A £25 million development has made Dundonald Links a must visit venue in Ayrshire - so Steve Carroll did just that. Here's what he found
I couldn’t resist the temptation any longer. I scrabbled around in the golf bag, frantically grabbed a couple of balls and my putter, and practically sprinted through the double doors of the lodge.
Dundonald Links’ par 3 11th hole was barely 150 yards away. But it wasn’t even in my field of vision.
There was no need to surreptitiously blag a couple of late evening holes. My horizons stretched no further than the stretch of perfect, contoured, turf barely a few feet from the kitchen landing.
It made the Himalayas at St Andrews look like a flat piece of land. The putts broke severely, they deliciously dropped into the cup. It was what a spare half an hour was made for.
But the putting greens, purposely designed by golf architect Kyle Phillips and which frame the three sextets of lodges at the Ayrshire course aren’t just decorative – a bit of a gimmick to catch the eye on a golfing break.
They’re indicative of a venue that’s done everything it can over the last couple of years to go the extra mile.
Whether it’s the bag drops, the huge beds that separate out into singles, or the drying rooms for that time when your kit is caught out in the rain, Dundonald Links have catered for your every need.
Darwin Escapes bought the property in 2019 with the aim of making the complex one of the best play and stay venues in the UK.
They poured £25 million into building a new clubhouse, a total of 76 rooms on site in 18 lodges, and 22 hotel pods, along with a million invested into the golf course.
The results are absolutely magnificent.
The lodges, which are split between two, four, and six beds, really are the epitome of luxury – their sheer size, contemporary décor and comfort, taking the weight off your feet the moment you pass through the opening door.
The hotel rooms, no more than a long putt from the clubhouse, are strikingly elegant and uncluttered – but that simplicity doesn’t detract from the overall quality. This is high end accommodation.
Then there’s that clubhouse. Wow. It’s undoubtedly the jewel in the crown – a building where golfers will be delighted to while away a few post-round hours.
From its striking circular ceiling surrounds of hickory clubs, to its elegant dining area, and laid-back style, whether it’s a formal dining experience you’re after or just a pint after a game, you’ll find something to suit.
See if you can drag yourself away from the pool table. It’ll take many, many, return visits to try all the varieties on offer in a Whisky Room that is remarkably private in what is otherwise such an open plan and busy space.
We haven’t even talked about the golf course yet, which has seen some further investment and the return of Phillips to oversee some cosmetic fine tuning on a routing that has hosted the men’s and women’s Scottish Opens.
Tees have been moved and resized – doubled and trebled in some cases. Their orientation has been altered, to provide players with a different perspective to a hole, and to increase the options for day-to-day play.
The layout remains a formidable challenge – its inviting fairways guarded by devilish bunkers and greens that will confound if you can’t find the right line.
In truth, it has always been a spectacular course. But what Dundonald Links can also boast now is all the other pieces in the jigsaw.
When you arrive at the Ayrshire complex, you’ll never feel an urge to stray. Yes, you might also play the array of wonderful layouts that are such near neighbours, but you’ll return to Dundonald Links. It’s now the perfect base for a golf adventure.
That’s what everyone involved there has been trying to achieve.
“It’s really turned out to be everything that I hoped for and expected in terms of accommodation and options, and the food and beverage space,” said Dundonald Links club manager Ian Ferguson.
“Everything here is part of the experience. We try to offer as much as we can to people who want to stay with us and that means they don’t have to go off site to look for other experiences.
“That’s why we’ve got the Whisky Room. That’s why there are putting greens around the lodges. It gives our guests more options, rather than having to go and seek them out elsewhere.”
- Visit the Dundonald website for more information