Trump Turnberry (Ailsa) - Ayrshire & Arran - Scotland

Turnberry was the last venue to be added to the Open Championship rotation. It may have hosted only four Opens but it has become a firm favourite.

Date Winner Country
1977 Tom Watson USA
1986 Greg Norman Australia
1994 Nick Price Zimbabwe
2009 Stewart Cink USA

The Ailsa course at the Turnberry Resort is probably the most scenic Open Championship golf course. Situated on a craggy headland overlooking the small granite island of Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde, with superb views across to the Mull of Kintyre and the Isle of Arran, the course is located in an ideal spot for playing golf.

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. Wealthy Edwardian guests would not arrive at this hotel wet and bedraggled.

At this time, a 9-hole ladies course and an improved 18-hole course was laid out by A. N. Weir (former head professional at Cruden Bay) for the Glasgow & South Western Railway Company, but three years later, in 1909, the ladies course had disappeared, replaced with holes 1 to 4 of Mr Weir’s new No.1 course. This layout changed its name to the Ailsa in 1926 and a redesign by Major Cecil Hutchison was completed in 1938, when he combined the old 6th and 7th and introduced the famous par three 15th hole.

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.

Mackenzie Ross did a great job; the highest compliment being paid when, in 1977, the Ailsa course hosted its first Open. The 1977 Open was a classic, notorious for the famous battle between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. Watson hit an amazing 65 in the last two rounds to beat Nicklaus by one shot. To commemorate this incredible head-to-head tussle, the 18th hole has been renamed the Duel in the Sun.

In the 1986 Open, Greg Norman had an amazing second round in windy conditions. He went out in 32, despite two bogies and had a putt on the 18th for a back nine score of 29. Unfortunately he three-putted, but his round of 63 is still considered to be one of the very best in Open Championship history. He went on to win by five clear shots. The Open returned to Turnberry in 1994 and the Claret Jug was claimed by Nick Price.

The Ailsa course underwent a number of changes under the watchful eyes of design team Mackenzie & Ebert ahead of the 2009 Open Championship. Extensive alterations were made to the 10th, 16th and 17th holes with tweaks made to several other holes. Click here for more.

The 2009 Open Championship was perhaps one of the most exciting events in modern-day history. The whole world focused on 59-year-old Tom Watson who led going into the final round. Watson required a par four on the 72nd hole to win the Open but sadly he couldn’t get up and down from just off the green and made bogey. Watson went on to lose the 4-hole play-off with fellow American Stewart Cink who gladly claimed his first Major title.

Essentially, the Ailsa’s an out and back layout with the prevailing wind usually at your back for the outward nine. The stretch of holes from the 4th to the 11th is thrilling and the scenery breathtaking. The par three 9th begins a genuinely world-class sequence of three holes laid out along the water’s edge where the tee shot at #9 plays across the bay at Turnberry Point to a green beside the lighthouse which serves as a fabulous halfway house grill.

The last four holes are as demanding as you will find anywhere, beginning at the short 15th, which falls away sharply to the right of the green. Wilson’s Burn winds round the front of the next hole, catching anything short of the putting surface, and it's followed by a remodelled par four that replaces the former long, narrow par five hole. The hotel then forms an imposing backdrop to the 18th hole—renamed "Duel in the Sun"—where many a dramatic moment has unfolded in Open championships.

Architect Martin Ebert returned to Turnberry in 2015 to conduct a major update to the Ailsa course: The Ailsa course undergoes a major facelift. Every single hole was upgraded to some degree, primarily involving greens and bunkers. The result of this work has since been met with universal approval, elevating the Ailsa’s already high profile to an entirely different level.

It’s never an easy proposition to play second fiddle to a layout ranked near the summit of the World Top 100, but the new King Robert the Bruce course (formerly known as the Arran and later renamed the Kintyre) re-opened for play in June 2017 after a multi-million pound renovation and it does very well in supporting the illustrious Ailsa at Trump Turnberry.

Trump Turnberry Resort is one of our Top 100 Golf Resorts of the World

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Reviews for Trump Turnberry (Ailsa)

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Description: The Ailsa course at the Turnberry Resort is probably the most scenic Open Championship golf course. Located right next to the Firth of Clyde, with craggy rocks and superb views across to the Mull of Kintyre... Rating: 9.6 out of 10 Reviews: 98
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David Worley
Within a few years of its completion in the early 20th century, Turnberry’s Ailsa course had hosted the Ladies British Amateur. Secondment by the RAF caused substantial damage to the links but fortunately the flattening of fairways for the runways was away from the lovely coastal stretch that now contains the 4th to the 11th holes.

