Monday, 7 June 2010

Dundonald Links - course no 303

Craig, Stu and I played Dundonald Links on 4 June 2010 on another blisteringly hot day (well, 25 degrees, clear sun and no wind). I'd been to an excellent dinner in Glasgow the night before and had only a couple of hours' sleep and the guys had also had a late one after their own 100th course the day before, so we were not at our freshest for our 0930 hrs start. Dundonald is the sister course to the world famous Loch Lomond course and was designed by Kyle Phillips, the architect who created the fantastic Kingbarns course. At Dundonald, most of the holes are screened from others by the contours of the land, so it felt as though we had the course to ourselves. Indeed, we only met the 4 ball who'd started 10 minutes after us when we came off the 17th green (though they were still on the 12th tee at the time!) Even before we started playing, it was obvious that the course was in great condition and Craig and I jumped at the chance to play off the medal tees. From there, Dundonald is a 6725 yard par 72, (with a standard scratch of 74). Stu played off the White tees, which at 6340 yards in total, still provide a stiff test. I'd played pretty well at Prestwick the day before, despite not scoring very well, and that pattern was to continue at Dundonald. Another feature at Dundonald is the large undulating greens, which we found were slower than we'd expected. Indeed, our first few holes were pretty forgettable for that reason. I started with a Boeing (747) for the first 3 holes, a couple of strong par 4s and a 530 yard par 5. My third 3 putt of the day was on the 4th, a tricky 195 yard par 3, with a silly pin position hard against the left of the green on a slope.

Craig and Stu were also having their problems, but full credit to Stu for hitting the shot of the day. The 6th hole was a 135 yard par 3 for Stu. This is the view from the tee, with a stream to the left and front of the green and the green half-hidden by gorse bushes (does anyone think this ugly and prickly plant adds anything to links courses?) From the tee, the footbridge to the front of the green is tiny, but Stu's topped tee shot trundled all the way, clearing the path and running onto the bridge. The bridge is at an angle to the tee but Stu's ball bounced off the runner boards at the sides of the bridge and ended up just short of the green. An eventful bogey for Stu, but he really should have bought a lottery ticket after such a spawny (sorry Stu, I meant masterfully skilful) shot. I managed my second par of the day at that hole, but my putting woes continued and I was out in a disappointing 49, having hit almost every fairway with good straight drives. The back 9 was just as tricky, with a string of excellent holes with hidden problems. We'd forgotten to buy a course guide, but after negotiating the narrow 370 yard par 4 13th, with out of bounds (the main railway line) all the way up the left side, Craig and I narrowly missed the water hazard and bunkering that protects the green, as shown here. I overhit a lob wedge in an effort to clear the stream and the bunker, so a poor 7 was my reward. The railway line also features on the par 3, 205 yard 15th. As we commented at the time, the short stretch of line probably has the greatest concentration of golf courses anywhere in the world, including those at Troon, Barassie, Gailes and Irvine. For the golfing tourist arriving by rail, this must be a journey through golfing heaven. This is where my drive ended up, just short of the green. However, this photo does not do justice to the slopes around this green or the cavernous bunkering that Craig had found to the left and 30 or so feet below the green itself. Craig made a great bunker shot and ended up with a bogey, but I took another 4 to get down, after yet another 3 putt.

Bearing in mind the Standard Scratch Score of 74, I should have gone round Dundonald in 84. I'd already taken 89 after 17 holes, but a par up the last, a 545 yard par 5, would be respectable enough. I'd made a few mistakes and struggled on the greens, but I'd played well of the tees. Confidence was high, so where on earth did the fade that took me into some impenetrable gorse bushes come from? I blame the course management for leaving a longest dive competition marker on the tee and placing a marker improbably far down the fairway as a target, but seriously, the 18th is a tremendous finishing hole, so where better to record a tremendous 9? Even the approach shot to the narrow green has to negotiate a water hazard to the front and sides, so I'd have settled for a bogey. My 9 meant I'd gone round in 98, despite hitting the ball pretty well tee to green. I'd taken a ridiculous 40 putts, hardly the preparation I wanted for the medal competition at my own course the next day (I needn't have worried, as I played pretty well and got cut to 10.0). Overall, we thought that Dundonald was a really good course and I'd recommend it to anyone as a must play in an Ayrshire tour, where it stands well alongside many other superb links courses. I'd certainly want to play Dundonald again and hope that next time round the greens are as fast as they were at Prestwick.

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