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Dunaverty Golf Club: Argyll’s Hidden Gem

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Dunaverty Golf Club originated in 1889 in the small village of Southend in Argyll, located on the southern tip of Scotland’s Kintyre Peninsula. It is southeast of Machrihanish, set in the curve of sandy terrain of scenic Dunaverty Bay, with stunning views overlooking the North Channel and islands such as Sanda Island and Ailsa Craig.

The course is a classic seaside links, occupying the coastal duneland terrain. It features gently undulating fairways that wind through the dunes and slopes, with a backdrop of the sea. The landscape provides a peaceful, isolated setting, with livestock roaming the course and Conieglen Burn cutting a path to the ocean. Its quirky routing and blind shots have drawn comparisons to legendary courses like North Berwick.

In this post, we’ll visit the quirky and charming links of Dunaverty Golf Club. We’ll learn its origin story, history, and the unique characteristics of this short but formidable test of links golf. The further reading section contains suggestions to enhance your knowledge of links golf and the British Isles. However, only one book – “A Course Called Scotland” by Tom Coyne, pays real attention to the course (Coyne is a raving fan). Finally, we have also linked some videos to help bring the course to life.

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Origins and History

Dunaverty Golf Club was founded in 1889 by a small group of farmers and residents from the surrounding community of Southend. The original 18-hole layout began on the opposite side of the Conieglen Burn from where the 15th hole currently sits. Before World War II, the course was completely redesigned and extended when the first clubhouse was built behind some cottages in Southend village.

The land on which the Dunaverty course lies has a long history of conflict, centered around Dunaverty Rock, which towers over the course. The rock was a fortification site for centuries, providing refuge to figures like Robert the Bruce. Despite this history of violence, modern-day Dunaverty emanates a peaceful, beautiful aura.

Dunaverty fell into disrepair during the war years, as did many of the courses we have covered in this series. After the war, the founding members, their descendants, and local volunteers took pride in restoring the course to its former standard. Dunaverty is revered for its immaculate conditioning, with greens considered some of Scotland’s finest.

The Club allows local farmers to graze their sheep and cattle on parts of the course, a tradition that helps trim the grass in winter when less golf is played. To protect the greens from livestock, small electric fences, around 2 feet high, enclose the putting surfaces on holes 1-4 and 17-18, similar to Brora. These fences allow golfers to take free relief if their ball lands among the livestock or their droppings. Visitors quickly grow accustomed to the ambling animals that have shared these seaside links for decades. The roaming livestock add to the rural Scottish atmosphere that makes Dunaverty such a unique place to play golf.

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Did You Know?

The course is located near the ruins of Dunaverty Castle, which has a dark history. In 1647, the castle was besieged by the troops of Oliver Cromwell during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Over 300 men, women, and children who had taken refuge inside were massacred when the castle fell.

Very little remains visible of Dunaverty Castle today, although the dramatic rocky headland on which it stood is still impressive. A small wall section is visible on the southwestern face, which may have been built to block access. The site is protected as a scheduled monument.

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The Course

Dunaverty is modest in length at just 4,799 yards from the back tees and plays to a par of 66. It’s a unique test with a layout that is more than just an out-and-back nine. Several holes play directly along the rocky coastline, offering spectacular vistas across the Mull of Kintyre and Northern Ireland. All holes have a story behind their name, representing local landmarks, residences, and people.

The outward nine comprises a variation of unique short par-4s and one-shot holes, except the 397-yard par-4 8th. The eponymous 4th, “Dunaverty,” a short blind par-3 played to a hidden green, shows the creativity that makes Dunaverty special. The 9th, “Punchbowl,” shares its wide fairway with the adjacent 12th and plays to a blind green that defines the hole.

The inward half begins with an uphill short hole played to a plateau-ed green that sticks out from the face of a cliff. The course’s lone par-5 comes at 13, “The Cemetery,” which plays toward a cemetery by the beach. Although not a long hole, out-of-bounds down the right and deep rough left will test you off the tee. The approach is played to a large green guarded by hillocks.

The course has held several amateur events but is not on the same championship level as neighboring Machrihanish. It’s more renowned as one of the world’s best short courses, which Donald Steel called “full of fun” and “one of a handful of jewels with spectacular views.”