Mackenzie Ross did a magnificent rebuild in the years immediately following the Second World War. The Walker Cup was held there in 1963 but the final seal of approval was the 1977 Open when the now famous duel took place between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.

There are many memorable holes on the Ailsa but the par four 9th is probably the stand out. The tee is on a little rocky outcrop from where you hit blind and slightly uphill to a hog back fairway. To your left is the lighthouse and the craggy outline of Robert the Bruce in the rocks. As long as you hit a straight drive then this hole is not as hard as it looks.

The Ailsa is a most enjoyable golfing experience with a wonderful variety of holes. On a still day, it can be at the mercy of the professionals, especially with its well watered fairways helping with ball control. However, in a strong wind and with thick rough then it can really show its teeth.

This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every Scottish course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.
April 20, 2015
10 / 10
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Alistair Wilson
From the point of arrival at this course to the point I left was one of the greatest golfing experiences of my life to far. The weather was good with only a calm breeze to trouble me on the round. Generally it stayed dry and other than a hole or so where there was some dizzle, conditions were perfect. Complementary range balls, good range, challenging putting green. I played the Ailsa on 21st October on a Twighlight offer which Turnberry (Ailsa) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerwas great value considering the heratige of the course. I was paired up with two other players and we played the tournament tees. The tees and fairways were immaculate and the rough was a good challenge at a height of about 12-18 inches in length. Unfortuanely they had scored all the greens which had left some tramlines that meant your putts didnt run true. However I had difficulty in complianing which it was probably my putting stroke. The first 4 holes were a rather calm test and got you warmed up for 5 onwards. Number 5 is a beautiful par 4 that provides an open tee shot before the approach feels very enclosed as the banks rise on each side, the golden rough provided a beautiful scene. Number 6 was a challenging par 3 and despite the warnings from my excellent caddie (Bobby) I pushed it right of the flag and was prompted collected by the enormous bunker. This monster had a face at least 6 foot high. It took me 4 to get out, 2 in the face, one 15 feet out which rolled back in and a final one all the way Turnberry (Ailsa) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerout. Of particular note is numbers 9 and 10 which feature the light house and the remains of Robert the Bruce's castle. While only a par 69, the course length was a good challenge and I often found a long iron or fairway wood in my hand to the par 4's. The bunkers were incredible and very well kept. They had an acceptable amount of sand to prevent plugging your ball. Number 16 was a bit of a strange hole wherby it had a crowned green that was difficult to hold the ball on. I was distraut to walk onto the 18th tee to realise that my experience was soon to be over, but with a good teeshot and an approach to 20 feet, the birdie I holed made it a little easier to take. This is (and still is) my favorite course in the world so having not played it before I had some very high expectations for it. It didnt let me down and there will have to be something very special to beat this. This course is a must play and while it doesnt count in the scoring of the course itself, I could not speak more highly of the staff at the course that made this a truely wonderful experience.
August 26, 2013
10 / 10
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Jim Brady
Played Turnberry on July 11th with my son Scott on a perfect sunny afternoon after playing Prestwick in the morning. A great way to spend the day on the Ayrshire Coast playing these Open Championship venues which have hosted 28 Opens between them. Turnberry played hard and fast and was in great condition. It is a nice fair test of golf where good scoring is possible by avoiding the fairway bunkers and high rough. Views of the Firth of Clyde were excellent as well as the majestic Turnberry Hotel.
Turnberry (Ailsa) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer
The first (Ailsa Craig) is a relatively short par 4 that does not require length but the green is protected by four well placed bunkers. The second and third were nice solid par 4s. The par 3 fourth (Woe-Be-Tide) has an elevated green that has a severe slope short of the green so hitting enough club is essential. This is where can see the first views of the famous lighthouse. The remaining holes on the front were all par 4s except for the long par 3 6th which is protected by a large bunker in front and three bunkers left of the green. Basically the holes on the front 9 are all great golf holes that reward well struck shots and penalize those not hit properly. The view from the championship tee on the par 4 ninth (Bruce's Castle) was my favorite on the links.

