Dunbar - Lothians - Scotland

Dunbar Golf Club,
East Links,
Dunbar,
East Lothian,
EH42 1LL,
Scotland


  • +44 (0) 1368 862317


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.

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Description: Dunbar Golf Club 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. Rating: 7.2 out of 10 Reviews: 45
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greg s
Played Dunbar in May 2014. The prevailing wind did a 180 on us, hence the entire front nine (except for #2) was into a steady 35 mph wind. What a brute. Had to wear three layers of clothing and hat, yet the local members were playing in shorts! Worth a return visit (North Berwick in the morning and Dunbar in the afternoon).
July 09, 2015
8 / 10
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Dr J Taylor Hill
November 15, 2015
Dunbar is firmly amongst the ranks of the toughest courses for girls and ladies anywhere in Scotland. It is officially rated 10th most difficult course from the ladies tees.
Becky Holder
December 07, 2015
Played Dunbar as part of a pilgrimage to what I and my friends believed to be Scotland's finest links courses in September 2015 and we weren't disappointed. Every hole has a view of the sea with nine holes immediately on the shoreline; it's a spectacular setting and I'd read a couple of interesting points - one being that the setting of the clubhouse at no more than 10 paces from the sea makes it the nearest clubhouse to the sea anywhere in the world and two that Dunbar ranks as the 9th toughest course for ladies anywhere in Scotland. I can vouch for both points as my fellow foursome (all of us ladies with handicaps ranging from 3 down to plus 1) had to work hard to match the less-tha-generous par of 72 in a two-club wind. The great holes to my mind are the 4th with a green set at an angle to the fairway hugging the shoreline - not long at 340 yards as we played it from the members' mens' tees but a four will always be a good score on a viciously fast green. The there's the 6th and 7th hugging the 8-foot high internal wall before a glorious 500-yard 9th when the drive is played to the end of a long plateau before a bunker-studded fairway yields to a undulating green that has few visual markers to help judge distance. The course turns for home at the 11th and back-to-back with the 12th, 13th and 14th must surely make the toughest run of par 4s from any tee anywhere in Scotland. Desperate to return now next year. I'd say it's better than Gullane number 1 but up there with Monifieth Medal, North Berwick, Panmure, Nairn Championship, Ladybank and Old Moray for sheer difficulty for ladies and men alike - a true and proper test with no weak holes and no fake holes in fact only one ladies' par 4 of less than 300 yards and that in my book means it's a proper test. Any ladies with low single-figure/category 1 handicaps here have certainly earned them!
Dan Hare
Having played Dunbar previously in Spring after hollow tining and being held up by a large golf society, I was keen to see how it played in the Summer as well as playing the last four holes other than by sense of smell ! The out and back routing was just as much fun and challenging as i remembered, the wall is great fun, and the only annoyance being the narrow shared fairway on 6/17 which caused a bit of delay. The greens were excellent with a seamless transition to the hard, fast fairways giving free rein for bumps and runs or heroic putts down-wind where a lofted ball left a puff of dust and a tricky chip back out of clingy rough through the back. Great scenery on a wonderful sunny late afternoon. Very tricky with an unusual SE wind, the front nine became epic with a sliced 3 wood approach to the seventh disappearing over the wall. It was wonderful to play the last few holes in blue white Northern sunlight heading steadily back towards the townscape as with classic East Coast links like St Andrews * 3, Dornoch, Lossiemouth, North Berwick * 2, Montrose, Nairn, Royal Aberdeen, Brora, Wick...say no more, all hail the out and back ! All 9 of our group loved it and the great twilight value, other than not being allowed to sit outside and have a drink in the sunshine, a common situation in Scotland it feels. However the club house appears to allow spikes throughout which is a progressive move (or lack of a steward !). Highly recommended, up to a strong 5 from a 4.
July 06, 2015
8 / 10
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DavidM
A classic links, most of which is hard by the rocky shoreline with great views of the Firth of Forth. The greens were in superb condition when we played on Sunday - stimp 11, I'd say, and challenging with so many slopes and a 35mph wind. Friendly club, good catering and good value for the green fee. Let's hope the planned hotel doesn't spoil that.
June 11, 2015
8 / 10
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David Worley
The course is in two sections with a narrow slither of land in the centre bordered by the old deer park stone wall on the one side and the sea on the other. This strip is just wide enough for two fairways and contains the 6th, 7th and 15th to 17th holes. The other unusual feature is that the opening two holes are both par fives and all three of the par fives are on the front nine.

The third is a delightful par three from a high tee heading straight out to the sea. This is not a good place for a bad shot as the green has the old clubhouse on the left and professional shop on the right. The 4th runs along the seashore but from then onwards you play the inland side of the course until the 11th.

Seven has a quaint feel as you dogleg right to the green with a stone wall on the right and the old boat house to the left. Whilst essentially flat, the par five 9th provides for a blind tee shot up a hill from where the views are superb. The drive is made a little more intimidating by the stone wall along the right. Dunbar would not be a happy place for a chronic slicer.

