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Westin Turnberry Resort: Rugged Coastline, Lighthouse, Signatures of Ailsa Course

By David R. Holland, Contributor

"Locals say if you can see Ailsa Craig it's about to rain. If you can't, it's raining."

AYRSHIRE, Scotland - On the cold and windswept opening day of the 1986 British Open, not one player bettered par and the field was a cumulative 1,251 strokes over par on Turberry's famed Ailsa Course.

Beauty and the Beast.

Greg Norman rebounded from that opening-round gale to post a 63 in the second round and tamed the "Beast" to win the 1986 British Open. It was just one chapter in Turnberry's fabled history that also includes a Jack Nicklaus versus winner Tom Watson "Duel in the Sun" in 1977 and Nick Price's 50-foot eagle putt on No. 17 to win the 1996 Open.

Turnberry is the Pebble Beach of The British Isles.

The "Beauty" of Turnberry is in the impressive views of the lighthouse, Bruce's Castle, Ailsa Craig, the massive granite dome rising from the sea, and The Isle of Arran. It's a west coast beauty on the Irish Sea and the Firth of Clyde and on a clear day golfers can see Ireland far in the distance.

"The weather?" answered Richard Hall, a teaching pro at Turnberry's Colin Montgomerie's Links Academy. "You just never know what is going to happen. Actually, the west coast of Scotland has the best weather. We get a gulf stream and it's warmer than the east coast. Norman won the 1986 Open in terrible conditions, but the Nicklaus-Watson duel of 1976 was in warm weather."

Hall echoed the sentiments of many: "Turnberry is the favorite course of many Scots. The location is just spectacular, probably the most scenic of all the British Open courses. Most links courses are flatter, but we have the views, large mounds and undulations. When you get to Nos. 9 and 10, with the lighthouse, coastline and ruins of Bruce's Castle, you see the true beauty in the course - these holes are synonymous with Turnberry," he said.

Hall said the 2007 British Open is tentatively set for Turnberry's Ailsa Course, which is considered by many as one of Britain's top three courses.

No. 9, a 454-yard, par-4 monster in the wind, is called Bruce's Castle, after Robert the Bruce, Scottish king from 1306-1329. The ruins of his castle are here, just in front of the lighthouse. Golf Magazinenamed No. 9 on its list of Top 500 golf holes in the world. In gale-force winds, standing still, trying to hit a golf ball, at one of the highest points of the course, is a challenge. Staying motionless through the swing is difficult.

Don't overlook No. 10, though, because it is just as beautiful. The 452-yard dogleg left borders the sea and the second shot is menaced 55 yards out by an island trap, a huge circle of sand with a sizable chunk of rounded fairway in the middle.

Wee Burn, No. 16 is another famous hole. It's a 409-yard par-4. One must carry the tee shot at least 250 yards to have a more comfortable approach. The green is surrounded by Wilson's Burn, and anything short of the putting surface could roll back down into the deep darkness. Long-handled ball retrievers are provided for the many golfers who end up in the burn.

In the 1963 Walker Cup, the Wee Burn decided the match. The winning American team triumphed over the burn and the British didn't.

The Rebuilding Projects

In 1946, the Ailsa and Arran Courses, with their spectacular views of Ailsa Craig from every fairway, were a mess. Turnberry had been used as a World War II landing strip, still seen to this day, and the fairways were used by the airmen. Golf course architect Mackenzie Ross rescued and rebuilt the courses in the 1950s and since then the hotel has hosted many amateur and professional championships, including the three British Opens.

Ross made plasticine models of the greens to show machine operators the correct contours to re-construct. Not all of the courses were destroyed. The runways had been located on the higher central ground, so Ross had the unscathed coastal area to create a masterpiece.

After Ross rebuilt the courses, the Ailsa Course became noteworthy the world over. It has been ranked among the world's top 20 courses ever since.

The Arran 18 always played second best to the Ailsa, but it has been recently renamed Kintyre, in a re-design by Donald Steel, and just re-opened this fall. Ailsa and Kintyre are managed by Troon Golf, the U.S. golf course management company.

Kintyre features undulating greens and fairways, splendid ocean holes and views, coupled with all the highlights of a links course including pot bunkers, elevated tees and thick Scottish rough. In Steel's redesign, he used land formerly part of the Arran Course as well as a new stretch of land, known as Bains Hill.

The old Arran Course, originally created in 1909, had already been rebuilt on two occasions, after both World Wars. And this time the rebuilding job was so comprehensive Turnberry decided to rename it Kintyre, replacing Arran, to maintain the geographic link with the nearby Mull of Kintyre.

Bains Hill, a stretch of land that extends along the Ayrshire coastline, includes seven new golf holes that didn't exist before in the original Arran Course. These holes are on the elevated sections of ground along the coast.

The last three holes of the Kintyre layout are new. The 18th includes parts of the Arran's 17th and 18th, curving to the left towards an elevated green that is contoured below the clubhouse. This par 5 has bunkers to catch the drive and other traps flanking the rest of the hole to magnify the slightest error.

Elsewhere on the course, greens have been reshaped and bunkered, tees have been enlarged, elevated and moved back, gorse has been cleared to allow for the regeneration of heather and an irrigation system has been installed.

