We have been advising Dunstanburgh Castle GC since 2016 on design improvements to a number of holes on the classic traditional links course. Our work here has involved working closely with and advising the young greenkeeping team during the highly successful BIGGA Bunker Camp, hosted by Dunstanburgh Castle GC every November. All construction work is done in-house, ably assisted by up to 20 keen greenkeepers, from all over Europe.
The course at Dunstanburgh Castle nestles in Embleton Bay, near Alnwick and is considered to be one of the finest courses in Northumberland. There are numerous memorable golf holes, mostly providing views of the North Sea and all exposed to the elements, that, understandably, challenge golfers of all skill levels and ages. The course is 18 holes, 6298 yards from the back tees and par 70, providing a great test of golfing skills with undulating fairways and deep revetted bunkers – a true links course – which lies in the shadow of the dramatic Dunstanburgh Castle.
The course was founded in 1900 and updated in 1922 by James Braid. It is designated a S.S.S.I. (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and is on Northumberland’s Heritage Coastline (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). The rare flora within the adjoining sand dunes is carefully managed by the National Trust in conjunction with the greenkeeping team.
James Braid (6 February 1870 – 27 November 1950) was a Scottish professional golfer . Braid was born in Earlsferry, Fife, Scotland and played golf from an early age, working as a clubmaker before turning professional in 1896. He won The Open Championship in 1901, 1905, 1906, 1908 and 1910. In addition, Braid won four British PGA Matchplay Championships (1903, 1905, 1907 and 1911), as well as the 1910 French Open title. He developed a very successful career in golf course design, and is sometimes regarded as the “inventor” of the dogleg, although holes of similar design had been known for centuries (for example, the Road Hole at the Old Course at St Andrews). Among his designs are the “King’s Course” and the “Queen’s Course” at Gleneagles, and the 1926 remodelling of The Open Championship venue, Carnoustie Golf Links, not forgetting of course, Dunstanburgh Castle Links.
Dunstanburgh Castle is a 14th-century fortification on the coast of Northumberland, between the villages of Craster and Embleton. The castle was built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster between 1313 and 1322, taking advantage of the site’s natural defences and the existing earthworks of an Iron Age fort. Thomas was a leader of a baronial faction opposed to King Edward II, and probably intended Dunstanburgh to act as a secure refuge, should the political situation in southern England deteriorate. The castle also served as a statement of the earl’s wealth and influence, and would have invited comparisons with the neighbouring royal castle of Bamburgh. Thomas probably only visited his new castle once, before being captured at the Battle of Boroughbridge as he attempted to flee royal forces for the safety of Dunstanburgh. Thomas was executed, and the castle became the property of the Crown before passing into the Duchy of Lancaster.
Photo credit: JG/Stuart Imeson/Jack Hetherington/Adam Gilroy