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0.5 mile E of Dunbar
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The North Sea coastal town of Dunbar is steeped in history, its ancient ruined castle stands guard over the town’s twin harbours. Golf has been played in and around Dunbar since the early part of the 17th century, but the Dunbar Golf Club wasn’t formed until 1856 when a rudimentary fifteen-hole course was laid out and the course was later extended to eighteen holes.
In 1894, Old Tom Morris was called in to alter and to further extend the course. Extra land, part of the ancient deer park of Broxmouth estate was acquired at the turn of the 20th century and four new holes were built. Finally, in 1923, Ben Sayers and James Braid were called in to advise on bunkers, resulting in the installation of sixty-one new sand traps.
The course is laid out on a narrow strip of land with the best holes hugging the rocky coastline affording resplendent views across the North Sea to Bass Rock, a huge volcanic lump rising up out of the water.
The first two holes at Dunbar play up and down the old deer park and they are flat, ordinary and park-like. The 2nd green was once a shelter where the deer were fed. The 3rd has an interesting story to tell, a par three called “Jackson’s Pennies”. Mr Jackson was a retired local businessman and in the 1920s he used to sit behind the green and award a penny, a king’s ransom in those days, to those who played the hole well. At the 4th, a lovely par four called “Shore”, Dunbar begins to play like a classic links course, the views open up and the wind becomes a more prominent factor. The next thirteen holes are wedged between the coastline and a fine-looking old stonewall where out-of-bounds threatens beyond. The finishing hole, aptly called “Hame”, plays back to the clubhouse across the old deer park.
Dunbar East Links is a relatively short course, measuring 6,597 yards from the medal tees, but the wind generally makes the round thoroughly challenging and immensely entertaining. There is so much history to be absorbed in the East Lothian and a visit to Dunbar will help to complete the lesson.
Returning to Dunbar, East Links for the first time since 2018 I was struck by an improved standard of course condition throughout with the tees particularly well groomed. The warmup area alongside the driveway to the clubhouse was, however, quite poor compared with that which myself snd my group remembered from the past: rough had been grown (seemingly on purpose) leaving little for than a 15 yard wide useable area and accommodating little more than an 8-iron shot in distance. The course remains unchanged in layout which is good although the semi-blind 7th and 13th holes both had the shortest flagsticks I’d ever seen and being out of sight from the fairway meant that approach shots were completely reliant upon guesswork. Very poor decision to replace the taller, visible flagsticks and without good reason. Perhaps the head greenkeeper has a perverse sense of humour. It’s still a good course and worth adding to any trip to the East Lothian area but it’s no world beater and a long way short of good value with green fees far greater than the course merits. A solid 4 to 4.5 score at the very most.
This is the best course in East Lothian by far unless they don't start to wreck the membership feel. this feels like a proper Scottish club and looks after locals you get the seniors all living in the town in 4 balls to juniors at moment its a proper Scottish community club and I hope stays this way. The course is great and beats North Berwick and craigilaws by a long way really is one of the best courses in scotland apart from the 2 first holes which wee bit bland but gets you started in there with birdies chances which get you I a good mood for perfection after the first 2. the 3 is a beautiful par 3 downhill then onto the pebble beach esc 4th role through the wall and the moment you get past the wall your greeted with beauty right on the sea.
I don't want to talk about every holes but some the par 3 are so good over sea and so on then has a great mix of par5s and 4s its truly a proper golf courses that every hole is different no blandness like the big tour courses. Also its so much better than North Berwick as a course and community feel as East Lothian is starting to sell out to tourism and ban local memberships but Dunbar still has that local charm and club.
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Can I ask if you’ve played any other courses in East Lothian? Dunbar is pretty good but to say it’s better than North Berwick for a start is a stretching the imagination slightly…
Dunbar is lightyears better than North Berwick plus you don't get the rangers rushing you around like North Berwick have. also the greens are always better in great condition unlike Berwick and the course in general is better. North Berwick is simply marketed better is all, I always feel North Berwick id get killed by a stray ball too plus its stuffy where Dunbar is friendly.
Charlie - you seem to have a wedge to grind with how North Berwick is run, but don’t rate the player, rate the game. I do agree with you though that Dunbar is well worth a visit for any golfers traveling to East Lothian
Yeah your right I don't agree with how the club is run and its council owned which tell the story however I just don't rate the course its nice but overpriced, I prefer the eden, jubilee, Dunbar , North Berwick is all hype to be honest as never seen it with fantastic greens like Dunbar get in summer also Dunbar right on the sea more and just flows better in my eyes. North Berwick also have them rangers that try make everyone play in 3 hours even with seniors I understand pace of play but they try rush people around too which is very annoying. im unsure on new development at Dunbar too I loved the old range and clubhouse so old school.
I know where you're coming from Charlie. In a review I did a few years ago I described it as "smug". I recall they couldn't get the 110 pounds off me quick enough, then they mentioned they grouped me with two 36 hcps despite the day being incredibly windy and quite empty. It was strange but I didn't mind the company but pace of play went from 3hrs to 4.5 hrs. On the same day in the morning I was at Craigielaw where the green fee was set at 55 pds but because of the wind they gave it to me for 10 pds, including trolley!! I doubt that kind of service is considered at Nth Berwick. As far as the courses, I ranked them both 5 balls. Nth Berwick at top 40 in world is way over rated. To have the likes of Prestwick, Aberdeen, Western Gailes, Trump Int behind it is just wrong.
