For context, I first played the Ailsa around ten years ago and it remained the best course I'd played for some time. A couple challenged it, but it was the one I always ended up turning to when asked the question. This is important as the below is relative to how I felt about it before the changes and before Trump bought the property.
It is still an excellent golf course, still the most dramatic of the open venues and the one that is visually the most impressive and awe-inspiring. It still has some excellent holes, and the changes they've made has made the golf course better I think. It has always been a newer resort type course when compared alongside the other classic links venues, so it always needs to be reviewed with this in mind. What it has lacked (relatively) in history (the first Open they had was 1977) it has made up for in wow factor.
The start is still gentle before you hit the par 3 fourth, and you then start a great stretch of holes leading along the coastline to the lighthouse and beyond. It's a brilliant stretch of 9 or 10 holes, before you head back inland for the finishing stretch. There are some great holes within that too, and its a tough finish. It's also a thrill to play 18 with the hotel in the background and thinking of the finale in the Duel in the Sun.
That said, Trump has done his very best to stain everything around it. Loud tartan everywhere, the Trump crest on every tee box, every bin. Shiny marker posts telling you where the ten different tees can be found. I felt a similar feeling to how I did at Trump International, though Turnberry is clearly a far better layout. It feels a little like you're playing a Scottish Links at a theme park in California...its all turned a bit naff. It's a shame as the golf course can carry itself no problem and doesn't need all that now accompanies it.
Regardless of this, it is a great golf course that deserves to be played, of that there is no question. I just cant help but feel it was a better experience a decade ago, despite the improvements to the course itself.
Date: January 22, 2020