Review for Dumbarnie Links

Reviewer Score:


Dumbarnie opened to rave reviews just after lockdown and I was fortunate enough to play it 3 times in June and July. As new courses go I hadn’t thought Kingsbarns or Castle Stuart could be bettered but I think Dumbarnie has done it. Fabulous views, drivable par 4s, holes that give you choices and make you think, regular changes of direction and evaluation – Dumbarnie has it all.

The course has clearly been designed to be playable and enjoyable. From the normal visitor tees it is not the toughest test in Scotland. Fairways are reasonably generous, allowing you to take driver off most tees and the rough is (currently) not that penal. The greens are well contoured without having any elephants buried under them (unlike the Castle course) and they rolled very well, especially given the course had only just opened. No two consecutive holes play in the same direction which is very welcome on a course where the wind will typically be a significant factor.

Having three drivable par 4s (3rd, 11th and 17th) is very unusual but a welcome initiative. It adds to the excitement to try and drive a green and have a putt for an eagle, which is a rarity for most of us. There are also a couple of holes (5th and 15th) that offer the choice of two fairways to aim at, meaning the holes can be played in different ways. The par 3s are excellent and varied with the pick of the bunch the short 8th, a great example that a hole doesn’t need to be long to be interesting.

It occurred to me on my first visit that this would be a very easy course for the pros but on my second visit I paid more attention to where the back tees are and realised that it can be a completely different test. For example, the 17th is a drivable dogleg at 316 yards from the blues but completely different at 462 yards from the championship tees.

Purists may be critical of the amount of earth moved and the artificial nature of some of the dunes. These were pretty obvious when I played there but will undoubtedly bed in over time. The current lack of a clubhouse is also a negative that will be solved shortly. Once global travel returns then I suspect American golfers will include this on their itinerary. Hopefully this will still leave room for Scottish golfers – the current £110 rate is within reach of most, mainly as a treat, and I’m hoping we don’t get priced out, as has been the case at Kingsbarns.

It would be hard to argue that this is the best course in the UK but it already has a decent shout at being the most enjoyable. That counts for a lot in my book. My second and third visits were when I was on a family holiday nearby and I played the course on my own, first tee time of the day on beautiful July days. Absolute bliss! Well done to all involved.

Date: January 10, 2021

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