Photo: Clive Clark
The Scottish town of St. Andrews is golf’s spiritual epicenter, the home of the world’s first and most iconic course. The famed Old Course has been joined in recent years by Kingsbarns (2000) and the Castle Course (2008), both of which were immediately ranked in the world’s top 100. That tradition of once-a-decade-or-so excellence resumed this past spring, with the opening of Dumbarnie Links, the highest-profile new course on earth.
Spirit of Community
What makes Dumbarnie Links particularly notable is that it occupies what is likely greater St. Andrews’s last golf course–size piece of undeveloped “linksland”—that is, sandy waterfront terrain covered in gorse and fescue grasses, which is ideal for golf. The 345-acre site, formerly a farm, is on an estate owned by Lord and Lady Balniel, nature lovers who wanted the land to help the community and create jobs while also keeping it a viable nesting site for birds. In that spirit, the course is public, with no hotel or members.
“This was a wonderful opportunity to create a special genuine links golf course on a rarely available piece of property,” says Clive Clark, the English former Ryder Cup player and golf architect who designed Dumbarnie Links. “Those who have toured the site have all been impressed by the fact that the course has the appearance of having been there for 100 years or more.”
A Spectacular Setting
The course stretches a mile and a half along the beach, and half the holes are perched on a higher inland shelf, from which they overlook the coastal holes and the Firth of Forth. Play can pose plenty of challenge from the longest tees (6,900 and 7,600 yards), but options as short as 5,300 yards cater to every ability.
“We simply could not be more pleased,” Lord Balniel says. “What Clive Clark and his team have done is nothing short of outstanding. It’s certainly the most interesting project our family has ever been involved with.” Considering that the family came to England in the late 11th century—around the time of William the Conqueror—and has one of the oldest noble titles in Scotland, that’s saying something.