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  • Neil White


"Tonight, Matthew, I am going to be Rafa Cabrera-Bello."

For one shot only, our compadre decided he was going for the golfing equivalent of Stars In Their Eyes by attempting a shot which won the 2017 Scottish Open.

From 275 yards, the aforementioned Spaniard hammered his ball to within eight feet of the flag and there is even a plaque on Dundonald's final hole to commemorate the feat.

Undaunted by either burn, bunkers or a rather disappointing round until this point, the eight-handicapper in our group, with the wind at his back, decided to rip a three-wood from next to Rafa's launchpad.

"It's going to make it!", I exclaimed with glee after he heaved his weapon and whipped the ball down the right-hand side of the fairway, only to see it come up about ten yards short of the target.

Nevertheless, it was a lovely little drama to complete a fun round on a balmy day on the West Scotland coast.

Let's be honest, Dundonald is corporate golf and it brings all the positives as well as the small negatives that this phrase might suggest.

So, service standards are very high, the practice facilities are top-notch, the clubhouse is dreamy and our accommodation was as good as in any resort we have stayed.

The fairways were also in great shape, the wee burns were all pristine in wooden surrounds, the bunkers were spot on and the yellow gorse meant it looked great.

My only beef was that the greens were slower than we would have expected.

Dundonald is set up for a lot of tournament golf - so, the fairways are wide and there are next to no blind shots.

But it is still a challenge to golfers of any ability.

The opening hole sets the bar. Its inviting fairway has deep bunkers lurking in the most inconvenient spots. I found sand for the first but not the last time.

The third hole lays the Dundonald marker with a narrow burn threatening to the right off the tee and then cutting across the fairway to force the golfer to think strategically.

Well, most golfers. Clearly, I lost all sense and topped the ball into the water, beginning a sequence of early setbacks which put paid to my hopes of being on the podium of the National Club Golfer Top 100 event.

I recommend these heartily. I had previously played in ones at Prince's and Delamere Forest and, in common, with them, this was superbly organised, great value and we met some fun folk.

I digress.

The par-threes at Dundonald are devilish and twice cost me dearly.

The fourth is a long one at more than 200 yards with bunkers awaiting either side for those, like me, who struggle to stop the ball from that range.

I met a similar sandy fate on the shorter sixth which has a burn running down the left of the target but, more importantly, a trap directly in front of it.

I went for the nearest-the-pin prize with what I thought was a perfectly struck wedge only to see the ball fall short by a foot.

The ninth is a cracking hole - a par-four with a rare blind tee shot over bunkers and a hill which dips down towards the burn protecting the green.

An approach has to be spot-on. Too short could mean rolling back into the water or a giant sand trap and too long could see the ball being snaffled by the bushes at the back.

It turned out that the back nine suited my game more and I scored more handsomely than I had done for some time.

The 11th is the most handsome of the short holes with its risen, undulating green and dramatic run-offs into conventional traps to the front and "devil's bunker' to the rear. I was thrilled with a par.

I was a fan of the holes next to the railway line which divides Dundonald and Western Gailes - especially the 13th, a long par-four parallel to it.

The sight of the wall all the way down the left and bunkers on the right from the tee is daunting while the approach is over the inevitable 'wee' burn.

The railway provides a buffer to the 15th on a picturesque par-three from which the sea and the Isle of Arran can be seen.

This is followed by the dramatic 16th with trees all the way down the right and dunes to the left. Precision is very much the key here.

Dundonald's attractive but vicious pot bunkers made an impression for the last time on the 17th before the aforementioned assault on the home hole.

Dundonald opened in 1911 but closed during the Second World War and was never reopened until Kyle Phillips was brought in to create new links in 2003.

Four years ago, it was bought by Darwin Escapes and £25m has reportedly been spent on creating an ultra-modern clubhouse, pro's shop, locker rooms, sauna and gym and lodge accommodation.

As said, Mrs W and I stayed in one and it was extremely comfortable and I can well imagine guests from far and wide being impressed.

We haven't yet played on many of the tranche of new venues which are very well represented in Scotland's rankings.

So, Dundonald has set the bar for us in that regard. I tend to hanker after more traditional venues but enjoyed our day thoroughly, nevertheless.

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