Golf has been played at Turnberry for
well over a century now, starting when Lord Ailsa commissioned Willie
Fernie, the professional at Troon, to lay out the first course for
Girvan Golf Club in 1901. This 18-hole layout became the No.1 course
when the No.2 arrived eight years later.
The No.1 course became known as the Ailsa between the two World Wars then the Arran appeared in 1954, shortly after Philip MacKenzie Ross rebuilt the war-ravaged Ailsa.
Almost half a century then elapsed before Martin Ebert, working at the time with Donald Steel, reworked part of the old Arran course to form the 18-hole Kintyre layout, with this new course opening at the start of the new millennium.
The acquisition of Turnberry by Donald Trump in July of 2014 would then propel golf at the resort to an altogether different level over the next three years and by far the smartest move the new owner made was appointing Martin Ebert to oversee the wholesale redesign of the golf operation.
The pitch & putt course in front of the hotel was recreated, the links academy and practice facility was refurbished, a new Cairngorms putting green was installed and the clubhouse was completely renovated before the Ailsa underwent an extensive upgrade.
The last piece of the jigsaw to fit into place was the relaunch of the former Kintyre track as the King Robert the Bruce course, named in honour of the man who, raised as a boy in Turnberry Castle (where the lighthouse now stands) at the end of the 13th century, became King of Scots in 1306.
Significant modifications were made by contractor SOL Golf to many of the holes – the burn on the 1st was removed, sandy waste areas were established on several holes, a large wetland area was created between the 5th and 13th, trees were toppled to the left of the 7th, and the home green was lowered in front of the clubhouse.
As if that wasn’t enough, all the bunkers were overhauled, with fairway traps given a rugged marram-fringed look and greenside sand hazards shaped as traditional revetted pots.
Four new holes were introduced on Bain’s Hill, largely reversing the routing of the holes that were once located there. The elimination of the short par four 8th down to the cove by the water’s edge will be a regret to some, while others will rejoice that this blind hole has been abolished.
The new par five 8th heads towards the lighthouse, playing to a green that sits above the 12th fairway on the Ailsa. The 9th then returns in the opposite direction and the approach shot requires a heroic carry across the old 8th greensite to a green perched high on the headland.
The par three 10th begins a back nine which is now configured with three par fives, three par fours and three par threes. Measuring between 142 yards and 166 yards, this short hole calls for an all-carry tee shot across a sandy waste area to a tricky little green on the other side of a gully.
The 11th hole (formerly a par four on the Kintyre but now lengthened to a par five) then heads down the side of the hill – on the same compass bearing as the 8th fairway but never interfering with it – to the flatter part of the property where the closing holes are located.
It’s never an easy proposition to play second fiddle to a course ranked near the summit of the World Top 100 but the new King Robert the Bruce course (opened in June 2017) does very well in its support role to a more illustrious sibling. Suffice to say, Trump Turnberry is now a 36-hole golf destination of real substance.
Trump Turnberry Resort is one of our Top 100 Golf Resorts of the World
Personally I’d rank RTB far lower than 40th in Scotland. The new holes on the coast are stunning, the 9th that plays across the ravine is in particular although I’m not sure what the shot is here. It typically plays downwind to a small target with cliffs on three sides.
Before and after these coastal holes, it felt like “thread the gorse” as much as golf. It has been cut back in many places but Turnberry is a windy place. The starter said some people find it even harder than the Ailsa. I disagree but I can see their point of view.
Therefore I’d recommend this if part of a deal but it shouldn’t be a priority. If you’re playing the Ailsa you’ll already be getting the coastal experience.
This golf course may have had three names in the last 15 years (it was formerly known as Arran and then Kintyre) and up to four makeovers in its history, but there can no doubting it’s pedigree today as a fine golf course. The current name is after the ancient King of Scotland who proudly proclaimed independence for his country with victory over the English at Bannockburn in 1314. The layout is right next to Turnberry so the terrain is similar, with the famous Lighthouse dominating distant views out to sea.
‘King Robert the Bruce’ is a tough examination of golfing skills with many holes framed by gorse that was in splendid bright yellow bloom when we played. The winds were quite strong during my round, with the prevailing wind mainly assisting on the way out and against on a rugged and demanding finishing stretch. And in between, the holes from 8 to 11 are on the most exposed part of the site, aptly called ‘Windy Hill’. In my view this area is the highlight of the course, with 8 a majestic three-shotter towards the distant Lighthouse, 9 a long and dangerous dogleg culminating in a scary cliff-edge green, 10 a gem of a par three and 11 another long hole this time from an elevated tee with a gentle dogleg to an awkward putting surface. And all with superb coastline views!
The difficulty lets up only a little on the rest of the back nine until 17 a superb long dogleg and 18 a strong par five. Here the gorse infringes on the left with deep bunkers on both sides of a fairway that curves leftwards towards a slightly raised green sitting in front of the luxurious modern clubhouse. If you finish your round here having played to handicap you deserve a pat on the back, for you will have played well.
