked about the 17th hole and it was mentioned that this type of hole was designed specifically to ask questions towards the end of the round and the answer would be predicated on the state of the players’ scorecard or match. I get that but would maintain that the reward is not worth the risk. I appreciate other reviewers love the hole and maybe upon further plays, I would change my opinion.

My comments on the 17th hole should not detract from what has been achieved by Clive Clark and the team of shapers here. The course is off the charts good with many “wow” moments. The green fee is high but you are getting a high end golfing experience so in that respect represents good value. I do not believe any course is "perfection" however I have given a 6 ball rating. In summary, a must play course.

September 13, 2021
10 / 10
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David Loan

Incredible tbh. Not the stand out I expected with Carnoustie, Cruden, Trump Aberdeen and Dumbarnie on the itinerary - but it was. Definitely the most playable, enjoyable, spectacular course I’ve played. Carnoustie better, the Old Course more atmospheric, Wentworth tougher, Birkdale just Birkdale.

However, tee shots that allowed a miss from the blues. True greens. Fantastic fairways that were true and pure. Views I’ve not seen before. 12-15 tee boxes that gave you a view of perfection.

Loved the opening 4 holes. A welcome and chance to score well. The first par 3 great. Back 9 much much tougher and a bit more exposed to the elements. 18 book ends the first actually with a similar aesthetic feel.

Outstanding course. Just a wow.

September 04, 2021
9 / 10
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Greg Watson

#601 Dunbarnie Links, sometimes I think clever marketing can create unfound hysteria about a new golf course, so despite a first class service whilst engaging with the reservations team I arrived with a little apprehension whether the course and facility would live up up the anticipated high standard. Greeted on the car park early morning we were immediately made to feel welcome and shown exactly where to go (temporary Covid routing) After signing in at the pro shop and grabbing a quick coffee in the classy restaurant we went on the range only a short walk from the clubhouse. The range is first class as you would expect, copious amounts of balls all clean and piled high for you to warm up, pre round. Also available is an impressive short game area along with a more than adequate putting green. The practice putting green excites the prospect of putting on great links greens, great pace, not super quick on the flat, but a pure true surface.

We were again warmly greeted on the first tee by the starter, who gave a wee goody bag, containing a marker, tees, scorecard and course guide. He gave a good overview of the course and tips on reading the greens, along with taking a momentary interest in our story and golfing background. the option play off any tee is given, we chose the black tees which at 6950 yards provide for a real championship length test of golf. A you stand on the first tee, in awe of the manmade vast dunes aligning the first fairway and with a vast proportion of the course in view you quickly realise how good a course designer Clive Clark and his team have done.

There are so many good holes on the opening stretch, so much so you start to lose count as the next almost provides more wow factor than the previous. The wow factor enhanced on the front nine by clever routing that requires you to walk onto the back of the tee and not allowing you a sneak preview of the hole till you peg the ball up. There are certainly opportunities to score well on the early holes, and Mr Clark provides a number of risk reward opportunities to shorten holes and in some circumstances take the green on from the tee. Its fair to say that the course maturity in future years may dissuade more in the future from attempting to overpower so I ca imagine course strategy to be ever evolving.

A really good challenge with a card in hand presents itself on the final 2 holes with a tough risk reward par 4 on 17 followed by a tough long finishing hole. Overall for me Dunbarnie exceeded my expectations and delivered first class experience both on and off course and I would urge everyone to make an effort to play this magnificent development.

September 03, 2021
9 / 10
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Mark White

Having heard of Dumbarnie Links many years ago, I followed its approval and construction sort of as a counter-point to Mike Keizer and Todd Warnock’s failed attempt to build Coul Links near Royal Dornoch. I knew that both were going to be built upon good land with great seaside views, although the land used for Dumbarnie is much “flatter” and perhaps not quite as interesting as the land proposed for Coul Links.

Yesterday was my first chance to play Dumbarnie and like the other reviewer, I was fortunate to meet the architect, Clive Clark, and have a discussion for about 15 minutes. I found the conversation with him to be very helpful in understanding his final routing and design.

