Played by NCG: King Robert the Bruce
Where is it?
The new King Robert the Bruce course replaces the former Kintyre as the sister course to Martin Ebert’s reborn Ailsa course at the Trump Turnberry resort on the Ayrshire coast. It occupies largely the same footprint as the old second course, but every hole is either new or significantly modified.
Reason for going?
Anyone who has played, or even read the praise for, Martin’s brilliant makeover of the Ailsa course at Turnberry will be avid to sample his transformation of the former Kintyre course. In truth this is more of a new creation than an upgrade and certainly more evidence of his exceptional creativity – helped, it must be acknowledged by Mr Trump’s willingness to spend fortunes on achieving his vision.
What to expect?
More of the Ebert magic. Granted it starts subtly, with the first hole on recognisably the same skeleton as that of the Kintyre, but with changes which add substantially to the golf experience. The hitherto encroaching gorse has been cut back to give more approach options and central fairway bunkers have been introduced to provide split fairways. Fairway bunkers, have marram grass “eyebrow” faces tempting “risk or reward” shots whilst greenside bunkers are revetted perfection.
Similar upgrading continues to the fifth, where a major change is introduced; an ecological wetland between the fifth and 13th fairways. It already has the effect of transforming the course, but Martin says that in six months’ time it will be further enhanced by new vegetation and by the diversity of birds that will be attracted.
It’s not a bad hazard either. The character of the previous sixth and seventh has also been transformed by reshaping of previously flat areas of rough into more interesting links undulations and the removal of the belt of trees which lined the background ridge, but it is the four completely new holes that Martin has introduced atop Bain’s Hill that underline the claim that this is an entirely different course.
In an astonishing sequence where he has exploited views to the iconic lighthouse, to Ailsa rock and to the Isle of Arran, he has created a sequence of holes which make this course a “must do” destination.
The new par-5 eighth, high above the ocean, quickens the blood in preparation for the vertiginous new ninth, with its green perched right on the cliff edge. The tenth is as an attractive a par 3 as you could want, whilst the eleventh, which now has the Turnberry lighthouse as its focus. The eighth and 11th also, thanks to the removal of parts of the tree belt that formerly lined the ridge, now enjoy open views across the final holes to the hotel and clubhouse.
There is still much to savour, particularly the thirteenth, now bounded on the left by the new wetland which, apart from its visual attractiveness offers a strategic challenge. Here, I was privileged to join in a discussion with Martin, Jamie, his shaper, and Allan, Turnberry’s course and estates manager, on where to place two additional bunkers on the right hand side of the fairway to tighten the challenge.
Finally there is the 18th, an outstanding par 5 demanding the utmost accuracy of approach between myriad bunkers to a completely reshaped green. It provides a classic finish, located below the windows of the welcoming clubhouse “Duel in the Sun” restaurant.
My best bit
Undoubtedly, the cliff-edge ninth for its drama, its challenge and strategy. Do you go for the green across the cliff-side chasm? Or lay up further along the fairway and wedge one in to the green sitting high above the waves crashing on the rocks below?
What to look out for
Cliff edges, and, of course, the spectacular views.
When I go back, I will…
…stay at the hotel and play both the Ailsa and King Robert the Bruce courses at my leisure, plus spend some time at the academy and on the short game course.