The name Turnberry is synonymous with the game of golf. You only need mention ‘Ailsa Craig,’ the ‘Duel in the Sun’, or its world-famous lighthouse for it to generate memories of famous Open Championships of the past and images of the Ayrshire Coastline. Situated just 30-minutes south west of the town of Ayr, and an hour south of Glasgow, Turnberry and its famous hotel are icons of world golf.
Established in 1906, Turnberry may well not have existed following the aftermath of the Great Wars. During WWI, because of its strategic coastal location, the golf course was commissioned by the Royal Flying Corps as a training airfield, subsequently reinstated during WWII. It was a little-known designer called Frank Hole, in association with Mackenzie Ross, who restored both the Ailsa and the Kintyre Course to its former glory post-WWI and C. K. Hutchinson and James Braid who were tasked with returning the course to a playable condition after WWII. In the post-War era, Turnberry has hosted a tournament on average every three years including four Open Championships in 1977, the famous “Duel in the Sun” between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, 1986 won by Greg Norman, 1994 won by Nick Price and 2009 won by Stewart Cink in a playoff with Tom Watson. Watson stood on the 18th tee needing only a par to win the Open and become the oldest ever Champion, alas it wasn’t to be.
Before the 2009 Open Championship, Donald Steele undertook a significant redesign to three holes of the golf course. This involved a new tee box on the 10th to bring the coastline more into play, and the lengthening of the 17th by sixty yards was required following a change to the 16th green, which was moved, and a dogleg created. The changes were generally welcomed and proved popular during the tournament. In 2014 Turnberry was acquired by the Trump organization and they hired renowned architects Mackenzie & Ebert to completely revamp the golf course as part of a £200million investment involving the creation of five new holes.
The latest evolution of the Ailsa course has, according to the architects, encompassed a historical study of the golf course in conjunction with a modern-day review. The most striking additions to the course can be found around the lighthouse at the turn, where several new and reimagined holes have added to the drama of the Ailsa Course. The 9th hole is now a stunning par three played across the bay with the ruins of Robert the Bruce’s Castle visible from the green. At 248yards from the tips, this is a beast of a hole on a windy day, but even at 187yards from the medal tees, requires your utmost respect. The iconic Turnberry Lighthouse provides a beautiful backdrop to this hole. The 10th is a newly revised layout; now a Par five played around the Firth of Clyde Bay, anything struck less than perfect is going to find trouble left. The green on ten is tucked away, along the coastline, and is well protected by deep pot bunkers, so accuracy in the form of good club choice is key to securing par on this very challenging hole. These two holes are followed by the new par three 11th which again makes maximum use of the rocky coastline for dramatic effect. At 215yards from the tips, this is another beast of a hole and a fitting end to a run of eight great holes at the revitalized Turnberry.