The course is built on a massive amount of land,350+ acres, and I wondered whether the owner has messed up if he wanted to build a second course in the future. One can see from the clubhouse the amount of land that sits between the holes and it prompts a thought of whether the holes could have been placed closer together. But then I was told there is another 250 acres left!

If a second course is ever built, there is a chance for Dumbarnie to become the equal as a “muse-destination” to Cabot Links, Sand Valley or Barnbougle Dunes. The first course is that good.

Much like Whistling Straits, the course is very contrived and is not natural. Massive amounts of earth was moved to create the course, particularly the dunes. I agree with other reviewers that the dunes have too many peaks and perhaps a bit too much height, but that is a small criticism as they do enhance the visual appeal of the course. In many cases, the provide a good target for one’s shots.

The course showed beautifully on television during the women’s Scottish Open and seeing it in person you feel the same way. The highest point is the clubhouse and the course flows naturally down the hill as you near the firth. The holes are routed in all directions ensuring the wind is never a consistent enemy or to one’s advantage.

I was told I would say “wow” every time I stepped on a new tee. While that did not happen, I counted 13 times where I said it such is the strength of the routing that created beautiful driving corridors and a wonderful variety of holes whether longer holes or the three short par fours. Unlike other courses, I found a very good balance of par 3’s/4’/5’s with none of the pars being better than the others. As I said the course is wonderfully balanced across its pars, moving uphill and downhill, straight or dogleg holes.

I will not do a commentary hole by hole until perhaps I go back again as the course matures,

Perhaps my only other two slight criticisms of the course are the using two different types of bunker styles on the same hole too close to each other seemed to detract from the visual appeal. Yet I did see the need for this for defensive purposes, Finally, the fairways are very generous which is what one would expect of a public resort course catering to golfers of all abilities.

Yet even with the wide fairways, there are a fair number of times when one has to make a strategic decision as to the line they want to play off the tee. I give a lot of credit to Mr. Clark for accomplishing that.

The green surrounds and green contours are very good with the greens on the back nine offering more inner movement and slightly more fall-offs. Overall, nearly all of the greens will give one pause before striking the ball.

While I have not yet decided whether there are any outstanding holes at Dumbarnie such as one can find at Castle Stuart or Kingsbarns, I think overall the course could be the equal of those two. I found perhaps only two-three weaker holes here but that is fine when the rest of the course is consistent in its offering of fun yet challenging golf.

September 02, 2021
8 / 10
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BB
September 05, 2021

Hi Mark,

Firstly, congrats on sneaking in a transatlantic golf trip.

Secondly, it caught my eye that you give Dumbarnie a 5 ball rating (& compared to CS & KB).

Does this mean that you feel it’s close to World Top 100 level?

I have one spare day in Fife next month & have a penchant for wide fairways…

Mark White
September 05, 2021

I do not think it is worthy of top 100 in the world but part of that is due to me having played it only once. I have played Kingsbarns and Castle Stuart multiple times. I do think the wide fairways and the greens on the front nine will keep it outside but I will delay a decision for now. You should definitely play it.

Of the people I have spoken to face-to-face, none believe it is a top 100 course but they very much enjoy it.

Tim Elliott

I had read all about Dumbarnie, couldn’t wait to play it, and after two rounds there am full of praise for this excellent new addition to the Scottish golf scene.

Both rounds were in a competition on dry, partly sunny and relatively calm days, and good scoring from the blue tees was quite possible. Regardless of score, all golfers ended their round with a smile on their faces, having clearly enjoyed the experience.

As would be expected with the course being less than two years old there is still some bedding down to do, but the challenges are fair with many raised tees. The golfer can clearly see these challenges set out before him on fairways that are generous but with many strategically placed bunkers and periodic water hazards. I feel that Dumbarnie is a thorough examination of one’s all-round golf game, and sure enough strengths are magnified as are weaknesses!

