All hail Ailsa!
But all that was lost when the property was used as an airbase during World War 1 with a landing strip built on the course and the famous hotel used as a hospital. After the war the courses were rebuilt and named "Ailsa", and "Arran"
A similar scenario applied for World War Two with the courses again devastated. The courses were condemned with miles of concrete runways and the glorious contours of fairways flattened and lost without trace...
Thereafter designer MacKenzie Ross restored the courses with great care, and the famous Ailsa course reopened in 1951
With spectacular views sweeping across the Irish Sea to the Ailsa Craig, and beyond, the picturesque lighthouse on the horizon, and the sheer elegance of the Turnberry hotel overseeing the whole landscape, the Ailsa course continues to provide a magnificent setting for championship golf, reinforcing Turnberry's reputation as one of the great Open Championship venues
The Open Championship
The Open Championship came to Turnberry for the first time in 1977 when Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson fought out one of the most famous Opens in history. Watson went on to win what became known as 'The Duel In The Sun'. If you have not seen the footage it is worth making the effort to do so.
Since then the Open has returned three more times- 1986- when Greg Norman won, 1994- won by Nick Price, and 2009 where Stewart Cink won a playoff from a 59 year old Tom Watson.
Our own Tim Wood played in this Open.
Trump Purchases Turnberry
Donald Trump purchased Turnberry Resort in 2014 and immediately employed ‘The Open Doctor’ Martin Ebert to make major renovations to the course in an effort to again hold The Open Championship at the venue.
Whatever your thoughts on Trump, the work undertaken by Ebert at Turnberry is nothing short of sensational.
The original objective was to improve the playability of the course, to lengthen and improve key holes, and to take better advantage of the spectacular Turnberry coastline and lighthouse.
Turnberry was already one of my favourite course in the UK, and with these changes I now rate it as a world top ten course.
It is that good!
Summary of Renovations
Hole one was always an awkward opening hole- and Ebert has moved the green back and lengthened the hole eliminating a potential mid iron tee shot on a par 4 hole.
While holes 2 & 3 are largely unchanged the par 3 fourth hole is a new hole. It is a great location, and now it is entirely exposed to the beach, rather than being protected by dunes. It’s an improvement.
Hole 5 now has a back tee on the frontal dune improving the look and playability of the hole.
Hole 6 is a completely new short par 3 enabling the back tees for hole 18 to come all the way back to the frontal dunes, and significantly strengthening and lengthening that hole. And the tiny postage stamp like green on six makes for an exciting hole.
Holes 7 & 8 are largely unchanged, however the rocks forming a backdrop to the eighth hole have been carved out to give a view of the Ailsa Craig and a dramatic reveal of the ninth tee.
Hole 9 was the weakest hole on the course previously, but is now a hole that will feature in magazines around the world. The tee is still out on the rocky protrusion but the par 3 carries over sea to a green sited near the lighthouse.
The lighthouse itself has now been renovated and a classy half way hut is the perfect place to stop for a snack or light meal…
Previously the tenth hole was a difficult par 4 with an iconic donut bunker in front of the green.
Ebert has brought a series of dramatic tee boxes back near the lighthouse bringing the new cape style par 5 closer to the briney, with some testing carries- and he has kept the donut bunker as a feature. Believe it or not the back tee currently requires a carry to the fairway of 274 yards, and Trump has plans to bring in a further back tee with a carry of 294 yards- it is all about future proofing the course!
The new 10th green has been pushed to the old eleventh tee, again in close proximity to the beach. It is a stunning hole.
The brand new eleventh hits from one rocky promontory to another, again along the sea. It is possibly the prettiest hole on the course, and completes a remarkable run of ocean side holes from 4 to 11 that must be unparalleled in championship golf.
The other changes of significance are the lengthening of the fourteenth hole to a par 5, and the shortening of seventeen to a par 4.
The maintenance levels at the course are excellent, and with multiple tees Turnberry caters well for golfers of different abilities.
Because there are so many tee options the grass paths connecting tees, fairways, and greens head off through the long rough in every direction. That is something I find endearing about the wonderful links courses in the UK. But at Turnberry the grass paths are highly manicured rye grass walking highways- they are wide and remind me of American Links courses rather than UK links… It is a minor point, I know...
Another interesting point is that Ebert has deliberately designed the fairway bunkers with a wilder, more natural feel, and the green side traps with traditional revetted bunkers…
Playing Turnberry can be a surreal experience. Staying at the luxury hotel, and with the golf course in such a magnificent setting, one can feel quite good about themselves as they proceed down the first few fairways. If the golfing gods are with you, and the weather is kind you may well get off to a good start through the first 2 or 3 holes...
But buckle down - this is a championship course - and it can be a brute.
The ocean holes stretch from 4 to 11, and if the wind is up (or even if it isn't) you will need to play quality golf or you will be punished.
There is tremendous variation in the types of holes at Turnberry. It is a pleasure to play.
Elevated greens, strategic bunkering, towering dunes, and a nasty burn in front of the 16th hole all make for an intriguing game of golf.
We had a great golfing day, and even a drenching squall couldn't dampen our enthusiasm - we simply piled into to the halfway house at the lighthouse on the 9th hole for a cuppa and a bite to eat.
Pound for pound, there are not many better golfing experiences than staying and playing at Turnberry.
The course is a real championship course- spectacular, but punishing if you err..
I loved it.
If I could figure out how to miss the fairway traps I would love it even more!!
The new Turnberry should now be on every golfers bucket list.
It is a Travelling Golfer 'must play'
The Travelling Golfer can tailor a golfing trip to Scotland to suit your group. For itinerary suggestions see Destinations Scotland.
Also please note that Turnberry is a feature course played on The Open Rota Tour- a hosted tournament played over all of the current Open Championship courses.
For more information please enquire here: