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.
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.
Its hard to fault any of the preceding reviews of Dunbar. As ever, discerning golfers give fair comment on where they have played and I can only echo most of their remarks: Yes, this is seaside (almost holiday) golf played on a narrowstrip of land with an out and back layout, bounded for long spells by a huge stone wall to the west.
Yet the greens and fairways are positioned such that you rarely feel restricted by play on adjacent holes.It is a very fair track where you can open your shoulders and let rip from the tee but if you are caught in a trap you may well have trouble escaping as many of the bunkers are deep and coffin shaped, containing an unusual mix of sand and crushed shell. But there’s no real tough rough to speak of so straying slightly from the fairway isno big deal.
It’s a pity the quarry inland from the holes at the turn has such a negative visual impact on the surrounding landscape at that point. On the plus side, the clubhouse seemed a bit rickety and run down but it oozed character and was a very welcoming place to escape to from the wind which was continually blowing across the course during the round.
One final, pernickety point. When did you last see holes and flagpoles as old fashioned as the ones in use here? Just another wee item which adds to the Dunbar golf course charm. Double up with a round at nearby North Berwick (West) links and you have a cracking 36 holes of golf for the price you would pay for just one round at one of the more celebrated Scottish links.
Dunbar should be on your play list, just as Muirfield and North Berwick will be for any serious golfing trip to East Lothian. The first two holes and the last are certainly the weakest, but the rest are solid. The greens and indeed the green sites are quite stunning...firm, fast seriously contoured and tough to read. End up in the wrong place on the green at your peril. In many ways, Dunbar is reminiscent of Kingsbarns and North Berwick...the main difference is that you feel more shoe-horned between the huge stone wall and the coastline, this makes each hole look tight but well defined. Surely Dunbar should be placed more highly in the rankings, it is a gem and so much history attached to this delightful club.