Most of all, I like the feeling of open space. The course occupies an unusually large site, there is a lack of buildings other than the Clubhouse, and the golfer has only fairways, greens, sand dunes, the nearby Firth of Forth and his/her playing partners for company. This all helped to create a ‘good to be alive’ feeling and sheer pleasure of being at Dumbarnie on a pleasant late summer’s day.

The first hole sets the scene with a 400yard par four that requires two good blows if the burn in front of the green is not to be brought into play. The par fives at 2 and 16 are simply magnificent holes, and there are so many very good ones. If I am to be a little ‘picky’, I found the 7th to be by some way the best of 4 good, but not exceptional, par threes. My first round also taught me that as a mid-handicap golfer I am not good enough to take on the risk of the ‘risk-and-reward holes, particularly the uphill 17th where the drive over a stone wall looks so achievable from the tee, reality is very different.

Dumbarnie is surely destined to be a top golf course on any ranking list, and is already a ‘must play’ for all golfers who aspire to play on the best courses in the world.

August 30, 2021
8 / 10
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Javier Pintos

I came across this course during construction and having read the first comments and news about it I felt it was going to be special. 2 years ago during a trip to St Andrews I did a sited visit and we saw every hole and this first feeling was confirmed: this is going to be a blast. I was not allowed to play that day in August and when back home I felt I was not brave enough to insist!

And on August 26th 8:30am this pending one to play was ticked on an unreal sunny morning. The Clubs goes in line with Castle Stuart and Kingsbarns: 5* service, extremely welcoming staff, first class modern facilities and views that you won’t believe. In my opinion this one outplays the other 2 in views and shocking images. The huge dunes contrasting the emerald greens on the playing field plus the views of the water and across to Edimburgh and Gullane/Muirfield are tough to describe in words

It is tough to go over the design when every single spot on the course gets you watch the views with the feeling that there can be anything nicer. But the design is very good, with a lot of holes giving chances of scoring BUT taking an aggressive line off the tee or where a severely sloped green will make you face problems if you are not in the correct side of the fairway. The course of course needs a little bit of maturity which I could see in my visit to Castle Stuart after the one in 2012 but trust me when I say this course will climb very high in the rankings very soon.

I would like to highlight my most liked holes on the course:

1st is a nice opener from a high tee box to a green protected by a burn.

3rd a great short 4 where you can reach the green over some wild bunkers but if short or left … big trouble!

7th a great 5 with the season your back, dogleg right to an elevated green with a small water spot before the green.

9th a very good par 4 from another elevated tee where downwind you can get close with a punchbowl feel on the left side.

10th is a beast, into the wind and over water for the second shot. Trying to lay up from a bunker I sent it to the water and it killed my round!

11th one of the best short 4s I have played. A 3 wood was 10yds from the two tier green and anywhere where they have put the pin it would have been very tough to birdie it.

15th a great par 5 where you can go right but need to be not longer than 250yds or go by the long safe way. One of the features Clive spoke about the course is the chances of playing the holes safe and longer or brave and shorter but with big penalties on the way.

16th the last par 3 facing the Ocean … false front with a couple of pin positions there, can’t be better!

The playing grass (tees, fairways, greens) was in immaculate shape, the wild areas needing maybe one or two more years of setting firm but in the end the course was a blast.

The morning ended meeting designer Clive Clark for a short interview in which he shared his first thoughts when he first saw the piece of line and how the process led to what is today a serious contender for the World Top 100 with no doubt. And he also had time to tell me a little story about the 1967 Open Championship won by my hero Roberto De Vicenzo where he ended in 3rd place shared with Gary Player. He played the final round with Jack Nicklaus and shared some of this sensations on a great day. There are 2 short videos in the We.Golf IG Profile which I recommend you to see and know a little more about this easy going humble man who created something that will be in everybody’s bucket list. Dumbarnie is a must play and one of those courses which you should play twice in your tour, first one to get familiar with the alternatives and in the second one go for the birdies!

August 28, 2021
9 / 10
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