The Links is arriving in Scotland and what a starting point – Turnberry and the Ailsa course.
There are few more inspiring places to play golf then Turnberry. The stunning beauty of Turnberry is hard to beat with so many iconic images to distract you from the links – the granite dome of Ailsa Craig, the lighthouse, the magnificent hotel and in the distance the Isle of Arran. It’s a breathtaking landscape that will challenge any course in the world.
Turnberry is of course also a venue for The Open Championship and it was held here in 1977, 1986, 1994 and 2009.
“Play the Ailsa course and step in the footsteps of Legends”. Tom Watson won in 1977, Greg Norman in 1986, Nick Price in 1994 and Stewart Cink in 2009.
Memorable moments that will not be forgotten is the “duel in the sun” between Watson and Nicklaus in 1977, Greg Norman shooting a course record of 63 in strong wind and rain, Nick Price with a one shot victory over Jesper Parnevik and in 2009 when Tom Watson nearly repeating his victory 30 years ago, but Stewart Cink pushed ahead and took the victory.
Turnberry have two very good golf courses, Ailsa and Kintyre. Ailsa is the Championship course and a true links challenge. The wind will determine how brutal the course will be, but even in a slight breeze it’s a tough test for any golfer. On a normal day, it’s a +1 to 1,5 club wind and I had the pleasure playing it in +3 to 4 club wind.
I really like Turnberry and you feel the excitement already when you arrive. The magnificent hotel with a stunning view of the ocean, Ailsa Craig, the Lighthouse and the links courses. In the clubhouse you are embraced with all those memorable moments and the great golfers that have created them for more than 100 years.
The Ailsa course will push you to the limit of your golf. It’s a very tough and fair course. The course has a very natural layout with many well-placed bunkers. The long (most are over 400 yards) par 4’s are extremely long in the wind and the usual “keep it low in the wind” is a must. There are no easy holes and “relaxing” holes, but I love it.
Hole 4 – 165 yards par 3
Right by the ocean and with an elevated tee guarded by a large bunker on the front right side. Anything left or short of green will mean serious trouble. The green is bowl shaped and any ball hitting the surface should filter into the middle from either side, but what a small surface and bowl! The cross wind doesn’t make it easier either…. Tee shot in the rough to the left of green and a magic lob shoot for a tap in par.
Hole 7 – 469 yards par 4
A very long slight dogleg left par 4. Unless you are a long hitter and dare to cut off the dogleg, you need to hit your tee shot between the fairway bunkers. The approach shot is uphill and you’ll need everything you have in the bag to get on green in two. But be careful, two bunkers guard the right of the green and a deep valley of thick rough to the left. Don’t know how, but I managed to make a par both days.
Hole 9 – 412 yards par 4
Blind tee shot and aiming for a rock on top of the hill. Back tee is on top of a rock low down by the ocean and is breathtaking - Ailsa Craig behind you, the lighthouse to the right, rocks and ocean surrounding you. It’s not a difficult hole, but the scenery will distract you. I was distracted and made a bogey 5.
Hole 10 – 447 yards par 4
The name of the hole is “Dinna Fouter” which translates to “Don’t mess about”. Ocean and rocks on the entire left hand side. An elevated tee shot that needs to carry the rocks and avoids the two fairway bunkers that is in the middle of the fairway. An interesting large bunker is about 50 yards in front of the large green – a small hill with high grass surrounded by sand. Didn’t mess about, long drive and an iron short of green. Pitch and one put for par.
Hole 16 – 422 yards par 4
Place the tee shot down the right half of the fairway gives the best angle for the approach shot. Second shot will test your nerves, you need to carry the burn in front of the elevated green and the green slopes towards the burn, so make sure you have distance and accuracy or play it short. Bogey five after a good drive, a very good 3 wood on green, but the slope took it to the burn. Pitch and one put – I’m happy.
I did play the Ailsa course twice. The first day I played on my own and was the first player on the course. The wind was very strong and a +3 to 4 club wind.
I managed rather well (41 OUT) until the wind picked up even more and the rain started to fall heavily on the 14th tee. I have never felt anything like it – the rain was falling horizontal and the raindrops were like bullets hitting my body and face. It was hurting and I need to take cover for 15 minutes or so. This was an experience I rather not have again. No way to play golf, I struggled through the wind and rain to the 18th tee to finish off the last hole “in style”. I don’t think I’ve been this wet and cold on a golf course before – unfortunately no sauna to cure the cold body, but a hot shower and a whisky works as well.
On my second day on the Ailsa course Marcel Becker and Martin Schöttler from Germany joined me. Two nice golf enthusiasts that were on their yearly golfing trip. First time on Ailsa in a +3 club wind is a challenge and Marcel and Martin discovered it. They kept the spirit up and played with mixed results.
Lee McAllan was my caddie. He did a great job and really helped my out a lot. On top of this, he’s also a very entertaining and funny guy. I may not always hit the line he wanted, but I did reasonably OK.
Shot a 38 on the front nine and a 40 on the back for a total of 78 (gross). I’m very pleased with this result and in particular did the driver and long irons work well.
Will I come back to Turnberry and play the Ailsa course? YES.
Should you come and walk in the steps of legends and play an amazing links course? YES.
GREAT THINGS ABOUT GOLF
A pitch that checks on the second bounce
This is preserve of the good golfer and if you can do it consistently you must be one. If you do it once in a while? Well, just enjoy it.
Turnberry - Ailsa course