Visit Dunaverty online at https://dunavertygolfclub.com.

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PuttView Golf Books

PuttView Books are detailed yardage and green maps designed to help golfers save strokes, especially under tournament conditions. They offer precise visual representations of courses, including topographic slope percentages, fairway arrows for slopes over 4%, and a dual view of greens accurate to the millimeter. The books are printed on high-quality waterproof paper, sized to fit traditional yardage book covers, and are USGA legal. 

Customers praise PuttView Books for their stunning detail, stylish presentation, and the confidence they instill in decision-making on the course. With 30,000 courses represented, your home course is bound to be available, as is Dunaverty!

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Further Reading

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Classic Golf Links
by Donald Steel

Summary: Classic Golf Links of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland by Donald Steele is a guidebook featuring 75 spectacular links golf courses in the British Isles, covering their history, design, and challenges. The book includes scorecards, hole maps, photos, and playing tips for each course, providing key information for golf travelers while celebrating these revered seaside tests.  With writing by Donald Steel and photos by Brian Morgan, Classic Golf Links is considered an essential reference for experiencing the best of links golf.

This book is a must for anyone with an affinity for links golf. I bought this book years ago and still return to it often. The pictures are amazing and they alone will make you fall in love with these courses.

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Sand and Golf
by George Waters

Summary: “Sand and Golf” explores how sandy terrain uniquely suits golf, studying similarities and differences between courses worldwide with sandy features. It examines all aspects of the relationship between sand and golf, from the sport’s origins in Scottish coastal dunes to its global spread onto sandy sites. Written by golf architect George Waters with a preface by renowned designer Tom Doak, it details through examples and illustrations why firm, rugged, windy sandy terrain makes creative shot-making integral to the game. The book appeals to knowledgeable golfers interested in course design and architecture, analyzing the art and science behind why golf belongs on sand.

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A Course Called Scotland
by Tom Coyne

Summary: For much of his adult life, best-selling author Tom Coyne has been chasing a golf ball around the globe. When he was in college, studying abroad in London, he entered the lottery for a prized tee time in Scotland, grabbing his clubs and jumping the train to St. Andrews as his friends partied in Amsterdam; later, he golfed the entirety of Ireland’s coastline, chased pros through the mini-tours, and attended grueling Qualifying Schools in Australia, Canada, and Latin America. Yet, as he watched the greats compete, he felt something was missing. Then one day a friend suggested he attempt to play every links course in Scotland, and qualify for the greatest championship in golf. 

The result is A Course Called Scotland, a hilarious golf and travel adventure throughout the birthplace of the sport and home to some of the oldest and most beloved courses in the world, including St. Andrews, Turnberry, Dornoch, Prestwick, Troon, and Carnoustie.

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Golf Courses of the British Isles
by Bernard Darwin

Summary: “Golf Courses of the British Isles” by Bernard Darwin is a classic text that explores and celebrates the unique beauty and challenges of golf courses throughout the British Isles. Darwin, a revered golf writer and grandson of Charles Darwin, provides insightful commentary on the architecture, history, and character of iconic courses, blending personal anecdotes with expert analysis. His vivid descriptions transport readers to the very greens and fairways of famous venues, highlighting their natural beauty and the intricacies of their design. The book, illustrated with evocative drawings by Harry Rountree, remains a timeless tribute to the game of golf and is considered a must-read for enthusiasts of the sport and its storied landscapes.

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True Links
by  Malcolm Campbell & George Peper

Summary: True Links by Malcolm Campbell and George Peper profiles over 240 of the world’s top links golf courses across the British Isles and beyond, examining their history, design features, and status as an authentic “true links.” Organized geographically, the book offers photos, maps, scorecards and playing tips for renowned seaside tests like Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Cabot Links, Barnbougle Dunes and others that meet the authors’ criteria.  For links golf aficionados, True Links serves as an illustrated guidebook for experiencing the unique joys and challenges of the game’s most revered coastal courses.

Videos

Dunaverty – Random Golf Club
Dunaverty – Hidden Gem
Dunaverty in 59 seconds

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