The sea is very much in play for the second shot on the 14th and both shots on the par four 15th. The two finishing holes are each good par fours. Seventeen is not long at 338 yards, but you must hit over a burn with both your drive and approach and the sea runs close by along the right. The 18th runs parallel with the 4th but the two fairways are separated by an internal stone wall which becomes out of bounds if you stray from the 18th to the 4th.

This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.
April 12, 2015
6 / 10
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chris brockbank
Played Dunbar 26/07/14 and whilst being a stunning setting I found the condition poor. The greens were lumpy and the tees a mess with the ground so hard we were unable to get a tee peg in. Having just played Leven and Lundin which were in good condition it was a shame as Dunbar enjoys a far better layout and scenery.
July 31, 2014
6 / 10
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CJY Lawrence
Something of a surprise with Dunbar, I must confess. I'd heard that it was wise to make one's score on the outward nine, especially in a westerly as the homeward stretch is tough when faced back into the wind but finishing level 4s from the turn on what was a gusty 30mph day was a great surprise. The condition in August (2013) wasn't the best with lots of bare, divotted fairways although this may be down to the course being over-played by visitors to the Open not to mention the Open pre-qualifying itself. However, a great course and to my mind it seemed shorter in length than I'd expected and it played that way too. great old-fashioned clubhouse with robust food and a welcoming reception from the steward and staff. But well worth the money overall and cheaper than North Berwick and Gullane and without a poor hole anywhere - they all offered something different and tested one's game to the full. Well recommended though the club needs to get the fairways smartened up a bit before next year.
September 23, 2013
8 / 10
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Ray Shillito
June 21, 2014
The course is as described by many reviewers. I live in the USA and encountered it on a calm sunny day (in the morning) and loved the course. In the afternoon the breeze came up and the course got a lot more interesting and using your head and playing beneath the wind became a necessity. The course can easily be reached by train for those who do not want to drive(which I did from Edinburgh) - its a brisk 15 minutes from the station, whcih is not much if you are about the walk the course itself. Nice breakfast and lunch, and the local Belhaven beer is a delight. Well worth the trip.
Steve
August 23, 2014
I played it second week of August. Sun was out, so was the wind! Course was in good shape and we really enjoyed it. Some fabulous and memorable seaside holes. I think you played it after the unusually long dry spell, so the turf was probably baked. It was absolutely fine though now.
Frank Ricard
Played Dunbar on a lovely sunny day in January with not a cloud in the sky. The 35mph wind did make it rather interesting though. The last 4 holes I was straight into the wind and it was gusting upto 50 - a 5 club wind on one of the par 3's! Despite that it was an enjoyable round and an excellent course. Some very good holes and plenty that are literally right on the water. Not the toughest course but plenty to think about off the tee. Excellent condition and greens were impeccable for the time of year. The pro and staff In the clubhouse were very friendly and welcoming. The food and drink were good quality and value. .
February 02, 2013
8 / 10
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Jim McCann

Eskimos would hardly venture out to face the sort of snowy scene I found first thing today in Glasgow but intrepid Scottish golfers are made of sterner stuff so two a half hours later and 85 miles away on the east coast, I bowled into Dunbar to find the course bathed in glorious winter sunshine, even if it was a little frosty in places.

Since I last played here, a snaking burn has been introduced on the first hole which I really like but I’m not so sure about the parkland pond to the left of the green - Dunbar Golf Couse - Photo by Jim McCannmaybe it has always been there? Anyway, it looks totally out of place on what’s meant to be a links course.

I played the first three holes in no time at all then it was time to take on the real seaside challenge on the other side of the big estate wall that runs along the coast. Holes 4 to 8 and 14 to 17 are somehow squeezed into a sliver of land between the wall and the shore and it’s on this compact tract of real estate that you can only marvel at how somebody like Old Tom was able to make the very best use of the limited terrain available to lay out holes that dovetail so well.

The ground at the far end of the course between holes 8 and 13 is more contoured, offering very interesting green sites, the best of which for me is at the 13th, where a couple of new bunkers to the right of the punchbowl green will catch many an approach shot this summer.

A word too about the clubhouse as it’s one of the most homely you could imagine – there’s more than a whiff of Royal West Norfolk or Royal North Devon about here (one of the four ball ahead had a dog on a lead too) so you know it’s an unpretentious place where golfers relax in very informal surroundings.

I just loved being back here today to have the values of traditional Scottish links golf reaffirmed to me once again. And was that the name of fearless golf correspondent John Huggan that I saw on the Past Captain and Club Champion honours boards in the clubhouse?

Jim McCann.

December 05, 2011
8 / 10
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nick
September 21, 2012
really fun links course...played in 35mph wind which made it tough..thought the first couple of holes & the 18th were a tad boring (on the clubhouse side of the wall). but the rest of the course made up for it..some quirky links holes & stunning views...will definately be back...RD
David McIntosh
The waves were crashing against the shore as I arrived at Dunbar and made my way along the narrow road towards the clubhouse; despite the wind and rain clearly being in evidence I couldn't wait to get out onto the course for my first experience of the East Links due to the scenic coastal setting.

