Dundonald Links

Kyle Phillips
Traditional flat links course, railway line, pines and gorse
North of Troon on the Ayrshire coast
Guy Redford
01294 314000
Guy Redford
Green Keeper
Frank Clarkson
Access Policy:
Visitors welcome at any time
Dog Policy:
Welcome on a lead
Open Meetings:
Fees in 1960s
Fees today
£55 to £95


The course was acquired in 2003 by Lyle Anderson’s exclusive Loch Lomond private club (the renowned ‘target’ course in stunning scenery on the banks of Loch Lomond) in order to give its members the taste of winter golf on decent turf. Dundonald Links’s first nine are good, the second nine are exceptional – similar in this characteristic to Hillside.

Flanked by the fine heathland links of Kilmarnock Barassie to the south, Glasgow Gailes to the north and the true duneland links of Western Gailes to the west, this course – that used to be called Southern Gailes – has a pedigree well worth discovering.

My initially sceptical approach to this club with the word ‘links’ tacked onto its name and designed by Californian Kyle Phillips but without the advantage of a seascape that he had used so well at Kingsbarns, has been blown away and I am a converted fan!

6th,clubhouse and Mill behind

6th,clubhouse and Mill behind

Helped by the General Manager/Professional who went out of his way to welcome and make us feel at home, one was nevertheless not initially impressed with the flat box of a functional clubhouse nor the idea of an enormous white coloured paper mill overlooking the site.

The fact that you can hardly see the sea from this flat links land with its scattering of pine trees and gorse became less important as, having enjoyed the front nine, I became increasingly excited by the back nine and my game improved in equal measure, as I had to concentrate and focus on a course brilliantly sculptured between created but natural-looking dunes.

Kyle Phillips has designed a traditional classic links with a meandering burn, revetted pot bunkers and quirky movement in the fairways to a championship challenge standard.

One doesn’t know whether the planning permission requirement to re-use a minimum of 40% of the previous Southern Gailes’ fairways was helpful or restrictive to Kyle Phillips’ impulses but he has created genuine undulations in the fairways (unlike the rolling flatness of Kingsbarns) and it feels natural.

The routing of the holes has been completely altered, as have, I believe, most of the greens, which are of predominantly fine fescue grasses, though some poa annua (meadow grass) is creeping back in places.

Some problems were encountered with the water table but the drainage issues now seem to be solved. The burn has been used well, running at 45 degrees across the fairway of the 530 yard par five 3rd hole, posing a number of choices dependent on the wind.

The Railway 13th

The Railway 13th

It also runs across in front of the green of the lovely 13th hole, bordered down one side by the railway line, and crosses in front of the 9th and 18th greens. Kyle Phillips has, though, moved this hazard back a little from the 18th recently, as he puts it “to turn an unfair shot into a demanding one”.

I was surprised that he did not use the burn as a hazard at the slightly bland par three 4th hole but perhaps the topography did not allow and the bulldozers were already being used enough.

On only four greens of the front nine and two of the back nine can one run-in a ball, without major swales, burns or bunkers needing to be flown, so in the wind much skill and creativity is required and the greens look optically smaller than they are.

Though some of the greens, like the par five doglegging 5th, the two-tier 13th and 16th have ‘modern’ large movement in their surface, the edge contouring is imaginative, different on every hole and requires creative recovery play, sometimes best played with the putter from off the green.

Dundonald links, finest golf courses review

The 120yard 11th

The short 11th is fun and, though suggestive of it, is not quite up with the famous ‘Postage Stamp’ at Royal Troon but the next drive, at the short par four 12th to a hog’s back fairway at a subtle angle to the tee, is superb.

Kilmarnock Barassie is just across the fence at this point and there is a view of the sea across Western Gailes.

Two especially great holes can be singled out. Firstly, the 170-215 yard par three 15th, into the prevailing wind, to a shelf green which will feed a ball in from the right. The famous railway, that comes

The 200yard 15th

The 200yard 15th

into play at the 1st at Prestwick and 11th at Royal Troon, runs directly behind this green.

Secondly, the long par four 16th, which is separated from the 14th by a dune and has to be played down a tunnel with pines and the railway line to the right and a beautifully created central swale dividing the fairway in two. There is a confusing bunker thirty yards short of the green on the left and I have to admit I was extremely pleased with myself in deciding to play short of the green over this bunker, setting up a bump and run 4, which I executed with precision! (As is so often with my game, if I get excited about a course, I concentrate, decide what to do and play better).

The very fine 16th

The very fine 16th

I was most grateful for a tip from the helpful starter that the line from the tee on many holes is one taken near to a single bunker on the horizon down the fairway; it helps focus the mind to have a clear aim. There is usually more fairway than one thinks from the tee and there is a definition to the shot (unlike, for example, the vast expanses at the visually exciting Castle Stuart).

The 17th, a strong dogleg left with a cluster of bunkers on the corner that would only be a dangerous temptation when strongly downwind but, playing to the flat green, one must not get into the one pot bunker guarding the left of the green, as its design, with a vertical revetted front face, certainly posed me a problem.

The 18th green

The 18th green

This course has a very fine, stretchy finish capped off with a dogleg right, 515-560 yard par five with cross bunkers to carry for your second and a burn to pitch over to the green, plus two bunkers behind the green for those shots that run through.

The course has now been opened to the public to play at a reasonable fee and, though the course needs time to mature, with Richard Windows the respected STRI agronomist, who relaunched Jim Arthur’s practical advice under the brand of the ‘Disturbance Theory’ being the advisor here, sustainable greenkeeping is likely to be pursued and poa annua (meadow grass) kept at bay.

There is no reason why Dundonald Links should not soon be considered in the same breath as the historic and prestigious links of Prestwick, Royal Troon and Western Gailes on this stretch of wonderful golfing coastline.

The big paper mill is soon forgotten after a few holes but is a helpful landmark for finding the course, which is a good three miles westward from the non-golfing village of Dundonald.

Review by Lorne Smith 2009

Reader Comments

On September 28th, 2009 Martin Trautmann from Germany said:

Hello Lorne,
I´ve played this wonderful Links Course this year in August and I´ll never forget the 15th hole the par 3 by the railway, because I had a beautiful hole in one with my rescue 3 TaylorMade
but you know with a lot of luck…….

Dear Martin, I hope it cost you a decent amount in the clubhouse and at the Old Loans Inn! Best wishes from Lorne

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