Remembered fondly for Watson and Nicklaus’ duel in the sun and less so in recent times for Stuart Cink or its polarising owner, I’ll attempt to keep my review more to the experience of playing at Turnberry rather than the history or baggage that comes with playing it.
Both my first and lasting impression of Turnberry is the hugeness in scale. It’s vast, it’s grand and it’s impressive. This extends from the colossal hotel that sits on top of the hill to just the sheer size of the property and the views on show, everything at Turnberry is big and dramatic. The land here is extreme, and as you’d expect from Donald Trump, the dial has well and truly been turned up to eleven. I didn’t enter the hotel, so other than the crudeness of the fountain that sits in front of the clubhouse and the overly manicured surround at the 16th green, most of the changes have been carried out tastefully. This makes the Ailsa course the most amazing visual treat and unquestionably the most spectacular course I’ve played.
All is maintained to the highest of standards, from the roll on the greens to the revetting of the bunkers, which I must add was just impeccable. I think most people know the Ailsa course pretty well, so I’ll avoid the hole-by-hole analysis, but I do have to reinforce the fact that the coastal stretch from holes 4 to 11 justifiably receive the plaudits. Holes 9 to 11 in particularly are spectacular, my playing partner named these the “pornstar holes”, a fitting description – maybe Stormy Daniels was the inspiration?
9 and 10 are the most photographed holes on the course, but the newly constructed par three at 11, where the green is perched on the cliff-side, is a masterful conclusion to this incredible sequence. What I must add however, for it’s something that gets overlooked, is that there are some excellent holes on the way in too. 12 is a sneaky-good hole with the green perched below the hilltop war memorial, the par five 14th with its newly elevated green that returns you to the lighthouse could be the signature hole on most courses, whilst the wonderful “Lang Whang” that plays through a valley at 17 is a beautiful yet robust crescendo to the round.
Despite this, do I think Turnberry is perfect? No, not completely. The vastness of the course means that it doesn’t have the intimacy that I prefer when seeking out a golfing destination, and I feel that it misses some of the intricate natural detailing that other Open venues typically have. But there’s an impressiveness to the Ailsa that means if I gave anything less than full marks to the course, then I feel that it would be for other reasons than the quality of what must be one of the best golfing landscapes in the world.
Date: October 28, 2020