The small settlement of Southend lies at the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula and it’s in this idyllic location that you’ll find the lovely little seaside course of Dunaverty, where the fairways are laid out along the coastline between Dunaverty Bay and Brunerican Bay. As it occupies a seaside setting like the nearby courses at Machrihanish and Machrihanish Dunes, Dunaverty is a links course in the true sense of the word, with firm and fast playing conditions that allow play all year round.
In such a beautiful, tranquil location, it’s hard to imagine that this is also the site of one of the most infamous episodes in Scottish history, when Scottish supporters of Oliver Cromwell besieged Dunaverty Castle in 1647. When those inside (all members of the Clan MacDonald) eventually surrendered, all three hundred were then massacred by General David Leslie’s forces. Little remains of the fortress but the ruin is now known as Blood Rock for the terrible deed that took place there.
The overall length of the 18-hole layout is a shade less than 4,800 yards and it features seven par threes, with half of the ten par fours on the card measuring less than three hundred yards. Playing to a par of 66, it’s easy to see that Dunaverty doesn’t quite have the same championship credentials as its more famous golfing near neighbours. That, however, doesn’t mean to say the golf that’s played at this charming little layout is any less engaging than the game golfers experience ten miles further up the road.
The opening few holes are laid out close to the clubhouse, with small electric wire fences set around the greens to keep grazing animals off the putting surfaces. You then cross Conieglen Burn, at the point where it runs into the sea, as the fairways head further east, towards Sanda Island, and the highest point on the property at Mount Zion, the par three 10th, where the green is benched into the hillside. From here, the Antrim coastline of Northern Ireland appears very close at hand indeed.The holes then tumble down towards the burn, starting with a couple of short par fours. The only par five on the card, the 466-yard 13th (“The Cemetery”), follows before a couple of par three/par four combinations brings the routing back to the Conieglen Burn, where the green of the 412-yard 17th sits on the other side of the water. The final hole is only a short par four, so there’s every chance of finishing with a birdie to end the round in style. Regardless of score, you’re bound to walk off the home green with a big smile, having just played one of Scotland’s true hidden gems.
I wanted to keep this review short and sweet – just like the golf course itself – but there is far too much good stuff going on at Dunaverty to make that even a remote possibility. For that I make no apology.
At just a stride under 4,800 yards this true links packs a massive quirky punch into its par of 66 where there is a joyful playfulness to the experience of golfing your ball here. The Club was founded in 1889 but the course was significantly remodelled before the Second World War.
There are seven par threes (but it doesn’t feel like it) and they range from 123 to 245 yards. There are some absolute crackers amongst them with tons of variety. The blind fourth with a gathering sunken green is truly marvellous and has two marker posts; one at the top of the dune you fire over and another behind the green. There’s a wonderful sense of anticipation to finding out where the flag is located for the day and discovering how close your ball is to it.
However, it was the 180-yard seventh which impressed me the most. I would go as far as saying it is one of the finest short holes I’ve played. Playing from a gloriously located tee you must fire over tumultuous ground to an almost plateau green partially hidden behind a dune on the right and where the angles and slopes of all the surrounding landforms just make perfect sense. I suspect that the hidden pot-bunker some way short of the green on the right is visited more times than you may initially think.
The second has a lovely sloping green, the sixth at 245-yards is more akin to a driveable par four, the 10th named “Mount Zion” is a vertical pitch up to a benched green whilst 14 and 16 are both of the knob-to-knob variety but each plays quite differently. Dunaverty doesn’t do repetition amongst its short holes.
The same can’t quite be said for the par fours. There are ten altogether and seven of them play between 253 and 323 yards. Only the 8th, 15th and 17th offer more than a short pitch into the green, and the former of this trio, with it’s green hiding partially behind a sandhill, and the latter, where Conieglen Burn must be crossed with your approach, are both superb holes.
Of the shorties we often find ourselves driving blind over a ridge to a dell green, or sometimes we play up to a raised putting surface and in the case of the excellent fifth we must find a hogback fairway. They are all great fun and highly contagious.
The lone par-five doesn’t greet us until the 13th and again at just 446-yards it offers the chance of a birdie. It’s another excellent hole that funnels down to a secluded green.
You could argue that the course runs out of juice over the last few holes and in truth it probably does but the quality by no means drops off the edge of a cliff and indeed there are still some demanding shots to be played although the rumbustious golf slowly fizzles out.
One of the most notable features on the course are the square greens. It’s an unusual feature but works really well here and this is because the internal contours of the putting surfaces merge brilliantly with the external ones. Despite the greens being quadratic there is an amazing fluidity to the green complexes. I would never have thought that the combination of rectilinear greens located in punchbowl settings could work so well.
The question I often ask myself when I play a wee course such as Dunaverty is; “Is it possible for a golf course to be too short in order for it to be great?”. Sadly, and often with regret, I personally believe that the answer is yes, however, the very fact that you are asking the question tells you everything you need to know about this brilliant layout.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I played here four years ago, in May 2011, on a day trip from Glasgow to the Kintyre peninsula with a couple of mates. Not for us the golfing delights of Machrihanish or Machrihanish Dunes that day. Instead, we decided to play a couple of the lesser lights in that particular part of the country, namely the 18-hole Dunaverty and 9-hole Carradale courses.
I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it again: you can get just as much (if not more) enjoyment from playing the wee diddy tracks as you can by tackling ANY of the top ranked championship venues. In fact, there’s a lot to be said for going slightly off golfing piste now and again to sample the Glencruittens, Traighs and Dunavertys of Scotland because a round on those sort of course is bound to restore the golfing feel good factor in your cynical, world weary soul.
Dunaverty is as unpretentious as you could ever imagine, with holes laid out on a beautiful stretch of coastline close to Southend. Here, you’ll find more than half a dozen par threes of all shapes and sizes, the same number of (really) short par fours and only one par five hole.
Greens are basically rectangular shaped putting surfaces that lie on the land, allowing the traditional running approach shot to be played on most holes. It’s all very simple, very basic and impeccably maintained. Indeed, there’s many a course that could learn a thing or two from Dunaverty. As for the follow up 9-hole game at Carradale that afternoon, well that’s another story for another day. Suffice to say it too didn’t disappoint in anyway whatsoever.