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.
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.
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