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Review of the Month October 2019 – Trump Turnberry (Ailsa)

11 November, 2019
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Review of the Month October 2019 – Trump Turnberry (Ailsa)

There are perhaps ten golf courses that are in the discussion of the best golf course in the world: Augusta National, Cypress Point, Pine Valley, Shinnecock Hills, Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Royal Melbourne West, St Andrews Old, Pebble Beach and Trump Turnberry.

Sure, there are a few others that some might add, perhaps Royal Birkdale, Ballybunion Old, Sand Hills, National Golf Links… but among the people with whom I have played or architects it is those ten that generate the most discussion.

I played Turnberry Ailsa several times before it became Trump Turnberry. It was terrific before and now it is fabulous. The recent redesign substantially strengthened the holes along the water although perhaps one hole was made weaker. The hole made weaker was perhaps my favorite hole before.

The first hole with the added length (50-90 yards) and new location as well as the new green on the first is substantially improved. This used to be a pretty easy hole and now it can be difficult if you do not find the fairway or are not a long hitter.

The third hole remains a long par four with 100 yards separating the pro tee and the member tee. The green has been strengthened by adding a bunker to the left.

The fourth hole remains a very good par 4 playing relatively close to the Firth of Clyde. This begins eight holes along the coast. It is a substantially more difficult hole with trouble in front of the green.

The fifth hole used to be my favorite, a long par 4 of 479 yards from the back tees sweeping slightly to the left while going uphill. Now it is a relatively simple par 5 of 500 yards from the member tee. It is well bunkered getting to the green which is one of the better greens on the golf course with a fair amount of slope.

The sixth hole, a par three heading back at the Firth is a short par three that has been substantially shortened and two of the bunkers on the left side has been removed. It used to play 222-231 yards and now plays 138-171 yards. Overall it is easier.

The 7th hole, a par five at the top of the dune has been lengthened with one bunker being removed that was unnecessary. It feels like the hole is more of a dogleg than before but that might be my imagination. This hole is incredibly fun to play.

The biggest changes to the golf course come now. The 9th used to be a difficult tee shot on this longer par 4 with a semi-blind tee shot and no bunkers. It has been replaced with an incredible par 3 of 190-250 yards over the rocks to a green that tilts right to left and has bunkers to either side. The view here is arguably the best in golf of the rocks, the Firth and the lighthouse. As good as the 9th previously was, this is a significant improvement to the golf course.

The tenth hole was also one of the better holes on the golf course, set along the Firth and a par 4 of 447-457 yards which required a precise tee shot to avoid the two bunkers in the fairway and one bunker right. There was a large bunker in front of the green. Now the hole has an awesome view from any of the seven tee boxes playing as a par five of 496 to 565 yards. It is stunningly beautiful. If I had one criticism of the new hole, it is that without wind it is far too easy for even medium long hitters, who easily reach the green in two with a mid iron as the fairway is very downhill. Long hitters can easily reach the bunkers that cross the fairway as their tee shots can go 400 yards or more due to the speed of the fairway. It does have a smallish green as its defense that you can only miss short, as there is gorse right and out of bounds back and left. Overall it is a more visually perfect hole but not as difficult as before.

I actually own an oil painting of the previous 11th hole, a par 3 of 160-175 yards set against the base of a hill, fronted by two bunkers. The par 3 has been replaced with a new par 3 of 178-215 yards and is much more difficult. Both holes are at the mercy of the wind. I have hit driver here before and never made it to the green such was the wind.

From here on in, the changes are more subtle although there are two big ones left.

The 14th was a longer par 4 and was merely above average. It is now a very strong par five of 500-570 yards playing uphill. You must avoid the large bunkers either side of the fairway on your drive, as you play uphill to the putting surface. This hole has one of the trickiest greens on the course. In fact, playing in from the previous hole begins the stretch of the more difficult greens.

The last major change was changing the 17th from a very good par 5 of 500-560 yards where you felt like you were hitting down into a canyon with the second shot threading through the canyon to a green set well above you. It still has the same canyon feeling as a par 4 of 450-510 yards but only on the tee shot. I find the green to be easier to hit as there used to be four bunkers and now there are only two. The green is tilted more than it looks so a putt can quickly get away from you.

Trump Turnberry Ailsa is an amazing golf course. The views from the clubhouse are excellent. The views from the hotel are even better. It has great food and a comfortable place to eat. It has a very large pro shop and fabulous locker room.

The golf course, however, is the star of the property no matter how excellent the hotel, spa, and clubhouse are (I have stayed there many times). It deserves to be in the discussion of the finest golf course in the world, it is that good. It is arguably the best test of golf for an Open Championship with perhaps only Carnoustie as a worthy discussion. Every time I play here I wish I could play more golf here the next day.

Mark White

Review of the Month October 2019 selected by Editor-in-Chief, Keith Baxter, and sponsored by TaylorMade – click to read more about Trump Turnberry Ailsa.

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