The back nine starts out with a long par 4 with 2 well placed bunkers in the middle of the fairway that must be avoided as well as the island bunker short of the green. Turnberry (Ailsa) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerThe par 4 twelfth (Monument) has views of the monument honoring lost airman stationed at Turnberry during the world wars and of course another solid hole. The par 3 15th (Ca' Canny) is another nice challenging par 3 which is guarded on the left by 3 bunkers and a steep slope right of the green with difficult rough. The par 4 16th (Wee Burn) was one of the best on the links as it requires an accurate tee shot with the Wee Burn short of the green ready to grab a shot short of the green on the second shot. The par 5 17th is the only par 5 on the course and is a good birdie possibility. Turnberry finishes with the par 4 18th (Duel in the Sun) and is a nice way to finish the day with memories of Jack and Tom battling it out in 1977 and again with Tom almost making history in 2009.

Overall a great golfing experience that comes highly recommend to anyone visiting the Ayrshire Coast. Click here to see a You Tube slideshow of some pictures I took during my visit. Jim Brady
July 28, 2013
10 / 10
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paul
This is golf as it should be ! Played it in May 2012 and also stayed overnight at the hotel. The hotel is amazing, service, food, drink everything is 5* and can't be faulted, staff cant do enough for you but without hovering around at your every move. The course is simply the best course i've played, and i've played a fair share of the uk top 100. the weather was great, brisk wind but not too strong to make the course unplayable or your game unmanageable. there's a good 5 or 6 memorable holes that remain engraved in my mind. the vista's across to Ailsa Crag and the Mull of Kintyre are breathtaking, this is playing golf in an area of beauty ..... can't wait to go back ... play the Kintyre aswell, thats a good test of golf but on a slightly more varied landscape ... has a few holes that have an inland pine forest feel to them .. but as you'd expect the course was equal in quality of condition to its more illustrious relative next door..
June 05, 2013
10 / 10
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LM
Booked a round on a Friday afternoon, as a hotel guest. I play a bit of golf, but I'm not a member of a club and don't have a handicap - I imagine I'd be competent to play to 28. So this was going to be a challenge. It was a cold but sunny day. The staff in the clubhouse were friendly and welcoming. I wasn't paired up with anyone. They told me to take my time, enjoy it and take some photos! The locker rooms were luxurious - the locals gave me plenty of tips about playing to the back of every green and taking an extra club, etc. After 30min on the practice range and putting green I headed to the start. The starter was friendly said I could play off the yellow or the white tees. I went for yellow, hit a good one off the tee, and was away. The course was in good condition and had the spectacular views already described in other reviews. As a compenent but for a course like this relatively poor golfer, I was surprised at the distance I could get off the tee: a good shot hitting the fairway would really roll, and this meant on many par 4s I could have a go at the green with a 5 or 7 iron on my second shot. I found the difficulty in the course to be the protection given to the greens - I found a lot of bunkers, some of which I ended up playing out of backwards; and also the speed of the greens, which for me made 2 putting difficult. I had a couple of disaster holes on the score card, but I did manage 3 pars! I thoroughly enjoyed a relaxed but thrilling round. I doubt many courses of this calibre would be as welcoming to a golfer like me. The hotel was great, too.
April 07, 2013
10 / 10
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Jim McCann

Playing the Ailsa is always a pleasure but playing it with a couple of Canadian golf nuts that I meet up with every year when they visit GB&I was a real treat, even with rain lashing down around the lighthouse holes during our round the other day.

The opening three holes are easily overlooked on this great links but I think they’re more than just a terrific “warm up” for the world class stretch of holes that toss and tumble along the coastline between the 4th and 10th – actually, I’d forgotten how much the land heaves around this part of the property, with playing corridors at holes 5, 7 and 8 flanked on either side by towering dunes.

At the risk of repeating what I’ve alluded to before, “Maidens,” is a weak par three hole at the 11th (could the green not be moved further left, closer to the water’s edge?) and it instigates (for me, at least) a lull in proceedings that prevails through the next three par four holes.

