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Dunbar Golf Club

The North Sea will be your intimate partner on fully nine of the eighteen holes on this brilliant Scottish links golf course. That's the good news. It can also be the bad news if the wind is howling off the North Sea. But that's just the way it is on Scottish seaside links courses. Unless it's a bitter cold wind (which will make your round seem more like Anchorage Golf Club), it just adds another layer of difficulty to your round. Such cold winds are unlikely, however, because the town of Dunbar boasts that it is officially the sunniest spot in all of Scotland.

Imaginative layout and physical beauty are the hallmarks of Dunbar Golf Course
An imaginative layout combined with the sheer physical beauty of playing every shot next to the sea will make playing this golf course a memorable experience.

Dunbar Golf Club is as pure a Scottish links golf course as you will find

Dunbar golf course is as pure a Scottish links golf course as you will find but few golfers who are clients of a golf tour company will ever discover it because most of their clientele want to play only the famous golf courses, the ones they've heard of. However, for the independent golf traveler, Dunbar golf course is a rewarding experience and one you won't forget because Dunbar Golf Course is the equal of most of the golf courses in Scotland. And the views on Dunbar Golf Course are more magnificent than most of the more famous courses. On a clear day you can see all the way across the Firth of Forth to the coastline of Fife (where the venerable St. Andrews Old Course resides). Between the imaginative layout of the course and the beautiful scenery, Dunbar adds up to a great day of golf and at a great price.

Like so many golf courses in Scotland, when the course was laid out by young Tom Morris (one of the most famous of all Scottish golf course architects), only the objects that had to be removed were removed. If the hole could be laid out around something, then that "something" was left standing. On Dunbar Golf Course there are many holes--seven to be exact--that have remains of ancient stone walls incorporated into the hole layout as out of bounds markers. Some of the walls are 10 feet high!. Yet, rather than interfering with the holes, they actually enhance them.

Beginning With Bunkers Galore

Dunbar Golf Course begins interestingly enough with two par 5s followed by a par 3. There are 29 bunkers and one creek influencing your club selection on these three holes alone. And the wind...don't forget the wind. The prevailing wind will be directly behind you on the first tee, coming directly at you on the second tee, and blowing from your left on the third tee. Makes you wonder what's in store for the rest of the round! The opening three holes play out and back from the clubhouse and do not skirt the sea. On the 4th you begin your relationship with the North Sea and on nine of the next fifteen holes you will be playing right next to it. It's not until the 18th that you actually lose sight of the sea.


Dunbar Golf Course is a fair course with good length and well-placed bunkers. Really not a weak hole on the course, which has made it an obvious choice as a final qualifying course for the British Open Championship when held at Muirfield. Steve Elkington qualified at Dunbar for the 2002 Open Championship and went on to lose to Ernie Els in a playoff. The fact that it is used as a final qualifyer speaks highly of the quality of the golf course. However, it says nothing of the fun that playing this golf course will give you with its imaginative holes.

The 7th is typical of the imagination used in laying out this course. It's a dogleg right with a 10' wall running up the right side of the fairway from tee to green. A short drive or one too far right will not allow you to see the green on your second shot since the wall will block your view. Even if your drive is long enough, it's still a semi-blind shot over gently rising ground. Quite a hole and typical of the thought that went into the design of this unusual course. But number 12, a par 4, is the one to watch. It's rated the second most difficult but don't you believe it. It's one of the toughest holes you will ever play--especially if the prevailing wind is blowing even a little bit. First of all it's 445 yards from the gent's tees. As if that's not difficult enough, the North Sea is to your right, so any slice is wet. The landing area for long hitters slopes to the sea and is as undulating as a rumpled bedspread. Need more convincing? Okay, how about this: the green is terraced and has water on the right side and the back. The wind can blow your ball in the water or into one of three bunkers on the front and sides of the green. It's a great hole and one of my all-time favorites, not only for degree of difficulty but for sheer beauty. If you're having a good round up until now, better play this hole for bogey. If you're having a bad round, just enjoy the view.

The greens are not as difficult as some courses in the area, but that doesn't mean they are easy. Rather than big humps and sweeping curves, the greens rely on subtle breaks that are more difficult to discern. Take your time getting your read, then trust it.

Watch out for the flags. They are only five feet high rather than the usual six feet we see in the USA. This makes the green look farther away than it actually is. Even if you have a GPS measuring device or laser distance finder, when you're standing over your ball and look at the flag, you're unconscious will tell you you're further away than you are. If you don't have a measuring device, buy a yardage book and check your distances on each shot before choosing your club. Don't trust your judgment because these flags will fool you--even on short wedge shots.


So what's the verdict? It's not quite a "must play" but it's very close. It's got superb physical beauty, it's a fair yet demanding layout, and it has a great many unusual features, You won't find many golf courses like Dunbar. Definitely play it if you get a chance. It's one of those courses you'll always remember.

Golf Nook rating -- a solid BIRDIE

Miscellaneous notes -- There is a comfortable and clean clubhouse with changing area and showers available for visitors. Also, they have a good lounge presenting excellent bar food and, of course, drink. The lounge overlooks the 3rd green, so you can watch the players showing the same frustrations you just experienced. A driving range is handy for warming up. Club rental is also available.

In addition to the great links course, there is an excellent practice facility, which includes a large putting green and a practice ground with many target greens. It also includes a short game area with bunkers, target greens, and chipping area--a real bonus because few golf courses in Scotland have any kind of practice area other than a putting green.

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Mary-Alice suggests ...
What to Do All Day in Dunbar

Dunbar, an old-fashioned little town dating back to pre-Roman times, is consistently recorded as the sunniest and driest town in Scotland. To give you a feel for how time has passed it by, there is no public phone box that takes phone cards anywhere in town! You can see some nice photos of the town on their website: www.dunbar.org.uk

If you are pottering about here while your golfer is playing either the Dunbar Golf Course or the WInterfield course, you'll see the house at 128 High Street where John Muir was born. The United States likes to claim the great conservationist as their own, but he is actually a Scot. Muir spent his boyhood in Dunbar until his family emigrated to America, where he later established the first National Parks. Recognized as the founder of the worldwide conservation movement, the story of his life and work and his enduring influence is split between two venues in town, both of which you might like to visit--his birthplace on High Street and Dunbar Parish Church. Both are open daily.


Visit the harbour with all its fishing boats as well as a ruined castle right on the seafront. You can leave the car on the High Street and walk down to the harbour--it's only a couple of minutes away and there's good walking here.

A beautiful coastal footpath runs along the sea at Dunbar. (Shown on your Ordnance Survey.) It can be easily accessed from the WInterfield Golf Course (not the Dunbar G.C.) just as you enter the town from the northwest (from North Berwick). I once spent a serene couple of hours walking along this path.

Lauderdale Park is one of the lovliest public parks you will ever see. Aside from the gorgeous flower gardens and lawns, the park has the most wonderful children's play equipment--very aesthetic and imaginatively designed. You can park the car right at the entrance. Very easy to find--just a few blocks from the town centre, toward WInterfield Golf Club. Ask anyone in town where it is, or consult your Ordnance Survey map. When in Dunbar, be sure to stop here.

Belhaven Brewery - Scotland's oldest independent brewery company is in Dunbar. www.belhaven.co.uk

As always, you can buy good food in the shops for a picnic lunch, or you can stop in a small cafe' or pub, or you can eat at the golf clubhouse.