If the pandemic had its silver linings they came when hoteliers used the lull to pursue large-scale redevelopment and golf enjoyed one of its biggest annual participation booms in history. These two trends have come together at Dundonald Links, the first new links golf resort to open in Scotland in years. But the course is not new, which is a big part of the appeal.
The original Dundonald Links was built in 1911 by Open Champion Willie Fernie, but was taken over by the military in World War II and was unused for decades. In 2003, it was reborn as Southern Gailes, a second course for Loch Lomond, a private club. The new design by Kyle Phillips, of Kingsbarns fame, garnered rave reviews and hosted several Scottish Opens.
It became Dundonald again after a local developer bought it in 2019 and used the pandemic downtime to invest $40 million in a new clubhouse, boutique hotel and course renovations by Phillips. Its 22 suites (from £170 to £1,740) are in 18 stand-alone lodges around the clubhouse with separate entrances. The lodge design is contemporary, each with two to six bedrooms surrounding a main living area with full kitchen and expansive couch seating. The lodges ring their own putting green. The stunning new clubhouse, built to fit the landscape from natural materials, includes local stone, dark wood walls, leather seating and a grass ceiling.
The award-winning chef Iain Conway presides over Canny Crow. The restaurant, with indoor and outdoor dining, serves up contemporary Scottish cuisine with a focus on local produce. The clubhouse has a bar with pool table and a dedicated whisky-tasting room offering flights and guided tastings. A proprietary cask contains 36-year-old Bunnahabhain 1980 Canasta Cask Finish.
What makes it even more special for travelers is that it sits in a hotbed of great pilgrimage golf courses that have no lodging of their own. Standouts include Royal Troon and Prestwick, each multiple British Open venues, as well as the acclaimed Western Gailes—all within a 10-minute drive.