East Lothian is one of my favorite golfing areas in the world. Ever since I played my first round on “Scotland’s Golf Coast,” I have made it my goal to knock off every note-worthy course in East Lothian. I have been lucky enough at this point to have played North Berwick, Archerfield (Fidra), Renaissance Club, Muirfield, and Gullane (1, 2 & 3). The next course to knock off the list was Dunbar Golf Club.
I had heard great things about the course and was eager to make the train journey with my ever-present golfing buddy Matt to play a round. We made the walk from the train station to the golf course, had a pair of “36 Hole Burgers,” and proceeded to tee off on a cold Tuesday afternoon.
One of the most interesting features of Dunbar Golf Club is the routing. There is a large stone wall separating the course from Broxmouth Park that runs parallel to the beach through the entire course. All but four holes are wedged between the beach and the wall in a traditional “out and back” layout. The first three holes and the last hole are on the inland side of the wall.
The opening hole (seen above) is a par 5 working away from the clubhouse. The tee shot looks challenging visually with a line of bunkers seemingly dissecting the fairway. A winding burn in front of the green is very reminiscent of the first hole on the Old Course here in St Andrews.
The third hole could be considered the course’s signature hole. It is a downhill 173 yard par three with a very interesting green complex. The view is stunning with the sea, clubhouse, and coastline all being visible from the elevated tee.
The fourth is the first hole on the course to be on the left side of the Broxmouth Park wall. The tee shot is deceptive due to the fairway running out abruptly on the left. There is plenty of room right, and my slight pull off the tee ended up settling onto the beach (right from where the picture was taken).
I thoroughly enjoyed the interplay of the wall with the course, but it presented problems at points for the routing. The fifth hole was a weak, short par 3 that seemed out of place, jammed between two holes due to lack of space. It was one of the few weak holes on the course.
Both the 6th (pictured above) and the 7th holes incorporate the wall along the entire right side of the fairway and green. If you have a problem losing the ball right, you’re going to struggle at Dunbar.
The 8th hole breaks away from the wall and presents a different style of par 4 from what had been previously seen in the round. The bunkers lining the fairway and surrounding the green penalize any errant shots and reward accuracy.
The 9th hole requires a blind tee shot, but once the hill is crested, there is a gorgeous view to be seen. A good drive on the 532 yard hole still leaves a long shot into the green.The view down to the well-bunkered 9th green is only tarnished by the massive mining and industrial structures in the near distance…
After the 11th hole, the direction of play turns around to swing back towards the clubhouse. The sea is now on the player’s right, and the views get better and better. The 12th hole, seen above, is another tricky tee shot, with the fairway running out on the right side. Aim very far left for this tee shot. My never having seen the course resulted in a number of lost balls during the round, this hole included.
The 13th hole on the course has a blind shot to a very unique green. The green is sunk nearly fifteen feet below ground level and slopes severely from back to front. The green complex (minus the bunkers) reminded me of the famous coffin green of the 14th hole at Cruden Bay.
The elevated 14th tee box provides a beautiful view of the hole with the “Mill Stone Den” and the famous Bass Rock in the background.
The fifteenth hole only required a 3 wood off the tee, but made for a challenging approach shot to yet another interesting green complex. The sea off the right hand side of the green doesn’t really come into play, but it is still visually intimidating and, as with many of the holes coming down the stretch, it subconsciously creates a desire to err left.
The 18th hole on the course jumps back to the inland side of the Broxmouth Park Wall. It is a challenging 435 yard par 4. Tee shots played close to the wall are rewarded with a superior angle into the difficult, raised green.
Dunbar Golf Club was yet another very fun East Lothian golf course. There was a mixture of strong and weak holes, but the round was extremely enjoyable. I will definitely be looking forward to playing another round at Dunbar at some point. Are there any recommendations for the next East Lothian course to knock off the list?
A great course – classic Scottish links and a real test regardless of whether the wind blows or not. A quick point to update your own review is that the mining structures visible from the 9th fairway have been removed and now it is a wonderful panorama that greets us all. I played with three girlfriends last September and we weren’t surprised to have read elsewhere that Dunbar is rated in the top three or four toughest courses for ladies anywhere in Scotland; tougher even that Gullane 1, North Berwick and all the Gleneagles courses and even the Old Course, St Andrews. No doubt this is partly due to the rather mean par of 72 with the stretch from holes 11th to 14th being particularly long with the 12th itself being a smidge under 400 yards and yet being a par 4. I’ve played many a course with par 5s for us girls of 370 yards so hats off to those Dunbar ladies with low single-figure handicaps! Myself and my friends hold handicaps from +1 through to 3 so I think we know a bit and would testify that Dunbar is up there with the hardest for sure and that’s without taking the constant two-club wind into account. We managed to shoot a best 71 scratch and a worst 76 and we really played as good as we could in the conditions! The condition of the greens was perfect with them running fast as links greens should be. The course layout is pretty classic with an outward ten holes before turning for home into the prevailing winds. I’d read somewhere as well that Dunbar was Scotland’s own Pebble Beach and I’d agree as nine holes actually border the shoreline and the sea is visible from all 18 holes. I also think the other unique features are that the course is known for having the closest clubhouse of any to the sea whilst the course itself ranks in the ten oldest – walking in the footsteps of history for sure. And it’s an Open qualifying venue to boot; Dunbar has it all!! My group loved the place and would rank it better than those others mentioned above.
Hi Rebecca, thank you for taking the time to write a great comment! It is nice to hear that the large mining structure has been removed… I can imagine that the view is even better now. I completely agree that Dunbar is an underrated links that deserves much more credit. Thanks again!
I’m planning a trip to east lothian next summer. Spending 2 days in St. Andrews with hopes of getting on as a single. Other courses I’m planning on playing include kilspiendie, musselburgh old course, Glen Club, West links, Dunbar, Eyemouth, and some borders courses. My wife will play some of the easier courses like 9 hollers in the borders area. Would it be worth traveling to Prestwick? Any other recommendation. I’m a 15 handicap. Tom Obrodovich age 70 but in good walking shape
Hi Tom, It sounds like you’ve got a great trip planned! From the looks of what you have planned, I would not journey to the west coast to play Prestwick. That’s no knock on Prestwick (I love the place), but it doesn’t really work logistically. I think your time would be better spent sticking around East Lothian to play the likes of Gullane 1, 2, or 3. Otherwise, the trip looks great!
Garylyn, We had a great time in Scotland in late August. After a 4am arrival at the old course I was #9 and teed off at noon. It was great. Golf Channel was at the course and interview al 9 of us for a 2020 feature during The Open. We drove to North Berwick. We played Kilspindie, Winterfield, Dunbar and Glen Club. Kilspindie was great. Back nine at Winterfield was a pleasant surprise after a poor front nine. Dunbar and Glen Club were both outstanding. We will be back to Scotland again. We loved everything about it especially the fish, whiskey and beer. Tom Obrodovich Eagle River Wis