Dundonald Links - 16 POINTS
South of Glasgow, on the way to Turnberry you will come across a plethora of top quality links courses which will provide the most authentic of experiences to any visitor. Glasgow Gailes, Western Gailes, Royal Troon are all fantastic courses which deserve their place on any golf tour. And then there is Dundonald. Dundonald is the Links course belonging to the members of Loch Lomond. Unlike the majestic Loch Lomond though this is a course which anyone can play, for a fee, and is accessible to all, all year round.
It was with some excitement then that I visited Dundonald but I think it is hard to see it quite in the same league as the aforementioned courses. It is a perfectly good links experience, and definitely a good test, but it doesn't capture the imagination and make you smile quite like one of the Gailes courses. Don't get me wrong, it's just fine, but in these parts I would argue that just fine isn't quite enough.
The course itself is a par 72 which ranges from 6,300 to 7,300 yards. Needless to say, I went nowhere near the back tees but they will mean that when the Scottish Open comes here in 2017 there will be no worries about whether changes need to be made to the course to test the world's finest, from there this will be a tough track - if there's a little wind there could be havoc.
The world's finest may find the many burns that cut across in front of greens and bisect fairways a little annoying, the bunkers a little penal and the greens a little too tricked up in places. Off the tee it is fairly generous (cross reference Yas Links, Kingsbarns and The Grove) although it will help if you are a drawer of the ball as many holes go right to left. The course is not Philips' finest work and definitely suffers from not being next to the coast for any real wow factor, but what you will get here is a perfect serviceable 18 holes which will test your game. But good luck remembering too much about it a few years later.
BOOKING THE COURSE
Unlike other courses in the region Dundonald is fully accessible 7 days a week - quite a contrast from their illustrious sister club Loch Lomond. If only it were the other way around!! You can book tee times here - it's very straightforward to organise. Green fees range from £55 on an offseason weekday to £125 on a summer morning but you can play for just £85 on a summer weekday after 3pm which given the amount of light left in a day is a great option.
However, if you are looking for a great experience in the area do consider booking the 'Gailes Experience'. You pay from £135 in the winter rising to £260 in the summer for 3 green fees - Western Gailes, Glasgow Gailes and Dundonald. To give you an idea of the value it could cost you £375 to book those independently so well worth looking at.
The Ayrshire coast is often overlooked and as quality golf is added to both the far north and north-east of Scotland the competition is only increasing. However, it is very accessible, easy to get around and a really classic links experience. Western Gailes is just south of Irvine, only 45 minutes south of Glasgow Airport. Where to base yourself probably depends which other courses you are looking to play but you could do a lot worse that use Troon as your base, it certainly has more to offer than Irvine and is less than 15 minutes away from Western Gailes, Glasgow Gailes and Dundonald. We stayed at the Marine hotel, overlooking the 18th green and a short way from the harbour which has lots of eating and drinking options. Alas Pebbles, the pub-come-nightclub which looked like it was someone's front room, is now closed but there are still plenty of options to enjoy.
As with the Gailes experience for tee times keep your eyes out for packages to this area. £300 gets you three rounds of golf, 2 nights bed and breakfast and a dinner here!
Western and Glasgow Gailes and Dundonald would all be good additions to any tour, and probably in that order. The obvious other big guns to add would be Prestwick, host to 24 Opens, and current rota courses Royal Troon and Turnberry, which is 40 minutes to the south.
I would thoroughly recommend a trip to this part of Scotland and you will experience some great value links golf.