Turnberry Ailsa

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Long have I travelled and much have I seen …..

And unfortunately Turnberry was the 8th and final round of our Scottish tour. Talk about going out with a bang, location of the famous ‘War on the Shore’ and numerous Open Championships. There is a strange aura around Turnberry at the moment, we certainly detected a level of apathy in Scotland when travelling around. The root of this apathy is the clearly the owner and you wonder if this adversely affects their chances of holding another Open. The Trump insignia is everywhere and most probably rankles the locals. For me though Turnberry is Turnberry, another links test to which I was supremely excited to tackle. We managed to source a great deal from yourgolftravel.co.uk for two rounds of golf with a one night stay for 200 pounds a player. Two weeks later the green fee would go up to 250 quid so clearly a good deal. Like Gleneagles and of course this is a Trump resort, the accommodation was fantastic. Luxurious rooms, quality restaurants and numerous activities overlooking the famous golf course. We had an early tee-off time the next day before travelling back to London so had an early night after playing St Andrews and the Kintyre course in one day.

We were greeted the next day by the Caddymaster (another very friendly Scotsman) who allowed us to play as a twosome and managed to get us out before a large society. One thing we both noticed was the warm welcomes we received everywhere in Scotland. From the Pros, caddymasters, bar staff, everyone was top draw. Weather was the best we had on the trip so all setup for a great day.

The first was a mid-length Par 4 and a gentle opener to proceedings. One thing we noticed pretty quickly was how much superior the greens on the Ailsa were compared to Kintyre. Quick with lots of borrow. Probably the best set of greens I’ve played along with St Andrews and Walton Heath. The second hole, another par 4 plays back to back alongside the first and provides good scoring opportunities (if the wind is blowing of course!). The routing then takes a different turn, weaving through sand dunes adjacent to the Clyde. The third is a particularly stunning Par 4, the approach shot is played to a raised green framed by imposing sand dunes. Fourth is a tough shortish Par 3 where hitting the green is imperative. Deep pot bunkers protect the green, hit one of them and a dropped shot will be the most likely outcome. The fifth is a sharp dogleg left Par 5 and offers the first clear view of the iconic lighthouse as the green is approached. This point marks the beginning of a remarkable stretch of holes and also a point where the architectural changes kick in. The 6th is a great Par 3, miss short then intimidating bunkering awaits. Miss long then its a tough chip to recover. The 7th is a fantastic Par 5 which doglegs left and sharply to the ocean. The fabled lighthouse continues to get closer by the hole. The 9th sees one of the biggest changes to the course routing, ‘Bruce’s Castle’ is now a Par 3 over the ocean and one of the most spectacular that I’ve played. We checked the view from the black tees (248 yards) simply incredible. I enquired at the Pro Shop what the pros would hit, the response was that Justin Rose played it recently and took a 3 iron. Would love to see the Open return to Turnberry to see how this hole is tackled.

And we’re there, a mandatory 15 minute stop awaits after the opening nine and time to enjoy the lighthouse. I’m also a history buff so was exciting the see the remains of Robert the Bruce’s castle as we waited. We were told stories of how those laying siege to the castle would cop hot oil from the ramparts. The way I was playing I needed some of that! Dad on the hand was playing his best golf of the trip, not bad for a 70yo playing his 7th round in 5 days!

Inbound nine starts with another big change and the 10th is now a Par 5 and how spectacular it is. Routing around Robert the Bruce’s ruins, an aggressive tee shot to the left will allow an opportunity to reach the green in two. Crafty bunkering awaits 70 yards out from the green so risk\reward on the second shot. A really memorable hole.The 11th is a short Par 3 and is the last of the holes bordering the ocean. A sand dune with deep rough to the right and ocean to the left so accuracy is paramount here. Would love to play when the wind is up. The 12th is a fairly long straight Par 4. A large memorial is located on a dune to the right of the green commemorating those stationed at Turnberry during the World Wars. 13 and 14 are longish Par 4 and 5 holes respectively. The 16th is one of my favourites on the course, named ‘Wee Burn’. Its a longish hole with dunes framing the fairway, a good drive is needed to bring the green into play. A crafty brook awaits to snaffle balls short of the green, the green complex is very tough as well. One of the best Par 4s I’ve played. The final hole has been renamed to ‘Duel in the Sun’ and is a long Par 4, bunkers guard the fairway so accuracy is needed from the tee. The green sits right in front of the clubhouse and its a humbling experience playing the hole knowing that this was scene of probably the greatest Open Championship ever played.

That was that, our first trip to Scotland done and dusted at one of the best golfing locations in the world. So how does Turnberry rate? Well the greens are among the finest I’ve played, holes 5-11 are as spectacular as it gets and 16 just a great hole. Overall I would rate Royal Dornoch slightly higher but otherwise Turnberry has few peers that I’ve played (that includes the Old Course). I hope the Open returns at some point. My other recommendation is to check the course out in the shoulder season to avoid the hefty green fee. What a place though!

Best Hole – 10th

Hardest Hole – 16th

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