Dundonald Links originally set out to be part of a golf and residential complex called Southern Gailes but when that didn’t happen, Loch Lomond Golf Club stepped in to snap up the course for its members in 2003, commissioning Kyle Phillips to put the finishing touches to the design.
Dundonald translates to “Fort Donald” and fortifications have been located near here dating as far back as 200 BC. A golf course existed on the site in the 1900s but this was later turned into a military station named Dundonald Camp. It was here that D-Day landings were rehearsed during the Second World War.
Lying next to the long established courses of Kilmarnock Barassie, Glasgow Gailes and Western Gailes, Dundonald is obviously situated in prime golfing country. The course yardage can vary from 6,415 to 7,300 yards so it can be played as a comfortable member course or as a championship venue.
Only opened in 2005, Dundonald has since proved to be a links of some repute and was the proud host venue for the 2017 Scottish Open, which Rafa Cabrera-Bello won in a play-off. If you like the pampering that goes with golf at the top tracks then this is the place to enjoy such millionaire’s golf for a relatively modest green fee.
The Dundonald experience begins at the gatehouse when the security man lifts the barrier to let you in – everyone from then on seem to know your name. It’s a mirror of the treatment you get at Loch Lomond, but the course here on the Ayrshire coast is a true links layout and the polar opposite of the private layout on the shores of the famous loch.
In 2019 Loch Lomond Golf Club sold Dundonald
Links for £4.5 million to Darwin Leisure. The new owners intend to build a
clubhouse and will continue to allow playing rights for Loch
Lomond members at the links.
Inevitably we have the Loch Lomond brand and dynamism of Kevin Gyle competing against the established tradition and natural wonder of Western Gailes. Off the record, we were informed that the owners are trying to sell the Dundonald. It’s no secret that Loch Lomond is struggling financially and it is likely that they are trying to offload what is considered to be the member’s winter course. Read what you will into these rumours and stories but if the outcome is a £30 green fee (applicable Monday to Friday for post 15:00 tee times) then you won’t catch me complaining.
The course itself is a delight to play. Previous complaints about immaturity can be dismissed as you would never now that Dundonald is a relatively young course. It plays like a dream and seems to naturally unfold as you meander through the fairways and surrounding dunes. The greens are of exceptional quality and struck me as being extremely versatile. The pin positions were rather conservative during my visit but the potential to crank it up a notch was more than evident given the complexity of many of the greens.
You cannot review Dundonal without mentioning the bunkers as it presents some of the fiercest, cavernous, gaping black holes that I have ever come across. Truly daunting and wickedly located. There is a plentiful abundance of potential to hold a EPGA event on this links. Contrary to what some may suggest there is nothing overly contrived about Dundonald. Granted it does not have the sea views of Western Gailes that seem to augment the organic experience but it does not play or feel like a manufactured links.
There are plenty of memorable holes with three of the four par 3’s being of exceptional quality. The 6th. 11th and 16th demand the type of shot that makes me play this beautiful game. As you stand on these Tee’s you are presented with a jaw droopingly inviting shot full of risk and reward. Exactly what a par 3 should offer. I all too easily fell into the trap of grabbing the driver out of the bag and blasting into the unknown when faced with the unfamiliar. There is far more to this course thatn meets the eye and in retrospect I wish I had thought a touch more strategically from the tee and I may of kept the ball in play and carded a half decent score. It’s tough in parts with the back 9 being much harder. I didn’t play anywhere near my handicap but still cannot wait to return. Given time this course will close the perceived gap between its alleged more illustrious neighbour and it will certainly rise up this top 100 list.
The short holes are an excellent mix and it is worth highlighting the 15th - A long carry with a fearsome greenside bunker located deep beneath the raised putting surface. This would grace any open championship track and would be the potential "card wrecker" for any great score coming in. The shortest of the par 3's are the 7th and the 11th. Both are well protected, but the 11th plays straight into the wind (as you head toward the sea). Taking a wedge and lobbing It high in the air is not the shot, but from a tee not much more than a100yards it is hard to tell yourself to do any different!! As you head down the 12th you only see glimpses of the sea, however what the Gailes loses and Dundonald gains is its abundance of pine trees which provide an attractive routing and backdrop to many of the holes. A number of par 4's and 5's are framed beautifully and are toughened by the meandering burn which is a feature of the course. The 2nd, 9th, 14th and 16th capture the pleasure of pine mixed with links with clever use of bunkering along the fairways and around the greens.
As a course we were left feeling that Dundonald rightly commands its place in the Top 100 and compliments the traditional Western Gailes experience. The staff at Dundonald made us feel very welcome and as a package it should be on your play list when visiting the west coast of Scotland. Ian Henley
I could go on at length about each of these holes but I would like to single out 3. The aforementioned 11th which is Dundonald's answer to the postage stamp. A seemingly innocuous 120 yard one shoter but don’t be fooled and don’t be long as a crafty coffin bunker awaits over hits making par from here neigh on impossible. The 17th is a tricky dog-legged par 4 with more strategic bunkers than you can shake a stick at and the 18th, a par 5 with a do or die 3rd shot over a burn which serpentines the green should you chose to take it on. So, in the end, despite my misgivings, Dundonald won me around. I still think that it is a course which will suit big hitters better but it is worth playing for the last 8 holes alone. If I have to enter the Dundonald/Kingsbarns debate then my vote must definitely goes to Fife as Kingsbarns, due to its location has something that Dundonald can never have. That being said I can see both sides of the argument but one thing that can’t be argued is that Dundonald is a quality track which eventually captured my curmudgeon heart. MPPJ
It was just over three years since I first played here when I took advantage of Dundonald’s very generous winter 2008/9 tee time offer and gave myself the chance to reacquaint myself with the course. I agree with others that the man made dunes look a wee bit artificial in places, but maybe only because they were quite bare on a late February morning and will look better when grasses grow back in the spring.
I also agree with other reviewers that a) this track is tougher than Kingsbarns (especially when the par fives on the front nine are played into the prevailing wind), b) it sometimes feels more about length (even from the member tees) than strategy on the way round and c) the 4th hole is the only one of the par threes that doesn’t quite hit the spot the way the others do.
Holes 3 and 9 with water cutting across the fairways are memorable on the front nine but the round really comes to life on the back nine, starting at the par three 11th. From this point on, holes just get stronger and stronger, finishing with a very tough trio that play to stroke index 1, 7 and 5!
After nominating Dundonald as a gem back in November 2005, I can confirm that a couple of concerns then have since been sorted – the drainage of some fairways here is no longer an issue as every single one played to a true, free-draining links standard and the new course yardage book now correctly gives notice of the water hazards at holes 6, 9, 13 and 18 – proving just how responsive to Top100 criticism the nice people at Loch Lomond Golf Club can be!