What relevance does how a club is run have on this website? To clear up any misunderstandings from your comment, it is the land at North Berwick which is owned by the council, not the club. You spend as much time trying to talk down North Berwick as you do reviewing Dunbar here - a bizarre approach. It’s fine if you don’t like the course but you should avoid making wholly inaccurate statements about banning local memberships and being expected to play in 3 hours on a public forum. I’m also surprised you have concerns about getting hit by a stray ball at North Berwick when Dunbar is far narrower. Dunbar is a fine course but your reviews lose any credibility when stating the likes of the Eden, Jubilee and Kilspindie are “so so much better” than North Berwick.
David - Charlie’s comments have every relevance on this website. If it’s affected his experience then he should be able to share that in the text of his review. I’d argue it’s useful for traveling golfers to read these kinds of subjective comments.
However, his experience should ideally not affect his actual (objective) rating of the course - which it clearly has on this occasion. 2.5 balls for the golf on offer at North Berwick is obviously too low
BB - I completely agree it’s useful for travelling golfers to read subjective comments before playing a course. These comments are not subjective however, they’re entirely misinformed.
The club isn’t “severely reducing its membership number by not allowing locals into the club” - there is no such policy in place and it has a waiting list like any other where demand dictates one is required. Green fees have been on an upward trajectory across the UK for a long time and North Berwick is no different - do you genuinely believe someone at the club said “Americans won’t play cheap courses so they raised fees…to con Americans” as Charlie’s review claims? The “cash cow for the council” comment is another strange one - it will collect rent under the lease of the land but doesn’t run the club, nor is it responsible for the set up of the course, so it’s unclear how this affects the experience.
The reality is none of these issues have any bearing on the playing or visitor experience, hence my previous question as to their relevance. Charlie admits he doesn’t agree with how the club is run and this appears to have influenced his rating of the course itself. Given the lack of objectivity, I’d argue these type of misleading comments serve no purpose for travelling golfers.
For our first golf trip to Scotland we settled on East Lothian as our location, with vast riches of top quality golf courses all within a short drive this was the perfect place to get off the mark on our Scotland golfing journey.
In a trip that would consist of Kilspindie, North Berwick (west), Gullane No1 and Dunbar, this course really was the surprise package. As many keen golfers do i had spent many hours reading reviews and was expecting my favorite course of the trip to be a straight shootout between North Berwick and Gullane No1, then having played Dunbar on a perfectly clear but windy day i knew i had underestimated this course.
It has a nice gentle start if nothing to write home about with two par 5s, then as you make the turn to face the sea you get a glimpse of whats in store, a great par 3 from an elevated tee looking down to a green protected by bunkers on all sides with a great view out to sea, you cant help but get ahead of yourself and think about the holes yet to come.
As you then pass through the wall to the 4th tee that's when the Dunbar experience really starts, with stunning views on every tee box you make your way out with the sea on your left. particular highlights being the par 5 9th, a blind tee shot up over a hill doesn't do much to stir the senses, however when you then reach the top of the hill your greeted with a fantastic huge downhill approach shot to the green.
You then make the turn after the par 3 10th with the sea on the right working you way back to the clubhouse. particular highlights on the back 9 for me are the approach shot on 12, you feel like the green is perched out at sea, a great photo opportunity, as well as the par 3 16th, teeing off right on the sea with it all to your right and the old wall only a few yards from the back of the green its a great short hole.
At the end of our trip i took stock of the courses we had played and Dunbar really stuck in the memory and definitely the most picturesque course of the trip, just missing out as favorite to North Berwick.
If your planning a trip to this area of Scotland Dunbar is a must play and really highlights the class of courses in this area.
As mentioned a few times below, the 4 holes that are situated on the right of the dividing wall are not as exhilarating as holes 4 to 17 on the other side, however they are still good holes especially the downhill par 3, 3rd hole where you hit towards the sea and the last hole which is strong (430 yards), with the dune escarpment on the left, the clubhouse straight ahead and with the dividing wall all the way down the hole to the right. Best holes are the stretch from the excellent long attractive par 3, 10th hole at the far end of the course, through the next 4 par 4s, especially holes 11 and 12 which are both over 450 yards and hug the coast. The course would not be built today as health and safety would object to the proximity of holes and hitting areas. I loved the quirkiness but there was still a good golf course behind the idiosyncratic features. Well worth a trip.
Dunbar is a wonderful old Scottish links course overlooking the North Sea with a highly unusual layout creating an enjoyable golfing experience.
The first three holes and the last are played across an old deer park overlooked by the characterful clubhouse. The links fun is between holes 4 and 17 after you go through the sea wall which opens up a narrow strip of land alongside the sea. The course turns for home after the tenth hole with its view of the power station, the fairways are wide, there are pleasant views along the coastline and the golfing is good.
