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Turnberry - Ailsa Course

Colin Montgomery grew up as a teen-ager playing the great golf course at Troon and subsequently competed as a professional golfer on the finest golf courses in the world. Yet he claims the Turnberry Ailsa Course is "...the best links golf in the world." When I played Turnberry in 2000 it blew me away. I thought it was one of the finest golf courses I ever had the pleasure of playing. Having played many golf courses since then, I still feel that way. Turnberry Ailsa golf course is on my all time top 10 list. My review, unlike some others, will be very personal--my thoughts and impressions as I played it. I'm a mid-handicapper, I don't hit long balls. My short game, however, is good. (In fact, without my short game, I wouldn't have a game!) So take that into consideration as you read this review, which is more highly personal than some of the others in Golf Nook Scotland.

The Turnberry Ailsa Course, one of the world's greats
Turnberry Ailsa Course, with its landmark lighthouse and Ailsa Rock on the horizon

I was very excited about playing Turnberry. It was a weekday and there were not too many golfers on this great Scottish links golf course. I had no trouble getting a tee time--singles seldom do--and I decided to get a caddie. "I'll get you young Billy Campbell," the caddie-master told me, as if I would know whom he was talking about. Young Billy showed up shortly as I was warming up. A nice young man, he took my bag and escorted me to the first tee. There was a foursome of young American women getting ready to tee off with no one in front of them. Young Billy asked if they minded our playing through, which they graciously let me do. At 358 yards, the first hole is a good starting hole and I managed to birdie it, thus feeling good about my self, my game, and the world in general. I'm sure Young Billy thought he was with a hot-shot golfer. I quickly put that thought to rest with a sliced drive into heavy rough on number 2. After hacking my way out (of course I was trying to do too much with my recovery shot) for a double-bogey, I got down to the seriously-fun business of playing this golf course. (Lesson 1: If you get into the rough, just get out!) Unfortunately it took me four or five holes to begin relying on Young Billy's advice. (Lesson 2: If you're going to hire a caddie, pay attention to him.)


The first three holes are played from the clubhouse toward Turnberry Bay. I felt like a sea turtle working its way toward the sea as I slowly approached hole #4. Holes 4 thru 11 are played with the sea as a constant companion on the left and they are wonderful. Number 4 is a short par 3 to a green that has a severe drop off on the left and front. It's a good idea to hit and hold the green, otherwise you'll have a tough recovery. Five is one of the more difficult holes with a Stroke Index (SI) of 3. It's a dogleg left playing 416 from the visitor's tees. The second shot is uphill, so take more club. Number 7 is worth a mention. It's rated the toughest on the golf course. A par 5 playing "only" 475 from the visitor's tees. You'll be hitting over a creek on your drive and negotiating 6 bunkers on your way to the green. The shot to the green is uphill so, again, club up, i.e. take more club than you think you need.

Turnberry number 9 is one of the great holes in the world of golf

Hole number 9 is flat-out gorgeous! One of the great holes in the world of golf like Cypress Point #16 or Pebble Beach #18. You will just love it.. The tee sits on a promontory far out in Turnberry Bay. A classic risk-reward hole, your tee shot must carry over as much water as you want to chance. It's a par 4 that plays 411 yards, so you'll be tempted to cut off a good chunk. If you're driving well, take a bit of a risk because a good tee shot will give you a short iron to the green and a chance to get it close to the pin. And if you birdie this beauty, it will flat-out make your day.

Turnberry Ailsa Course, 9th tee
The ninth tee -- a classic "risk-reward hole" and flat-out gorgeous

Twelve takes you back "inland" to finish up with some terrific holes. Number 13 has a difficult green. Not only is it shaped like an inverted saucer--trouble if your ball falls off--it's also terraced, so you have to hit the plateau where the hole is located. Number 14 is rated second most difficult with two huge bunkers protecting the front and one in the back. Tough hole!

Watch out for #16. There is a deep valley with a creek running through it and it runs smack-dab in front of the green. Young Billy told me to take out a 6 iron. I opted for a 7 and ended up short. You MUST carry this valley. My ball rolled back down the hill into the creek and was carried into the bay. I had to drop 3 and hit 4 and ended up with a double bogey. (See Lesson 2 above about paying attention to your caddie!) Being too long on your approach to this green is much, much better than being too short.


My day at Turnberry was one of the most fun golf days I can remember. Fluffy clouds floated in a clear blue sky and the wind was, for a change, tame. The gentle breeze was enough to keep me cool but did not affect club choice. This is not typical. As with most links golf couses, the wind can completely change the way you play this golf course.

Turnberry has hosted 4 Open Championsips (who can ever forget Tom Watson's heartbreaking finish in the playoff in 2009?) and 4 Senior Open Championships plus a plethora of professional and amateur championships. The reason is that it is a great test of golf. It demands accuracy, length, finess, a good short game, and a clear head. If you get a chance to play this golf course, do so. I promise you that you will never forget it.

Golf Nook Scotland rating - EAGLE

www.turnberry.co.uk


For What to Do All Day, please see the Ayrshire page. Be sure to visit Culzean Castle.

SPECIAL NOTE !!
You've come this far down the coast, so drive just a few miles south and enjoy the excellent James Braid Stranraer Golf Course, located in the fine town of Stranraer. And while you're there, go a few more miles up the hills to the Dunskey Links, with great views and fun to play. Want to see Northern Ireland? The ferry is right here in this pleasant area.
Where to Stay? Knockinaam Lodge -- a luxury Scottish small hotel, with AA award for Scottish Romantic Hotel of the Year, 2007. www.knockinaamlodge.com