After that relative “breather,” golfers need to buckle up for the rough ride back to the clubhouse as a thrilling run for home begins on the 15th tee at “Ca’ Canny,” extends across the winding Wilson’s Burn at the brilliant 16th, continues along the switchback fairway of the par five 17th before ending – breathlessly – on the 18th green, scene of much heart stopping 72nd hole action in recent Open competitions.

Turnberry is rightly regarded as one of the world’s finest resorts; just don’t expect to play any resort golf here as they only do golf of the championship variety.

Jim McCann.

October 03, 2012
10 / 10
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Richard Smith
So which is the best links course in the world? There are many opinions, but after my recent trip to Scotland I will now firmly cast my vote for the Ailsa course. Between the views and the rhythmic feel to the layout as each hole seems to improve on its predecessor there is some magical and serene about this course. The start is innocent enough, a short but well bunkered open that challenges but not overwhelm the golfer. The real treat starts at 4, a difficult par three that begins a very difficult stretch along the ocean all the way through 11. For us these holes were into the wind and 5, 7, 8 9 and 10 were particularly tough. The par 3 six was 200 yards into the wind, and I brought out my old ping 1 iron which I had dusted off for the trip. My rifle shot to 20 feet was one of the most gratifying shots of my trip. The only disappointment was playing 18 from the straightaway rather than the dogleg tee, but otherwise this was a wonderful memorable day. The course had just finished hosting the senior open, and it was in magnificent condition. This was my 5th round on the Ailsa, but my first in 20 years. The additional bunkers have raised the difficulty of the layouts, and with the natural beauty of the property this is a treat not to be missed. Richard Smith. Knoxville, Tennessee USA
August 11, 2012
10 / 10
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Javier Pintos
Second visit to Ailsa and I was lucky to play it on a sunny 24°C so maybe it cannot be better. Last year in august climate was a little bit tougher, butnothing too bad. Turnberry (Ailsa) Golf Course - Photo by reviewer the Course was in great shape as in some weeks it will be hosting the Senior Open Championship. what can I say new that I have not said in my previous review? It is of course astonishing playing the course on a day similar to those on the famous "Duel in the Sun". Regarding the course on of the things I really don't like is the lack of par 5s, as the only one is 17th. 7th hole, who plays as par 5 for pros should be played as well for amateurs, they shoud choose tees to make it like that, This year into a strong wind, I was not able to reach it 2 strokes. After having played almost all the best courses in Scotland, I believe Ailsa is not in my top 5: Carnoustie, Royal Aberdeen, Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart and Muirfield are far better courses. I am not saying Ailsa is not a good course, just saying that I found better courses. Hotel is great and again Wildings is "the" place for a great dinner. Click to read my full story: 13 Courses in 13 Days.
July 12, 2012
8 / 10
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Carl Statham
A truly great experience. I was at a conference and played it twice on two very windy days. The course was in great condition with only a few worn areas.They are readying it for the seniors open. So luckily for me they had cut the championship tees so whilst I played off the whites I nipped back to the famous tee on the 9th and with a wind on my back drove it to ninety yards and made a par .... dream completed.The course is breath taking in my opinion. They could not have used the coast or the dunes better. Even the first tee has the hills in the distance and is a fine links hole. it then builds and builds with the stunning holes in the middle. Perhaps there are only three holes which have little visual beauty, but normally a glance behind you restores that.It is a master piece and a course that anyone with a reasonable handicap can get a feel of the strategic nature of the routing and bunkering. Wonderful.
May 16, 2012
10 / 10
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Matthew Adams
It’s difficult to add much new to the debate when reviewing this wonderful course such as mentioning its wonderful setting and scenery. When considering the course as a whole, most of the holes are excellent. Turnberry (Ailsa) Golf Course - Photo by reviewerOne of the few criticisms I can come up with is that holes such as the 3rd, and 14th are only ‘very good’ in comparison. The 18th also looks to be an even better hole when played as a dogleg as per Open Championship conditions. However, for mere mortals, playing before the height of summer means the course is great fun to play and one where a surprisingly good score can be made with an on-song short game due to the manageable green speed and relatively short rough. However, the course must play like a devil in the height of summer when it plays much firmer. Holding the green on holes like the 7th, 13th and 16th must be a real achievement in such conditions. Early in the season in April of 2011 the course was in fantastic condition and showing its teeth with a moderate breeze and pacy greens. An unforgettable experience.
December 12, 2011
10 / 10
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