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Turnberry Ailsa Reborn

01 June, 2016
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Turnberry Ailsa reborn

The Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry reopens after an extensive renovation.

We published a progress report on the work being undertaken to revitalise the Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry in Ayrshire at the end of last year – click this link for the story. Seven months on, the Ailsa has been “reborn,” with the iconic course reopening to the public today.

Currently ranked number 4 in our Scottish Top 100 chart and at number 6 in our Great Britain and Ireland Top 100 listings, the Ailsa has long been a favourite course of golfers who love its scenic location overlooking the Firth of Clyde, with views across to the Kintyre Peninsula and the Isle of Arran.

Now, following a massive makeover from architect Martin Ebert, there’s real substance to match the style that the Ailsa has always had in abundance. The introduction of replacement holes around the lighthouse (between the 9th and 11th) is undoubtedly the main highlight of this major project but there are plenty of other delightful touches to revel in.

For instance, all the fairway bunkers have been re-constructed as bold, ragged edged sand traps, with only the greenside bunkers retaining their smooth, revetted lines. As a consequence of using turfed grass from wilder areas of the course to construct the rear part of the fairway bunkers, several large sandy waste areas have been left close to a number of fairways, offering a lovely visual contrast to their greener surroundings.

All told, around thirty-six acres of grass was lifted and re-laid during the build, with less than a tenth of that figure required to turf the new par five 14th, when seeding the fairway didn’t work as well as expected over the winter. Some green surrounds around the course were also taken from existing holes on the Kintyre course, which itself is being upgraded at the moment.

Grass paths appear to be in vogue at the moment – the days of crushed white seashells are long gone – and they link every green to the next tee at every hole here. The most impressive use of this pathway occurs after the par five 5th, where it rises up then along the top of the dune ridge to the tees for the short 6th, offering fabulous views right along the beach to the north and to the south.

Stone from the old walled garden near the lighthouse has been used in a new bridge over the burn that runs in front of the 16th green, replacing the old wooden structure that had surely seen better days and this further example of recycling existing materials on site is another feather in the cap of the architect and the contractors.

Mention of the lighthouse brings up the subject of the new half-way house – the lighthouse itself! No longer occupied by live-in staff because the nautical navigation equipment is all solar powered these days, the former accommodation quarters have been refurbished as a 2-bedroomed suite with balconies facing out to Ailsa Craig in the Irish Sea.

In such a beautifully renovated building at such a stunning location, can there possibly be a better place in the British Isles to consider stopping for refreshment during a round of golf?

Architect Martin Ebert has made it clear that the new Turnberry owner deserves great credit not only for his financial investment in plant, machinery and course infrastructure but also for his willingness to contribute to the design process. Indeed, it was Donald Trump who pushed for the old par four 9th to be replaced with an iconic par three and many believe this will in time come to be regarded as one of the top holes in world golf.

Esie O’Mahony and his SOL construction team, especially shapers Ollie Sutton and Jamie O'Reilly, must be commended for the wonderful job that they’ve done here, transforming the architect’s plans into reality on the ground. And their work at Turnberry is far from over, as attention now turns to the Kintyre course, which is also being significantly improved.

Golf & Estates Manager Allan Patterson has told us that part of the plans involve removing the old short par four 8th hole and routing holes in the opposite direction around Bain’s Hill so expect to hear more about those developments in due course. For sure, Director of Golf Ricky Hall and all his staff can look forward to exciting times in the weeks and months ahead as the profile of Trump Turnberry rises ever higher.

For the latest review on the Ailsa course click this link

Jim McCann
Editor
Top 100 Golf Courses

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