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.
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!
Credit is warranted as the layout is clever and manages to keep the paperpulp factory pretty much out of the line of vision.. No mean feat for which some praise is deserved! But the course is a modern one and with the exception of a couple of original bunkers from an older Dundonald incarnation, this course feels like it has been built for the corporate (and possibly in time, for a professional tournament) market rather than as a classic links. On this stretch of coast and within a few miles, I can think of at least 5 courses I would rather play, but then perhaps there was never an intention to create a traditional links challenge. Why try and build a classic links in an area where nature has already produced some of the worlds finest!? Dundonald is a bit different, but it feels unnatural and at least as far as I am concerned, and there are many wonderful examples in the UK, a links needs to look and feel natural to the landscape. As yet, Dundonald does not but perhaps it will mature.
Loch Lomond has thrown some serious money at this course and the transformation is staggering with special mention for the drainage which at times during development was a real problem. But the bulldozer’s work is apparent and the manufactured undulations of the greens could be classified as tricked-up. The lack of pace was possibly intentional as an acceleration of Stimp could cause serious problems here for anyone! That said, I really enjoyed a game at Dundonald and it was a treat to experience the Loch Lomond service and hospitality which is absolutely faultless.
This was a fun round on a good golf course which was definitely worth playing, but if visiting the area, the rankings are probably about right. Good enough, but geography dictates that you will always compare Dundonald to its neighbours and right now this is not as good as Western Gailes, Barassie or Glasgow Gailes which are all within hitting distance.