The first three holes and the last, as have been mentioned, are situated on the inland side of the course with holes 4-17 being perched on a narrow strip of land by the sea no more than a couple of fairways wide. The first couple of holes are understated compared to what lies in store later in the round but are decent enough holes to stand up in their own right. As they lie parallel to each other, with the 18th to the left there is a chance to open with the driver right from the off at Dunbar without fear of losing a ball. A small pond to the left of the 1st green has recently been built (to eradicate drainage problems I understand) and a burn runs infront of the putting surface and adds an extra element of difficulty to the opener. The 2nd is a pretty straight par 5 of just under 500 yards which takes the golfer back towards the pro shop and on to the challenging par three 3rd. The tee on the third, "Jackson's Pennies", is built into the hill and lies 152 yards from the well protected, undulating green, with the lovely backdrop of the Firth of Forth in the distance over the other side of the wall separating the opening and closing holes from the rest of the course.

Once the golfer steps through the wall to the 4th tee the course really comes alive and the views of the rocky coastline are a sight to behold. The 4th slightly bends to the left towards the sea and is a good hole to get the juices flowing on the seaside section of the course. A shortish par three follows before care must be taken on the 6th not to push the ball over the wall on the right which is a constant companion throughout the front nine. That wall (again!) blocks the view of the green on the tee shot of the 7th hole where the corner can be cut slightly to offer an easier approach to the sloping green. The 8th is another good hole with an uphill elevation change from tee to green before a blind tee shot to a rumpled fairway on the par 5 9th is followed by a second from well above the green making the chance of getting near to the green in regulation a real possibility.

The back nine begins with a long par three and although the quarry to the right is a bit of an eyesore it is easy enough to overlook this by taking a turn to the left and once again enjoying the great views of the choppy sea. The golfer is brought ever closer to the water on the next two tee shots with the tee boxes at the 11th and 12th being right next to the craggy rocks at the shore. The 12th was without a doubt my favourite hole on the course, a 445 yard slightly left to right par 4, with nothing but the Firth of Forth visible beyond the flag from the fairway. The hole is made doubly diffucult by the fact that anything right will end up wet - challenging indeed. The 13th, a shortish par 4 with a bathtub green, was a fun hole and incidently was the only one I had with the wind at my back coming home. 14 was another good hole, doglegging to the the left towards the stone shed adjacent to the 7th green. 15 and 16 are compact holes and fit in well with the rest of the course - the par 3 16th was particularly tough with a cross-wind to negotiate although my mishit shot somehow managed to trickle onto the green. Two streams from the sea disect the 17th hole, in what is the last of the scenic holes on the sea side of the wall, and the front of the green is protected by two well positioned bunkers. The wall comes into play one last time on the 18th, with anything sliced going OB over the wall. At 421 yards and heading back towards where the round began "Hame" is a difficult closing hole and par is well earned here before enjoying a beverage in the charming old clubhouse.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my round at Dunbar even in the miserable weather however none of that mattered given the quality of the course and the fantastic views during the round. Dunbar is a magnificent example of links golf as it was meant to be played and definitely should be on any golfers' itinerary when visiting East Lothian. DM
March 10, 2010
8 / 10
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Robert Smith
I arranged my first ever visit to Scotland in March 1991. 6 intrepid English golfers ventured North to savour Scottish Golf, and I didn't have a clue on which courses to play. Dunbar found it's way onto our itinerary, and we were due to play it on the 3rd day of our weeks visit.We arrived nice and early for our 18 holes, and the wind was already howling. You could hardly stand up or hear each other speak. This was our first true taste of Scottish links, our previous two games had been on sheltered parkland courses and we hadn't a clue what to expect. The first three holes were fairly straightforward, two par 5's (unusual) and a par 3 from an elevated tee, where one of our group nearly had his first ever hole in one. One more roll of the ball and it would have dropped.Then we ventured out onto the course proper. Jeez, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It looked like a moonscape. I don't remember much of the course, all I remember is the wind. I had never before played in wind of such strength and trust me, haven't since. A well struck drive downwind went for what seemed miles. Into the wind? About 80 yards if you were lucky. We had to walk in after 12 holes, it was that bad. We had been beaten. We went into the clubhouse afterwards for a drink and a meal and there was an old guy sitting at the bar sipping his whisky. "Is it always this windy here" we asked.He looked out of the window and commented "this is just a mild zephyr. You wait until it really gets up!"We were so impressed with the course though that we cancelled our Friday game and returned to play Dunbar. Thankfully the weather was better, the wind had dropped and the sun was out. We loved it. Fantastic tees, fairways, bunkers and greens. We returned to Scotland 4 or 5 more times after that, but bases ourselves further North so a reture to Dunbar was never on the cards again. But I'd love to go back sometime because it really is a great links.
February 04, 2010
10 / 10
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