My favourite holes were the 7th which features a disused farm building as the fairway turns right to a sunken green, the long 9th which has a blind drive over a ridge and dramatic descent to a distant green, the beautiful downhill dogleg at 14 and the risk-and-reward 15th where a good drive can almost reach the green if the bunkers are avoided.
Course maintenance was good, the greens large and of good pace and the bunkers deep and a heavy penalty if you are inaccurate with your approach play. The ambience of this long-established members’ Club on the edge of town is very welcoming.
Dunbar is some distance from the main Lothian golfing area and is well worth a detour to play. As with all links courses it is a far more straightforward proposition if the wind is not too strong.
The opening holes at Dunbar understandably get some criticism but they’re decent enough. For me the course is more about scenery than strategy, which is fine but there weren’t many tee shots that made me think. As isolated golf holes, Dunbar’s aren’t quite top tier.
It’s still a fun, playable course that isn’t as narrow as maps make it look. The sea is only in play if you go really off-line, and the wall doesn’t pinch in often. The rough was nice and sparse as well, and the fairways among the firmest I’ve played.
The highlights are on the back nine where you play closest to the sea, but slightly inland was my favourite – the 13th has a semi blind approach to a green that slopes severely from back to front. 15 is a fun short par 4 you can go at, but you might be left pitching over bunkers.
So I’d say have a go if you’re nearby, but don’t have it at the top of your must-play list.
After a sedate couple of holes the course really got going once I got behind the wall to play the holes that run adjacent to the sea. Absolutely amazing vista and close proximity to the water adds to the test and onset of natural conditions. Never before have I been soaked as a result of sea mist whilst playing.
A great links test and layout that often gets overlooked by many playing on the east coast of Scotland. As a side note amazing food in the clubhouse made an perfect day for us.
Dunbar runs out and back along a narrow strip of links land alongside the coast, bordered by a deer park. In places, the distance between the coast and the deer park wall is not much more than the width of a green. It really is squeezed into a space where you could not imagine fitting an 18 hole championship course.
The opening 3 holes and the 18th are set in a field on the inland side of the wall. They are fairly uninspiring. But then you sneak through a gap in the wall on to the coastal side and a stunning links awaits you. You head out along the coast, and play parallel to the sea and the wall. That wall is a little too close for comfort on holes 6-10, an ever present OOB to catch the slightest miss right, easy with the wind off the left. Some of the holes are pretty narrow, especially 7, so you have no choice but to flirt with the wall.
Turning for home, and into the breeze, it's the rocky beach which now poses a constant threat down the right hand side. It's a real test of your nerve if you're fighting a slice. Overall, this is a proper challenging course, but it is a bit too narrow, given the potential effect of the wind. OOB in play on almost every hole reduces the fun.
I'll score it 5 balls for the links holes, but minus half a ball for the 4 holes in a field near the clubhouse.
Don’t ever agree to meet up with a girlfriend from your past. This rather aptly sums up Dunbar. On my first time playing the old links for around three years, on a trip taking in North Berwick, Luffness, Gullane 1 and Archerfield I’m sorry to report that all wasn’t well with the old girl; she’d certainly seen better days and most definitely needed to take herself in hand.
The course layout hadn’t changed; that wasn’t necessarily the issue but the condition was exceptionally poor. The green fee for a round was pushing £100 and was at least 100% overpriced. The fairways were patchy, the rough was chocked full of weeds and the greens running 7, at best, were woolly, slow and appeared not to have been cut in days. Most of the teeing grounds were surrounded by tatty, neglected walkways with weeds and neglect clear for all to see.
It’s a course that I’d enjoyed a number of times before but there’s clearly something badly amiss with the management and greens team. I felt sorry for my friends with whom I’d travelled and briefed on our journey across from Ayrshire. Thankfully we moved on, over the subsequent days of the trip, to find North Berwick and Luffness both in stunning condition.
I doubt I’ll be back to meet up with the old girl at Dunbar: best to keep happy memories from the past than to try and rekindle a faded and lost love.
The opening 2 holes at Dunbar are like queuing on the street waiting to get into a favourite pub. Not that much to see from outside, yet you stand in line. Hole 3 sees the queue reach the doorway and you get a glimpse of what’s inside. You catch a girl’s eye. No wait, she was looking at someone else. Are you starting to get cold? Then hole 4 finally sees you inside.
You now have a fine old time drinking it all in for the following 2.5 hours (albeit wondering when a round at your local became so expensive). Your old elemental mates Earth, Air, & Water are here. Fire seems to be running late. There’s decent beer, and even an old Jukebox. Work is a faded memory. Choosing this bar is like many others you could have dun, but it has what you need. Time flies and you have some nice stories to tell/secrets to keep. You then reach the back 9 of the evening and things really get going. The pulse quickens as Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys starts up.
But just when you think you’re playing your cards right with that girl who in fact was looking at you after all, the tee box of the 18th hole signals closing time and this bouncer unceremoniously tosses you out onto the street. Not the way you wanted the night to end, but you’ve had worse evenings and you’ll do it all again. Off to the 19th hole then to find a kebab. If you’re ever near Dunbar, you should definitely pop into for a pint or two