TRUMP TURNBERRY AILSA COURSE - 19 POINTS
There are a couple of fairly solid reasons why you may not want to play golf at Turnberry. Maybe you don’t like giving a single penny of your hard earned cash to one of the most objectionable human beings to have held high office in modern times. Maybe you think that other areas of Scotland offer a richer golfing experience for a trip. While there may be some reasons to give this part of the Ayrshire coast a swerve, the quality of the golf course simply cannot be one of them. Recent work at Turnberry has catapulted this to one of the very top courses in the world, it is simply stunning.
I only played the Ailsa course once in its previous guise and at the time I thought the course was under-rated. Many of the golf course architecture experts found issue with it. Tom Doak and his muckers didn’t have it in the top 20 in the UK in the Confidential Guide and the conventional wisdom was that the course lived off a few good holes on the water and those around them weren’t much to write home about.
The Trump team came in and there were fears in some quarters that the course would be milked for the tourist dollar at the expense of the quality of the golf course. There should have been no such concerns. Trump saw an opportunity to make Turnberry even better and then asked Peter Dawson of the R&A who should do the work. On his recommendation the Trump team made the very wise move of entrusting the design work to the design team of Mackenzie and Ebert, putting Martin Ebert in charge. These guys are good. They have worked on 8 of the 10 courses on the Open rota but nowhere have they been able to have as profound an impact as at Turnberry.
They have created a course which is truly one of the greatest in the world - it is also very accessible for golfers of all levels. This is a resort course with a huge amount of play and they need to keep people moving. That has led to generous fairways and in the main you will only find really horrible trouble if you go a long way off piste.
What really has elevated this course is the way that the coastline and water now comes into play. The blurb describes the stretch from 6 to 12 as the best stretch of water holes etc. This may be stretching the truth a little. While the reshaping of the par 3 6th does bring the sea into view you aren’t playing close up to the water for all the holes.
As you walk from the 8th green to the 9th tee though you just know something special is coming and boy it doesn’t disappoint. The 9th is 248 yards from the back tee and it’s pretty much all carry over the rocks. Even from the middle tees you have a fairly formidable shot and the setting is quite something. I really think this may be the most thrilling par 3 I have ever played.
After a stop in the wonderfully converted lighthouse/halfway house it’s off to the par 5 10th along the coastline before the par 3 11th which is again over the water. On any other golf course this would be the signature hole, here it will merely add one more huge grin on your face before you turn back inland.
While the holes at the turn are spectacular don’t think this is a course living off of only a handful of strong hole - you will find some lovely holes as you turn back to the hotel. OK, the holes may lack the sheer wonder of what has gone before but there are some real challenges to come. None more for me than the par 4 17th, 449 yards from the yellow tees and over 500 from the back where you must find a slim fairway before hitting a long club into the elevated green.
The 18th hole has had a new tee put in, bringing a sea view for one last time, and now plays straight down to the long green where so much drama has been seen over the years.
It would be wrong to think though that the renovation has just been about adding spectacular views. Bunkers have been reshaped and had eyebrows added, greens reshaped, fairways rerouted. It has produced a course which is simply a delight to play and will give you memories to last a lifetime.
When we walked off the 18th we had no doubt in our mind that we had experienced one of the very greatest golf courses. It ticked so many boxes. The views, the challenge, the layout and the thrill. Coupled with the playability this was one of the very best days I have ever enjoyed on a golf course.
I had always had St Andrews as the very pinnacle of my links golf experience. The pure history of the Old Course and that spine-tingling feeling when you stand on the 1st tee or see the city before you as you turn for home is unlike any other. It's very hard to compare the two experiences, but the fact that Turnberry is even in the conversation tells you just how good it is.
There may be good reasons to avoid the place, but if you can reconcile yourself with the £375 green fee lining the pockets of the Trump family you will be in for a treat unlike any other.
BOOKING THE COURSE
The good news is that can play the Ailsa course any day of the week. The only catch is the green fee! Assuming you aren't staying at the hotel, the cheapest you can get on is £175 for a winter weekday time, rising all the way to £375 for a weekend in the summer. If you stay at the hotel there is £50 off but the hotel won't come cheap. If you do decide to take the plunge the process is pretty easy online here. However, if the time you are looking for isn't there then do call them up as they do keep some times back from the online process.
This is one of those occasions when I would also encourage you to check out one of the package offers like yourgolftravel as they may be able to get you a better price that you would get from going directly to the hotel and course.
If you are looking for a trip that takes in luxury hotels and fantastic quality golf courses at a steep price then the Ayrshire course could be for you. A great itinerary would see you arriving into Glasgow and heading south for the delights of Western Gailes, Prestwick, Royal Troon and finishing in Turnberry. You really are getting some of the nation’s great courses in here without having to do a lot of travelling. Troon would be a good place to base yourselves. It’s within 30 minutes of all these courses and the Marine Hotel overlooks the 18th at Royal Troon at a fraction of the cost of the Turnberry equivalent.
There are a couple of videos I would recommend before making the trip to Turnberry. There a very good flyover of the changes made to the course, narrated by the mellifluous Andrew Cotter which will show you the scale of Mackenzie and Ebert’s work. And then have a look at the highlights from the 2009 Open. If only Tom Watson had been able to get up and down from the back of 18 golf would have had a tale for the ages rather than a Stewart Cink victory!