It’s nothing new to say that the list of world-class golf courses in Scotland is long, distinguished and the envy of many. This year, that list will benefit from a new addition, with the opening of Dumbarnie Links – the latest, spectacular jewel in the Scottish golfing crown.
Located between Upper Largo and Elie on the south coast of Fife, a little more than ten miles from St Andrews and directly across the water from Muirfield, the keenly-anticipated course is scheduled to open on May 16. It is, however, a project that has been more than a quarter of a century in the making, ever since Malcolm Campbell, a long-time friend of golf course designer Clive Clark, first clapped eyes on the site.
At the time, it was a flat and barren piece of land. It stayed that way until Clark, who has had a hand in the design and development of more than 20 courses, came calling. He was looking to expand his design portfolio and Scotland was high on his wish list. His grandparents hailed from Aberdeen and he had harboured dreams of creating a bona fide links in the home of golf for years. Just one problem: where?
Lucky for him, Campbell knew just the place. Living just down the bay in Lower Largo, he had marvelled at the site for years, imagining what a great golf course it could be turned into.
Clark paid it a visit and, like Campbell, immediately saw its potential. He went away, drew up plans and persuaded several of his American friends to invest.
After securing the necessary planning consent, ground broke on the project in the middle of 2018 and, within a matter of months, thanks in no small part to a near-idyllic summer that year, it was complete. Since then, the course has been allowed to bed in ahead of its grand unveiling this year.
“May can’t come soon enough,” smiled Clark as he navigated a buggy around the back nine. “We think we’ve got something very special here. We’ve made this with the golfer in mind. We want them to enjoy their round, not spend it hitting 3-iron into every green and looking for balls in thick rough. That’s no fun for anybody and fun is what Dumbarnie Links is all about.”
Dumbarnie Links’ business model will echo that of several other high-profile recent Scottish golf developments: a ‘no members’, ‘pay and play’ facility of the very highest order.
The full green fee will start at £235 but there will be a number of generous subsidies. Kingdom of Fife residents, for example, will receive 60% off the standard rate.
The idea is to provide a genuinely spectacular, world-class alternative to the Old Course for those whose names don’t come out in the ballot at St Andrews Links.
And make no mistake: Dumbarnie Links genuinely is world-class.
“If this isn’t a ‘Top 100’ course within the next couple of years, I’ll be amazed,” said Campbell. “It’s just brilliant. Even better than I could ever have imagined.”
Clark concurs. “If you study links courses, there are probably only 40, globally, that stand out as being world-class. I would like to think that Dumbarnie Links can join that group.”
If first impressions are anything to go by, it has an excellent chance.
The course is characterised by wide fairways (averaging 45 yards from left to right), large two-tiered greens, and no fewer than three driveable par-4s. The 17th is particularly special. With the prevailing wind behind, you can choose either the conservative route up the left of the hole or fly it over the 300-year-old stone dyke wall that diagonally bisects the fairway and go for the green. It’s ‘risk and reward’ stuff at its finest.
A special word, too, for the par-4 ninth, which plays towards the sea from an elevated tee, with the fairway beautifully framed by man-made dunes that look as though they’ve been there for centuries. Truth is, they’ve been there for months.
Depending on the tees you play from, the course will measure anything from 5,300 to 6,900 yards. There are also a dozen ‘pro tees’ that extend it beyond 7,600 yards – a sign, perhaps, of the owners’ tournament aspirations. Clark himself hinted at such a prospect. “I put those tees in so that, if Dustin Johnson turns up with his mates, we can say, ‘Here ya go!’”
The huge driving range and practise facilities, not to mention the sheer size of the property – at roughly 165 hectares (345 acres), it’s a huge, hulking piece of land – are further evidence that this is a place that wants to host big events.
Then there’s the clubhouse. Combining ‘Old World country’ with ‘modern chic’, the spectacular building joins two rustic barns with a more modern-looking section in the middle that faces the course and water below to provide sweeping views from its position 80 feet above sea level. A wall of windows will allow guests to enjoy the views from the dining room, bar and golf shop.
The sum of all these parts? A legitimately exciting and authentic Scottish links experience.
“The Golf Gods have been smiling on Dumbarnie Links,” added Clark. “We couldn’t be happier with the results.”