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The Ailsa course undergoes a major facelift

03 November, 2015

The Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry undergoes a major facelift

A progress report

You may remember an announcement back in April that the Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry was to undergo “extensive but sympathetic” alterations in order to improve and enhance the resort’s reputation as a world class golfing destination. Here’s a video of the proposed course upgrade:

Respected architect Martin Ebert is overseeing the modifications and we were in communication with him recently about another of his current projects when he invited us to have a look at the progress made so far on Turnberry’s iconic course. And so, we set out the other day on a couple of buggies, along with Director of Golf Ricky Hall, to have a look at what’s been done so far.

SOL, the contractor that constructed the Trump International course at Balmedie, has been entrusted with carrying out the high profile renovation and they’ll be upgrading many of the fairway and greenside bunkers and replacing each and every putting surface. Some of the greens, like the 1st, will be relocated, which will only add to the playing strategy of the holes concerned.

The green on the 2nd has just been reconstructed with a little more contour added and a couple of greenside bunkers are currently being reformed. Martin stopped off to have a word with the shaper who was operating the digger to the right of the new green, suggesting a little tweak here and there to the work being carried out on the two bunkers.

Sand traps on the 3rd are still to be reshaped and the green on the 4th hole has now been moved back a bit to remove the bowled nature of the old putting surface so this short par three becomes a little longer, with the former sandy carry in front of the green restored to its former glory, bringing the feel of the beach closer to the hole.

The fairway on the 5th is being extended towards the tees and a digger at the far end of the hole was currently clearing dead ground behind the old green in preparation for the installation of a new putting surface in the valley between the dunes. The hole will remain a par four for major championships but will play as a par five otherwise.

The formidable old long par three at the 6th has been replaced with a shorter par three that’s now tackled from new tee positions that are yet to be established on top of the dune ridge that runs along the shoreline. The green has been moved to the right of the old putting surface and new revetted bunkers have just been installed.

The fairway on the 7th is to be extended towards the tees by piping in the Wee Burn, allowing the hole to be played as a proper par five. The green has been enlarged at the back and some of its contours softened to offer more pin positions for championship play. Existing tees are to bereconfigured and bunkers altered in shape.

Martin stopped to talk to the shaper working the digger on the enlarged bunker to the left side of the 8th green as he wanted a few things corrected and then it was onto the new par three 9th, which begins a stunning sequence of three holes laid out along the water’s edge.

The tee shot across the bay at Turnberry Point now plays to a new green in front of what used to be the old walled garden beside the lighthouse (which is to be refurbished as a fabulous halfway house grill) and this hole replaces the old par four with its unsatisfactory hogs back fairway. Standing on the enlarged tee, it’s easy to see this par three quickly becoming known as one of the world’s greatest short holes when the revamped layout reopens.

The 10th is now elongated around Castle Port Bay to play as a par five, with new tees to be built on the site of the existing half way hut, once it has been dismantled. The green is being pushed back onto the edge of the rocky shoreline and two large diggers were busily working in tandem to lay out the new greensite. The old doughnut bunker is to be moved up the fairway and reshaped to its original form.

The final seaside hole, the par three 11th, moves forward and left of its old position and the newly laid green now sits precariously close to the rocky inlets that run along the left side of the realigned hole. Things then calm down a little at holes 12 and 13 as the routing moves inland, where nothing much is to be altered on either hole, apart from softening the green contours on the former and restoring the huge crater bunker and adding another one into the bank to the right of the fairway on the latter.

The 14th is extended from a par four to a par five and the hole has been realigned, heading towards the lighthouse and a new green located where the old 9th fairway was formerly positioned. In its current raw state, it’s hard to believe this snaking, slightly uphill fairway will be ready for play by next year’s deadline but the architect is confident it will be, weather permitting, of course.

Hole 15 is to have its green flattened a little to allow additional flag positions, hole 16 will have its existing wooden bridge replaced with a stone version (built from the wall that used to surround the lighthouse lawn) and hole 17 is being shortened to play as a par four, with a new green brought forward from its existing position.

The final major course change involves extending the 18th fairway back towards new tee positions in the dunes, close to the 5th green, so the championship tees will no longer be situated to the left of the 17th green, forcing elite golfers to play the final hole as a left doglegged par four. Instead, everybody will now take straight aim at the home green from an elevated tee position, with the hotel forming an impressive backdrop to the final hole.

There’s no doubt the scale of the above modifications is of epic proportions, with every single hole undergoing some sort of upgrade process, and the redesigned Ailsa course is due to reopen in June 2016, when the refurbished 5-star hotel is also unveiled. It should be worth waiting for a review of the new layout in due course because, even now, in the midst of the extensive alteration work, we’ve seen enough to know that the finished product is going to be absolutely sensational.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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