Many comparisons are made with the championship course next door, but I prefer to assess the course in its own right. It is well maintained and the greens are in perfect order. The course is an excellent but fair test and although your are likely to finish worn out, you will also feel refreshed from the sea air, and satisfied with the effort you have made to come to terms with a worthy challenge.
We were taken to tee 7th to play the best part of the course which went under major renovation after Ailsa and the result shows a course well worth to be played, up to the challenge (if not harder) than her older sister and maintained in perfect shape despite a lot of rain and cold winter.
It was very windy and the first 4 holes played with wind across and downwind to then go back to the Club into a wild breeze which made it necessary to hit very low stingers to try and get the ball to move.
The improvement was done in all areas: apart from maintenance, the part of the cliff was re routed and now 8 plays a par 5 towards Ailsa Craig and the Lighthouse, 9th is a monster par 4 parallel to the cliff and with a deep waste bunker where the old 8th green stood. 10th is a very nice 3 with attractive bunkering before returning to play in the Craig and Lighthouse direction for 560yds par 5 11th.
Getting back both 15th and 17th are now over 450yds from the back so go figure how tough it is to close the round, even 18th has been lengthened.
It used to be just a complement to Ailsa and now it stands on it’s own with great character and challenge.
KRTB was the first trump course I played and it did not disappoint. Everything about turnberry is first class, proper links course and a good test of golf but a very fair course, if your playing well on the day expect a good score.
Having played the Ailsa a couple of days before, I turned up at Turnberry this morning with lower expectations and the rain absolutely throwing it down! Having paid upfront and in all honesty what else would I be doing, except keeping warm and relaxing, playing KRTB was always going to be on the cards regardless of the weather.
And what a delight of a track it turned out to be. It is always going to be compared to it's sister course and whilst that is inevitable, just looking at this course in it's own merits, it stacks up as an excellent links course, with a tremendous middle section, played in a sandwich between solid if not spectacular front and ending sections.
The front 7 holes are played on flat land behind the sea side dunes, played on wide fairways but surrounded by gorse. Bunkers are strategically placed but less imposing on the Ailsa. I liked the routing of the 1st 7 holes, the course flowed well. A good mix of 2 par 3's , a par 5 and remainder par 4's.
Personally I would add pine trees behind the 7th green to block out the housing/motel and this would be in keeping with the rest of the hole as it does have pine trees on the approach.
The course was very wet, puddles were forming on the greens and by the time we got to the 11th, a mini stream was breaking out in the bunker. There were also mini rivers and puddles on the fairways, but none of this spoilt the enjoyment. The course was holding up well despite the atrocious weather and the greens ran true and even quick where the water wasn't gathering.
The best holes are reserved for holes 8 - 10 in the middle. Playing on the plateau and towards the Lighthouse, the 8th is a solid par 5. The 9th is an excellent par 4, as the cliff side eats into the fairway in front of the green meaning a real risk and reward 2nd shot over the ravine and banking in front of the green. Anything short is still in bounds but you will be playing from a huge waste area or rough to a green 30 odd foot above you.
This section finishes with a strong par 3, 206 yards off the back tees, across another waste area, which was fast becoming a lake, to a table top green.
You then head back down off the plateau and onto the flat land below, playing a long par 5, with the Ailsa Lighthouse the backdrop to the green.
The final section flows through the gorse, adjacent to the old run way and the 9 hole Arran course, switching behind the practice area for the last 3 holes, finishing in front of the driving range building.
The flat sections holes, whilst not outstanding, were excellently routed and very enjoyable to play. Some holes were reminiscent of Ganton, i.e. a more inland links feel and look and my personal favourites were the 5th, a demanding par 4 which ran alongside a natural wetland area and 14, a par 5 which can be reached in two, but with an excellently positioned pot bunker waiting to catch a slightly mishit 2nd. The 18th is also a good finishing hole with 9 fairway bunkers and 4 greenside bunkers, the most of any hole by some margin.
This course stacks up against the best that Ayrshire has to offer, and is worth visiting to play at Turnberry purely for itself. But I suspect, like myself, most will play it as the 2nd course to the Ailsa. Try and not constantly compare to it's big sister and enjoy for the quality of the offering on its own merits. Needless to say the camera did not make it out of the water proof pocket very much and indeed my clothes are still drying out, but worth it.
Overshadowed by its illustrious parent course the Ailsa, the KRTB is a very fine course in its own right. The first few holes are good strong traditional links holes with gorse and bunkering in abundance, then as you weave your way to the top of the course your greeted by a run of 5 holes that are truly magnificent and would be worthy of note on any course. The final stretch returns to tight gorse lined hole after hole and in a stiff breeze it most certainly was a challenge.
A must play if ever your are around the Ayrshire coast do not overlook this place.
