Rugged coastline, lighthouse, signatures of golf at Turnberry
"Locals say if you can see Ailsa Craig it's about to rain. If you can't, it's raining."
AYRSHIRE, Scotland - On the cold and windswept opening day of the 1986 British Open, not one player bettered par and the field was a cumulative 1,251 strokes over par on the famed Ailsa course at Turnberry.
Beauty and the Beast.
Greg Norman rebounded from that opening-round gale to post a 63 in the second round and tamed the "Beast" to win the 1986 British Open. It was just one chapter in Turnberry's fabled history that also includes a Jack Nicklaus versus winner Tom Watson "Duel in the Sun" in 1977 and Nick Price's 50-foot eagle putt on No. 17 to win the 1996 Open.
Turnberry is the Pebble Beach of The British Isles.
The "Beauty" of Turnberry is in the impressive views of the lighthouse, Bruce's Castle, Ailsa Craig, the massive granite dome rising from the sea, and The Isle of Arran. It's a west coast beauty on the Irish Sea and the Firth of Clyde and on a clear day golfers can see Ireland far in the distance.
"The weather?" answered Richard Hall, a teaching pro at Turnberry's Colin Montgomerie's Links Academy. "You just never know what is going to happen. Actually, the west coast of Scotland has the best weather. We get a gulf stream and it's warmer than the east coast. Norman won the 1986 Open in terrible conditions, but the Nicklaus-Watson duel of 1976 was in warm weather."
Hall echoed the sentiments of many: "Turnberry is the favorite course of many Scots. The location is just spectacular, probably the most scenic of all the British Open courses. Most links courses are flatter, but we have the views, large mounds and undulations. When you get to Nos. 9 and 10, with the lighthouse, coastline and ruins of Bruce's Castle, you see the true beauty in the course -- these holes are synonymous with Turnberry," he said.
No. 9, a 454-yard, par-4 monster in the wind, is called Bruce's Castle, after Robert the Bruce, Scottish king from 1306-1329. The ruins of his castle are here, just in front of the lighthouse. Golf Magazine named No. 9 on its list of Top 500 golf holes in the world. In gale-force winds, standing still, trying to hit a golf ball, at one of the highest points of the course, is a challenge. Staying motionless through the swing is difficult.
Don't overlook No. 10, though, because it is just as beautiful. The 452-yard dogleg left borders the sea and the second shot is menaced 55 yards out by an island trap, a huge circle of sand with a sizable chunk of rounded fairway in the middle.
Wee Burn, No. 16 is another famous hole. It's a 409-yard par-4. One must carry the tee shot at least 250 yards to have a more comfortable approach. The green is surrounded by Wilson's Burn, and anything short of the putting surface could roll back down into the deep darkness. Long-handled ball retrievers are provided for the many golfers who end up in the burn.
In the 1963 Walker Cup, the Wee Burn decided the match. The winning American team triumphed over the burn and the British didn't.
Rebuilding projects at Turnberry
In 1946, the Ailsa and Arran Courses, with their spectacular views of Ailsa Craig from every fairway, were a mess. Turnberry had been used as a World War II landing strip, still seen to this day, and the fairways were used by the airmen. Golf course architect Mackenzie Ross rescued and rebuilt the courses in the 1950s and since then the hotel has hosted many amateur and professional championships, including the three British Opens.
Ross made plasticine models of the greens to show machine operators the correct contours to re-construct. Not all of the courses were destroyed. The runways had been located on the higher central ground, so Ross had the unscathed coastal area to create a masterpiece.
After Ross rebuilt the courses, the Ailsa Course became noteworthy the world over. It has been ranked among the world's top 20 courses ever since.
The Arran 18 always played second best to the Ailsa, but it has been recently renamed Kintyre, in a re-design by Donald Steel. Ailsa and Kintyre are managed by Troon Golf, the U.S. golf course management company.
Kintyre features undulating greens and fairways, splendid ocean holes and views, coupled with all the highlights of a links course including pot bunkers, elevated tees and thick Scottish rough. In Steel's redesign, he used land formerly part of the Arran Course as well as a new stretch of land, known as Bains Hill.
The old Arran Course, originally created in 1909, had already been rebuilt on two occasions, after both World Wars. And this time the rebuilding job was so comprehensive Turnberry decided to rename it Kintyre, replacing Arran, to maintain the geographic link with the nearby Mull of Kintyre.
Bains Hill, a stretch of land that extends along the Ayrshire coastline, includes seven new golf holes that didn't exist before in the original Arran Course. These holes are on the elevated sections of ground along the coast.
The last three holes of the Kintyre layout are new. The 18th includes parts of the Arran's 17th and 18th, curving to the left towards an elevated green that is contoured below the clubhouse. This par 5 has bunkers to catch the drive and other traps flanking the rest of the hole to magnify the slightest error.
Elsewhere on the course, greens have been reshaped and bunkered, tees have been enlarged, elevated and moved back, gorse has been cleared to allow for the regeneration of heather and an irrigation system has been installed.
"To be given the opportunity of opening a new course at Turnberry to match the quality and popularity of the Ailsa was an enviable challenge," said Steel. "Taking the best features from the Arran and combining them with the natural splendor and dramatic scope for change that Bains Hill offered, has resulted in a golf course of the highest standards."
The addition of the Kintyre Course added a further dimension at Turnberry, reaffirming "its position as the No. 1 venue for links golf worldwide," said Stewart Selbie, general manager of the resort.
"Turnberry will now be in the unique and enviable position of offering 36 challenging links holes to its members and visitors in addition to a 9-hole academy course," Selbie said. "The Kintyre is just one element of the $20-million investment that has been directed to all areas of Turnberry transforming it into a world class resort with golf and leisure facilities second to none."
Parts of the Arran Course were salvaged. These sections are being transformed into a unique 9-hole course and will be named The Arran Academy Course.
Other championships staged here include the Ladies' British Open Amateur, Scottish Ladies' Amateur, PGA Match Play, PGA Cup Matches, British Senior Open and The European Open just to name a few.
Where to stay: Turnberry Resort hotel
The Turnberry Resort hotel, built in 1915, sits high on a hill, a stately beacon with its white siding and red-tiled roof, looking out over the Firth of Clyde with an incredible view of Ailsa Craig, the steep-sided dome of granite towering from the sea. The hotel includes a total of 221 rooms with 21 suites, 12 Luxury Lodges and nine Cottages. All rooms have large bathrooms with showers, bathrobes, heated towel rails and hairdryers.
Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy at Turnberry
The Scottish golfer, Colin Montgomerie says: "Golf is a game to be enjoyed -- and the better you are, the more you enjoy it."
Turnberry's Academy will help you improve your game by developing natural ability, increasing the effectiveness of practice by concentrating on one or two key areas. At Top teaching professionals will assist you, using teaching packages prepared by Colin Montgomerie himself. Whether you are a scratch player or a first timer, you are sure to benefit from the Academy's creative and innovative approach to the game.
August 22, 2003