The county of East Lothian is rich in golfing heritage. It’s home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, based at majestic Muirfield; the ancient Open Championship venue of Old Musselburgh, the unique West Links at North Berwick and a host of championship-standard layouts along the coast such as Gullane number one, Luffness New, Archerfield and the Renaissance Club. Among these championship layouts is Dunbar Golf Club. Situated on a narrow strip of land along the coast, it’s a classic ‘out and back’ links, which makes the most of its shoreline location. The sea comes into play more often here than at arguably any other coast in Scotland.
Dunbar’s risk/reward nature is immediately apparent. The first is a short par five, protected by a burn (or stream) running across the front of the green (pictured). A decent tee shot can set up the prospect of an eagle putt, but a loose approach brings the water into play. The second is another par five, but completely different in character. Usually played into the prevailing wind, a five is never a bad score here.
The sea comes into play for the first time at the fourth, where anything left will find the beach. Two fiendishly-placed pot bunkers at the front of the green add to the intrigue at this superb short par four. Like the first, the sixth green is guarded by a front side burn, with the added challenge of out-of-bounds on the right. Out-of-bounds comes into play on the ninth, another challenging par five, which begins a sequence of tough holes around the turn. The 10th is an exacting par three, while the 11th and 12th are long par fours guarded by the shore on the right.
The par three 16th is aptly-named ‘The Narrows’. The green here is wedged between a stone wall and the beach – there is no easy out! At the 17th is a riot of water hazards. Two burns come into play, one on the fairway and one in front of the green, while the beach to the right is a constant menace. The closing hole moves away from the coast but there is still a fair bit of work to do. With out-of-bounds on the right and a sequence of bunkers on the left, the margin for error is minimal.
A closing four is a good score in any circumstances, and worth taking time to enjoy in Dunbar’s welcoming clubhouse after your round.