It was a pleasure to return to play the new King Robert The Bruce course in July 2021. Since my last visit in 2017 when the second course here was called the Kintyre much has changed.
The majority of the course has been given a facelift with new fairway and greenside bunkers as well as a couple of water hazards removed. Some trees have also gone and a wetlands area created. And the middle section of the course (holes 8 to 11) have been completely redesigned. It now means the course plays to a 7,203 yardage from the rarely used black tees and is a par 72.
I'm pleased to report that the changes are for the better and elevates this fine links to well within the top 50 in Scotland.
Previously holes 8 to 10 were played in an anticlockwise direction and featured a notorious hole with a green set deep in a rocky cove. That has all changed as we now play this loop on the cliff tops in a clockwise direction and they start with a fine par five with an infinity green and a glorious backdrop of the famous lighthouse and Ailsa Craig.
The next is probably going to become a decisive hole and is a real risk-rewarder. The drive is straightforward but then you must decide if you've got enough ammunition to fire over rocky cliffs to a green perched perilously close to the edge. There is an alternative route around although it is likely you will need to play over the large hollow (where the old 8th green site used to sit) at some point.
This trio of holes on the high ground is completed with a more traditional short hole and is a fine looking par-three. The old 11th has now been extended to a par five before the round completes over familiar ground.
It's not easy for any course to shine when you have something like the Ailsa hogging the limelight but the King Robert The Bruce is a very good golf course in its own right. Some of the holes on the lower ground may feel a little repetitive with the gorse lined fairways but it still ranks highly in my book and the changes have no doubt improved what was already a very good golf course.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Decent golf course but some way off the Ailsa in terms of topography and visuals ( understandably ) so very much a second course. The part of the course where you could see the Ailsa (holes 8 to 10), happened to be the most memorable holes, particularly the par 4th 9th which features a ravine short left of the green and the par 3, 10th which is beautifully presented with a green complex that has brilliant bunkering on the slope in front of the green. A couple of general comments - 1/. Liked the sandy waste areas so wish there were more of them ( it adds some visual impetus and variety from the thick gorse that borders many of the holes ), and 2/. right to left dog legs dominated the orientation ( 7 of the 13 par 4s and 5s), contrasted with 2 that were fade biased. Just an observation, the holes were still good however. Having spent 5 hours playing the Ailsa, the 3 hours around the RTB was a welcome treat.
Trump Turnberry King Robert The Bruce is a very fine course. Personally a few of the holes here are exceptional and I could see those fitting in with the Ailsa to create a combined super course. The conditioning is immaculate. The green complexes are very good. The staff is very welcoming. It's a pure pleasure to be here.
The Robert the Bruce course is a good sister course to the more prestigious and well known Ailsa. The course is set on beautiful picturesque seaside links with views of the lighthouse and Irish sea on many of the holes.
Golfers hoping for a nice easy warm up round before tackling the Ailsa be warned! the course is brutally tough and demands your best golf.
On most holes the layout is flat and at times a touch repetitive. You also forget that you’re playing a links course so close to the sea in the early holes, however don’t think it is easy. We found the rough to be so harsh that unless you ran into the fringe you were very unlikely to find your ball. Not only was the rough harsh the course was so tight especially in the weather conditions we faced that it almost became impossible to score even for two single figure handicapper in our group.
Holes 1-7 were on mainly flat ground and all had challenging bunkers and required fairway drives. Not overly memorable but solid golf club holes.
Holes 8-11 are where you get the 5star experience. The 8th a lovely par 5 birdie chance that whets the appetite for the signature 9th. The 9th hole is a testing drive required to leave you with a mid to long iron over sandy wasteland to the green. There are stunning views of the Irish sea to your left and the hole was certainly one of the top 5 holes even including those on the Ailsa course. A sheer stunning hole. The 10th is a good par 3 hole with nice views from the tee. This hole feels and looks very new and needs a bit or growth and bedding in, but is still a good par 3. The 11th another gettable par 5 requiring a good drive had the lighthouse pretty much as the backdrop for all three shots. My second favourite hole on the course and another stunner.
The closing holes i thought were slightly better than the opening ones however even after only a week has passed i’m struggling to remember each one individually.
I think that sums up the course. The 3/4 holes in the middle are world class and the rest are good if a little flat and repetitive. The condition of the course was immaculate, bunkers fluffy and the greens quick. I couldn’t rate the course higher in this respect, perfect in all aspects.
As a side note the rough was impossible and did take a little of the fun out of the game. We had poor weather and i dread to think what id score on a very bad day. I’m not sure i’ve ever been so worried about playing the main course the next day. The course really chewed us up and spat us out.
To summarise it’s definitely worth a round if playing alongside the Ailsa or if your local but not sure id come and stay just for the Robert the Bruce course. It was by a margin the most difficult course i’ve ever played, which was highly unexpected and not really needed. However with plenty of golf balls and your A game it would be impossible not to enjoy the Robert the Bruce layout.