Imagine rolling hills, sandy dunes, a stiff breeze blowing off the Ayrshire coast. Before designer courses, before manicured greens and major championships, these lands inspired local Scots to play the game of golf. Beloved since its first formal course was built in 1901, Turnberry’s fairways have been shared by the game’s elite and casual enthusiasts from around the globe. Even the conversion of its links to runways during two world wars could not diminish the desire to play here, a place made for golf, where countless competitions have been waged that shall never be forgotten.
Beautiful in sun, exacting in cold and wind, Turnberry’s three courses are both part of golf’s legacy and part of its future. A round on The Ailsa, The Kintyre or The Arran is the kind of extraordinary experience that changes a player, professional or amateur.
Named after the third Marquess of Ailsa, who owned the land on which it was built, this par-70, 7,211-yard championship course is one of golf’s storied places. Home to four Open Championships, Ailsa has shaped some of the most remarkable moments in the tournament’s history.
Its first three holes pose a fairly tough opening, particularly when the wind blows from the direction of its namesake, the brooding isle of Ailsa Craig, 11 miles out to sea. From the 4th to the 11th, the coastal scenery is magnificent and the course is demanding. Commanding a passage of stout hitting throughout, the 5th to the 8th holes are framed by sandy hillocks, while the9th, 10th and 11th are flanked by craggy rocks.
On its stony ridge on the edge of the sea, the 9th hole is Turnberry’s trademark. The landmark lighthouse casts shadows over the 13th century ruins of Bruce’s Castle, the reputed birthplace of Scotland’s hero king Robert the Bruce, and the narrow path to the tee and the drive across the corner of the bay fills players with trepidation.
The 17th, named Lang Whang, is the only par 5 on the course. A short but challenging hole, its subtle contours slightly obstruct each shot-characteristic of the trickery of Turnberry. On the 18th, with the red-roofed hotel in sight to distract, gorse running down the right side and small dunes peeking up just enough to block your view of the landing zone, finding the fairway is even more difficult.
The draw of that experience will keep golfers returning here, to Turnberry, forever.