Could new changes to Turnberry get it back on The Open rota?

The bulldozers are set to return at the Trump-owned property. The aim is clear – to bring the Claret Jug back to South Ayrshire. So what’s being proposed, and what are the chances?


“The proposed alterations are to enhance the overall golfing experience for all members and visitors and to facilitate the return of The Open Championship to Turnberry”.

The Ayrshire course wants the Claret Jug back – and they have put forward new plans to alter the famous Ailsa Course to try and achieve it.

Turnberry have submitted proposals to South Ayrshire Council to significantly change two holes on the front nine in moves they say will “further upgrade and enhance The Ailsa to ensure that it surpasses previous accolades and builds upon its position as a top-ranking golf course”.

The Ailsa course was last significantly renovated in 2016, when the spectacular par-3 9th – jutting out across the beach with the lighthouse prominently in the frame, was created.

There were also significant changes to the 10th, which played alongside the beach off the tee, the 11th, and the closing hole.

Those alterations brought Turnberry significant acclaim and the course was named only behind the Old Course in Scotland by NCGs Top 100s rankings, as well as being ranked 4th in GB&I listings.

Around 55,000 rounds are played on Turnberry’s three courses each year, with some 31,500 of those played on The Ailsa. Planning documents reveal around 18,500 of those are played by visitors and say the courses contribute approximately 35 per cent of the total resort revenue at Turnberry.

What’s happening at Trump Turnberry?


What is being proposed?

Supporting documents, produced by Mhairi Shaw Planning and submitted to South Ayrshire Council’s planning department, reveal Turnberry want to relocate the 7th hole to the west and shift the 8th tee to the right of the new 7th.

MacKenzie and Ebert, who carried out the first set of changes, have once again been engaged and have provided several visuals on how the alterations would affect the two holes.

The document says the work will involve “lifting and salvage of the existing amenity turf, currently in place over each hole, and the careful translocation of the existing fixed dune grassland currently situated where the new 7th hole is to be relocated.

“Minor works will also be carried out whereby small sections of similar fixed dune grassland will be translocated to accommodate the position of the proposed 8th back tees.”

It adds a “significant part of the existing 7th hole will be retained without management intervention” and that “over half of the existing 7th fairway will be retained and will remain in use”.

The second part of the 7th, including the green, will be moved and “reinstated to the right”.  The proposers say the remodelled 8th will bring with it “slight intrusion on the surrounding coastal fixed dune grassland”, and a relatively new open sand area “will be partially filled”.

But the document adds “new areas of open sand will be introduced to mitigate this loss”.

What happens now?

The plans were submitted to the council on November 30 and are currently being reviewed by planning chiefs. A decision will be made in due course.

top 3 golf courses in scotland

Would these changes bring The Open back to Turnberry?

“Clearly the significance of golf, as an economic driver in general, is paramount to the well-being of the economy of South Ayrshire,” the supporting documents for the application claim.

“In addition, the ability to attract world-class events should not be underestimated or taken for granted. In order for South Ayrshire to continue to be recognised as an area offering the highest quality golfing experience, alongside the potential to continue to host The Open Championship, golfing venues must continue to evolve to maintain the standards expected of the top level.”

Turnberry keep talking about The Open, but the world’s oldest major hasn’t been held on the property since Stewart Cink foiled Tom Watson’s age-defying charge back in 2009.

If creating one of the globe’s iconic par-3s hasn’t shifted minds at golf’s HQ, will these changes?

It’s unlikely as things stand. Turnberry’s future was posed to R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers at last year’s Open at Royal Liverpool and he reiterated the governing body had been “very clear” following an announcement at the start of 2021.

“The essential statement that we made then was that until we’re confident that any coverage at Turnberry would be about golf, about the golf course and about the championship, until we’re confident about that, we will not return any of our championships there,” he said.

Slumbers is now stepping down by the end of the year and it’s possible, of course, the new incumbent could have a different view.

But with former president Donald Trump set to dominate the limelight once again this year as he bids to return to the White House, and with a slew of legal proceedings to negotiate, it’ll take a significant change in R&A policy for the Claret Jug to be seen on South Ayrshire again any time soon.

Now have your say

What do you think of the changes proposed at Trump Turnberry? Should The Ailsa course return to The Open rota? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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