Unlike some Open Championship venues, the Turnberry Ailsa course is loved the world over. Ask the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Gary Player and Greg Norman about the Ailsa and prepare for fulsome praise.
Probably the most scenic Open Championship golf course, the Ailsa at the Turnberry Resort features superb views across to the Mull of Kintyre and the Isle of Arran.
Turnberry seems to inspire nothing but affection from all who visit – from Open champions to thrill-seeking holidaymakers. The reasons – while multitudinous – are generally obvious. The views are magnificent throughout, with Ailsa Craig offering a constant brooding presence. This huge, granite rock has a haunting, captivating quality.
Sometimes brilliantly clear, and sometimes shrouded by cloud, often its outline blurs and then fades from view completely.
I hope you’re comfortable?
Turnberry Golf Club was established in 1902 and Willie Fernie of Troon was commissioned by the third Marquess of Ailsa to lay out a championship length course on part of the former Culzean Estate.
In 1906, the Turnberry Hotel opened and, in those days, there was even an impressive covered link-way which connected the hotel to the railway station.
When the game’s most prestigious tournament came to Turnberry for the first time in 1977, no-one could have predicted what would unfold. The finest two players of the day, Nicklaus and Watson, found themselves competing in what would later be dubbed the Duel in the Sun for the final 36 holes.
Later Hubert Green, who eventually finished a distant third, would declare that he considered himself the real champion since his two fellow Americans were playing a different game to the rest of the field. Starting the weekend level, both fired rounds of 65 to set up the final-day showdown.
Watson’s stunning finish – including an approach to within inches of the hole on the last green – gave him another 65 and a one-shot victory over his rival. Turnberry’s profile was instantly elevated and the championship has since returned twice.
With the winners in 1986 and 1994, Greg Norman and Nick Price respectively, it has a record of producing great champions. Watson’s emotional return to Turnberry in 2009 nearly furthered this record with one of the greatest stories in modern golfing history, but eventually Stewart Cink prevailed over the then 59-year-old in a play-off.
Since then, plenty has happened on this fabled property – most notably the small matter of the club’s acquisition by Donald Trump in 2014.
Why it’s special
Turnberry twice came close to extinction. It was requisitioned during both World Wars and used as an airbase. During the Second World War, a number of holes were flattened and turned into expansive concrete runways. It was the tenacity of the then owners that saved the course.
Philip Mackenzie Ross was given the task of returning the flattened land back to its former glory. It was a huge task, but in 1951, after two years of intensive work, the links reopened.
Fortunately, the stretch of holes along the coast were largely unscathed and Mackenzie Ross was able to restore the links using this land as the centrepiece. The result eventually became a course that held few peers in the British Isles, while Martin Ebert’s interventions have lifted the Ailsa from one of the UK’s top three courses to one of the world’s top three courses. It may, by some, be considered the best course across the entire globe.
Where is it?
Trump Turnberry Resort is located on the south-west coast of Scotland in Ayrshire in the town of Turnberry.
Where does it rank?
Get in touch with Turnberry
For more information about the club and course, visit its website or call them on 01655 331 000.
Have you played Ailsa before? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us.
Subscribe to NCG
[post_list category=5 title=””]
Could the golf ball be rolled back for everyone?