Dundonald Links at Centre Stage in Scotland

Dundonald Links Scotland (Image: Dundonald Links)

Dundonald Links opened in 2003 but feels a century older. (Image: Dundonald Links)

Following the momentous 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon, Scotland’s Ayrshire Coast was back in the spotlight this past summer when Dundonald Links hosted both the men’s and women’s Scottish Opens.

Though nothing could top the epic battle between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson during the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon, Scotland’s Ayrshire Coast gave it a heck of a try this past summer.

The coast’s Dundonald Links hosted both the men’s and women’s 2017 Scottish Opens, a one-two punch that grabbed the attention of golfers around the world. First up was the European Tour’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, July 13 to 16. Rafa Cabrera Bello’s comeback win thrilled fans at a tournament that grows more popular and attracts a stronger field every year. In 2013, Mickelson used his victory at Castle Stuart as a springboard to an even more magnificent performance the following week in capturing the Open at Muirfield.

Royal Troon Scotland (Image: Royal Troon)

The well-guarded fifth green at Royal Troon, host of the 2016 Open Championship. (Image: Royal Troon)

Just as the men’s event immediately precedes the Open, the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open, July 27 to 30, took place the week before the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns. Korea’s Mi Hyang came from nine strokes back to take the purse of $1.5-million (US).

Home to Royal Troon, Prestwick, Trump Turnberry and other hallowed links, Ayrshire is set on the picturesque shores of the Firth of Clyde in southwest Scotland.

The seaside towns of Ayr, Girvan, Irvine, Largs, Prestwick and Troon are all popular with visitors. Others make nearby Glasgow, Scotland’s largest and most vibrant city, their home base. Glasgow essentials include a shopping spree on Buchanan Street, a grandstand seat at a Celtic or Rangers soccer match, and a tour of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the most visited museum in the United Kingdom outside of London.

Highlighted by the Stenson-Mickelson shootout at Royal Troon, the past two golf seasons in Ayrshire have easily been the most exciting since the first-ever Open was played at Prestwick in 1860.

On June 1, 2016 Donald Trump re-launched the famous Ailsa course at his rebranded Trump Turnberry Resort. Ailsa’s almost complete redesign by star golf architect Martin Ebert is part of a $500-million makeover of a 149-room luxury property acquired by the U.S. president in 2014.

Prestwick GC 17th Hole (Image: Prestwick Golf Club)

Prestwick Golf Club’s famous 17th hole, Alps. (Image: Prestwick Golf Club)

By far the most anticipated of all the changes made to Ailsa, which has hosted four Opens, was the transformation of the iconic par-four “lighthouse” hole into what Trump with typical immodesty calls “the most spectacular par three in the world.”

In July, the focus turned to the Open Championship at Royal Troon, watched by a vast television audience around the world. Stenson’s score of 63 bested frustrated runner-up Mickelson by three strokes.

Royal Troon, which has hosted nine Opens, is a brilliant links where the first nine holes run entirely alongside the sea. The course is best known for its evilly bunkered par-three eighth hole, called the Postage Stamp. Just 123 yards long, it’s the shortest hole in Open Championship golf.

Glasgow is an ideal jumping off point to most of Ayrshire’s 44 18-hole golf courses, including Dundonald Links and two more that rank among the world’s outstanding seaside links.

Founded in 1897, Western Gailes Golf Club is a wonderfully natural design that wends through dunes on a spit of land by Irvine Bay. Some greens fold as if organically into the rumpled landscape, with others protected by sentinel-like dunes.

Willie Park Sr. Open Champion 1860

Willie Park Sr. won the first-ever Open Championship at Prestwick Golf Club in 1860.

Then there’s the granddaddy of all Ayrshire courses, Prestwick Golf Club. Full of blind shots, crazy bounces and other quirks, Prestwick has hosted 24 Opens, including the first 12 ever played. Designed by the immortal Old Tom Morris, the course features six of his original greens, as well as three original holes. Though no longer in the Open rotation, Prestwick is still a must-play for everyone who loves the game.

Despite the high-profile competition, for two weeks this summer, during the men’s and women’s Scottish Opens, the focus of the golf world was squarely on Dundonald Links.

Located just across the railway tracks from Western Gailes, this Kyle Phillips design opened in 2003 but feels a century older. Phillips’ course sweeps through low-lying dunes before concluding with a 560-yard dogleg par five featuring a green guarded at the front by an imposing ditch and to the rear by pot bunkers.

Dundonald Links is a superb test of links golf, as the world’s best golfers have discovered.

 

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