Dundonald, Best of the West?

Editor Richard Bath travelled to his old stamping ground of Ayrshire to try out the acclaimed £25 million Dundonald Links golf course, plus its restaurant and lodges.

Dundonald Links is right at the heart of Ayrshire’s golf coast, just a 45-minute drive south west of Glasgow. Formed from what was once Southern Gailes, it is hammed in by Western Gailes, Glasgow Gailes and Kilmarnock Barassie, with Prestwick and Troon just along the coast, and Turnberry 40 minutes to the south.

I first played Dundonald when it was Loch Lomond’s links course, and even at those very early stages it was clear that it would develop into a great old-school links course, and that’s certainly what’s happened. The par-72 Kyle Phillips designed course also has the trophies to back up my opinion: it was home to the Ladies Scottish Open for three years from 2015-2017, hosted the Scottish Open in 2017, the Women’s Scottish Open in 2022 and 2023, and is until 2026 a final qualifying course for The Open Championship.

Although it’s not right on the water, I really enjoyed this nicely understated track, which reminded me in places of Turnberry’s Ailsa course. I’m a big-hitting but wayward 18-handicapper, but this was a very fair test even for a pretty mediocre golfer like me. My playing partner, who was a low-teens handicapper, also found it a really satisfying experience. The course is also in great condition.

Another thing to bear in mind was the whole experience. There are palatial changing rooms, an excellent halfway house, the course was quite busy yet we were never under any pressure, and there’s a relaxed bonhomie to the whole place – when I asked whether my (really well-behaved)  dog could come around with me, they just looked at me and said: “Of course”.

It’s also worth noting is that Dundonald have combined with the Machrie on Islay – plus Prestwick and Western Gailes – to produce a week dubbed “The Ultimate West Coast Experience”. More to follow on that…

Green fees in high season cost £155 for residents with a second round within five days costing £95; in low season (from mid October to May) the cost comes down to £75 and £45. For non-residents that cost is £195/£95 in high season and £95/£55 in low season. There is also an off-season deal for Scottish resident golfers, with a limited number of tee times available at £75.


Since the course was purchased by Darwin Estates in 2019, there has been a frenetic £25 million building programme. The result of this is a stunning new clubhouse and restaurant (more of which later) and a collection of excellent 2-, 4- and 6-bedroomed lodges, all of which were finished in 2021. There are hotel rooms, which are right by the clubhouse, but we stayed in one of the two bedroomed lodges, which are clustered in a horseshoe shape around a putting green, with each lodge having a terrace and BBQ overlooking the putting surface with the Firth of Clyde and Arran in the background.

Our lodge was flawlessly clean and well-designed, with a small kitchen stocked with life’s essentials (breakfast, beer, water, coffee and shortbread) and a huge 65-inch wall-mounted television. The rooms – which could be doubles of twins – were en suite and really comfortable.

The hotel rooms are available from £165 per night, while the two-bedroomed lodge was from £420 per night, the four-bedroomed lodges are from £960 per night and the six-bedroomed lodges are from £1620 per night (but also have a pool table!).

The contemporary Canny Crow restaurant is an unbeatable environment with stunning views across the Firth of Clyde. The food is ambitious to live up to the environment, and with a lovely a la carte menu for evening dinner, succeeds. It’s not cheap, but at its best it’s good value for money and somewhere worth travelling to. Dishes like stone bass, halibut, Gressingham duck and Troon Bay langoustines give a sense of what’s on offer, while the wine list is genuinely decent.

During the day, there’s an all-day menu with virtually all the usual suspects – venison burgers, beef burger with haggis, fish and chips, grilled hake, pasta, curry, beef bourguignon, and the like, not to mention a commendably hearty breakfast.

There’s also a fantastic whisky room which was curated by our own Blair Bowman, with the course’s own cask of Bunnahabhain whisky, a wonderful dram from the surprisingly nearby (as the crow flies!) island of Islay. The Whisky Room has a great selection of over 100 whiskies, is a real classy environment and also doubles as a private dining room.

For more visit – www.dundonaldlinks.com

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Plus, don’t miss the July issue of Scottish Field magazine.