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
I really enjoyed my third visit to the Kintyre as a wee winter warmer to help get the swing back into some sort of action after a dreadful winter that saw no golf played for weeks on end. The opening half dozen fairways on the course are flanked by what I imagine to be the tallest specimens of gorse in all of Scotland so if you spray the ball too far to either side you can forget about finding it again. This is the flattest, least inspiring section on the course but it does provide good solid links golf. I’m still not a fan of the loop around Bain’s Hill from the 7th to the 11th though the green position in the cove at the 8th is just wonderful – critics of this hole must surely be those who hoped to birdie the short par four but ended up with bogey or worse?
It was a bit of a slog heading for home over the last six holes into the teeth of a gale - again, the terrain adjacent to the old military runway is pretty level and difficult to make interesting - but you have to pay full attention at the last as the merciless bunkers on the 18th will suck you in and spit you out in the blink of an eye (as my match play opponent will readily testify with regard to his playing partner). Conditioning on the course was quite remarkable considering the weather we have had for months now and hats off to the green keeping staff that were obviously busy relining or re-edging many of the bunkers during the winter. The Kintyre might not be at the level of its world class sibling next door (what courses in the UK can come close to matching its majesty?) but it’s still capable of supplying a very enjoyable round of links golf. Jim McCann
We were a fourball and allowed to play off the white tee which was nice. The opening hole is a very nice par five with a beautifully crafted water hazard that runs just at that awkward distance to lay up with your second shot. The green is difficult and contoured and well protected. The second a mid length par three and with the wind the line was a good forty yards to the right. The holes on the run to the turn are all classic links type with good bunkering and plenty of gorse to punish the wayward drive. Certainly the course is a real test at the turn. The eighth is real beauty with the green in a cove less than three hundred yards away. The green itself is very picturesque and if it was moved to the west coast of the USA alongside the other holes at Pebble Beach, would not look out of place, yes it really is that good even in the wind and rain. The next was straight into the wind. The tee shot is nervy enough but into a wind its worse.
By this time the wind was so strong it would support your weight and you could not hit a driver further than two hundred yards off the tee. I could hit a low running six iron as far. As you go out and back with nine and ten the view along the coast is fantastic. As you play the tenth you drop down into the main body of the course offering a bit more protection from the elements whilst still remaining a test. As you cross part of the old runways that still remain the course returns to the gorse and the holes are well set out. The closing hole is a par five as at the start and is a beauty, great bunkering with a wickedly designed green. When a professional tournament is held here then there will be drama on this hole.
The Kintyre for a course only ten years old is amazing. It is designed in a way to keep the links feel all the way around. The condition was superb and the greens held up well and were firm and fast. Despite the torrential rain there were only a few patches of standing water. As we came off the last green the rain became even stronger and became flooded in minutes. Amazingly enough by morning it was cleared and payable easily! The Kintyre if it was anywhere else would be a course worthy of a very high ranking indeed. I have a big problem accepting that it is not in the top 100 in the British Isles now. I cannot think of 100 better courses than this one and if Cruden Bay, Nefyn and the like are in then why not this? Great course go and play it. AW