When I first started watching golf on the BBC, in the 1980’s, one of the most famous phrases that came from Peter Alliss was “How’s it lying Clive” as Clive Clark was the roving reporter on the course reporting back to the studio.
Fast forward 40 years and Clive Clark, who left his TV career behind, some years ago is now an established golf course architect living in America and his latest Masterpiece is a fabulous new links course just 20 minutes from St. Andrews named Dumbarnie Links. I was lucky enough to play the course with David Scott, the General Manager, in “The Round with Niall Challenge”
Dumbarnie opened in May 2020 very much at the start of the pandemic to rave reviews and I was really looking forward to seeing the layout and catching up with David who I knew well from my time at St Andrews Links Trust. I first came across David, who was a born and bred in St Andrews, when Kingsbarns opened in the autumn of 2000. David took up the role of Director of Golf and I remember he and his team were really hot on customer service and introduced so many innovative processes and measures that I am not ashamed to say we copied a number for the Trust.
David, in his early days had been a regular player on the Tartan Tour and played in the 1990 PGA Cup match at Kiawah Island and in the 1995 PGA Championship at Wentworth, where he just missed the cut. David rather like my previous guest Knut Wylde is an experienced negotiator working with many tour operators from all over the world and he convinced me that he didn’t play anymore and so we agreed that he would only give me 6 shots for the challenge. (Note to self I must learn to work on my negotiation skills!)
The view from the modern and well-designed clubhouse, for a green fee only business, is so inviting looking out to the first hole and the North Sea. The course sits on 345 acres of pure Links land which has been well moulded and sculptured into the Fife landscape by Clark.
For the first time in a while, I warmed up on the well designed and functional practice ground which has everything required for the Ladies European Tour, who will be visiting Dumbarnie when the course hosts the Women’s Scottish Open in August. The tournament will be played just a week before the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie and should attract a great field of players.
Despite winning the first hole with a net birdie I quickly found that David had lost none of his skills and with his putter working nicely, to grab two quick birdies and some wayward drives on my behalf I was 4 down at the turn.
The course did not disappoint, the turf on the fairways was tight and firm just as it should be for a Links course and the approaches to the green are really compact, just perfect for the Texas Wedge shot if you’re not too confident in your short game. No two holes play back-to-back in the same direction and with a strong south westerly, the prevailing wind, you really do need to play a wide range of shots. That said the fairways are generous and ideal for the visiting golfers who will no doubt flock to play the course once they are allowed to travel.
I lost the 10th to another birdie and was now very concerned that this was going to be a massacre. David kindly gave me a quick tip ,feeling slightly sorry for me which thankfully helped. There are 3 drivable par 4 holes and most of the par 5s have a risk and reward element to them which will make for some very exciting golf. There are 5 sets of tees and we played the course at just over 6500 yards which was most enjoyable and just about right for two 50-year olds.
David left Kingsbarns in 2008 to The Dukes course and Golf Department at The Old Course hotel and between 2013 to 2017 was Director of Operations for the whole hotel operation reporting to the owner Mr Kohler… not bad for someone who had never been trained as a hotelier!
This senior leadership role was recognised by the powers that be, at the PGA Headquarters down at The Belfry and in 2018, David was awarded Master Professional status, testament to the impact he had made during his career.
OB sports who have the management contract for Dumbarnie Links, could not have chosen someone better than David to be the GM. Not only did he have the experience of setting up Kingsbarns, which has exactly the same busines model, but also, he has all the contacts in and around St Andrews along with the lessons learnt at the Old Course Hotel.
The pandemic has hit the business model hard as the majority of the players on the course are paying the local rate rather than the full rack rate of £258. However, the day I was there over 100 people were on the tee sheet which was going to be the norm for the rest of June and July.
I won the 18th in the same fashion as the first with a net birdie which knocked David off the top of the leader board managing to get the defeat down to just 3 down.
I am a fan of Kingsbarns and have played there many times over the years, but I have to say that this new offering to the courses in North East Fife is in my opinion better. I thoughly enjoyed the experience despite the score and did not feel too tired as we returned to the clubhouse. If time and space on the tee sheet had allowed, I would have loved to have had another game, which I believe was exactly what Clive Clark had in mind when he designed the course for the owners.
David has very kindly provided a Fourball for this blog’s competition and if you are the lucky winner, I can assure you not only will you and your guests enjoy a great golfing experience but also some very friendly and authentic Scottish hospitality and you must try the Buttermilk Popcorn Chicken nibbles!
I for one cannot wait to return!
Until next time