"To be given the opportunity of opening a new course at Turnberry to match the quality and popularity of the Ailsa was an enviable challenge," said Steel. "Taking the best features from the Arran and combining them with the natural splendor and dramatic scope for change that Bains Hill offered, has resulted in a golf course of the highest standards."

"Turnberry is renowned as a leading golf resort but the Kintyre Course has added a further dimension reaffirming its position as the No. 1 venue for links golf worldwide," said Stewart Selbie, General Manger of The Westin Turnberry Resort.

"Turnberry will now be in the unique and enviable position of offering 36 challenging links holes to its members and visitors in addition to a 9-hole academy course. The Kintyre is just one element of the $20-million investment that has been directed to all areas of Turnberry transforming it into a world class resort with golf and leisure facilities second to none."

Parts of the Arran Course were salvaged. These sections are being transformed into a unique 9-hole course and will be named The Arran Academy Course.

Other championships staged here include the Ladies' British Open Amateur, Scottish Ladies' Amateur, PGA Match Play, PGA Cup Matches, British Senior Open and The European Open just to name a few.

The Westin Turnberry Resort

Ailsa and Kintyre Courses
Ayrshire, Scotland KA269LT

Telephone: +44 1655 333991 or 01655 331000
Email: turnberry@westin.com
Internet: www.turnberry.co.uk

Green Fees: Winter rates, good to April 2002. Resident, Ailsa Course, £55. Resident, Kintyre Course, £45. Non-resident, Ailsa Course, £80. Non-resident, Kintyre Course, £60.

Summer rates, April 1, 2002, to October, 31, 2002. Resident, Ailsa Course, £105. Resident, Kintyre Course, £ 90. Resident, Ailsa/Kintyre (1 round on both courses), £160. Non-resident, Ailsa Weekday, £130. Non-resident Ailsa, Weekend, £175. Non-resident, Kintyre Course, £105.

Walking only. Caddies are available. It is always better to pre-book at a flat rate of £25 plus tip (usually £10). You can rent a trolley (pull cart).

World Rankings by Golf Magazine

No. 19. Turnberry Ailsa, Turnberry, Scotland.

Directions: The hotel is situated on the dramatic west coast of Scotland less than an hours drive from Glasgow International Airport or 30 minutes from Prestwick Airport. Overlooking the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig. (www.turnberry.co.uk/location.htm)

Where to Stay

The Westin Turnberry Resort's hotel, built in 1915, sits high on a hill, a stately beacon with its white siding and red-tiled roof, looking out over the Firth of Clyde with an incredible view of Ailsa Craig, the steep-sided dome of granite towering from the sea. The hotel includes a total of 221 rooms with 21 suites, 12 Luxury Lodges and nine Cottages. All rooms have large bathrooms with showers, bathrobes, heated towel rails and hairdryers. (www.turnberry.co.uk)

Where to Dine

The Turnberry Restaurant, The Terrace Brasserie and The Tappie Toorie Grill are Turnberry's dining options. Turnberry's Executive Chef and his team create a blend of classic French cuisine with local specialties using the combination of local fresh produce, game, fish, lamb and beef with the highest standards of quality and presentation. (www.turnberry.co.uk/cuisine.htm)

Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy

The Scottish golfer, Colin Montgomerie says: "Golf is a game to be enjoyed - and the better you are, the more you enjoy it."

The Academy will help you improve your game by developing natural ability, increasing the effectiveness of practice by concentrating on one or two key areas. At Top teaching professionals will assist you, using teaching packages prepared by Colin Montgomerie himself. Whether you are a scratch player or a first timer, you are sure to benefit from the Academy's creative and innovative approach to the game. (www.turnberry.co.uk/colin.htm)

Area Attractions

Culzean Castle in Ayrshire was designed by Robert Adam and dates back to 1777. It sits in 560 acres of countryside 12 miles south of Ayr on the outskirts of the quiet town of Maybole. The castle also has bedrooms which are available to guests. During his time as U.S. President, the castle was used by Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Ayrshire and The West

Ayrshire remains one of the most popular areas for golf in Scotland and when you visit the town you are entering the world of Robert Burns. Situated on the coast with miles of golden sand and recreational facilities to keep you entertained, it is an ideal resort for all the family with its pools, miniature railway, boating pond and modern swimming pool with great aquaslides.

In Ayr, you can visit all the places where the National Bard of Scotland spent his early years and wrote most of his poems and songs. Alloway, now a suburb of Ayr, was in the 18th century a hamlet two miles over a barren moor from the county town. Burns' Cottage is located here, the place of pilgrimage for admirers from all corners of the world, and the place where Burns was born on January 25, 1759.

Connoisseurs Scotland

Connoisseurs Scotland can assist you with information on the golf opportunities at Gleneagles, Turnberry and the Old Course Hotel, and includes other not-to-be-missed properties a first-time or veteran visitor to Scotland should experience. These are luxury properties that offer the classiest overnight stays and dining opportunities.

For contact information, prices and packages log on to www.luxuryscotland.co.uk and check out these travel stops: One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, The Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh, the Westin Turnberry Resort in Ayrshire, The Old Course Hotel at St. Andrews, the Crinan Hotel in Argyll and Inverlochy Castle in Fort William. Also, read about The Royal Scotsman, an award-winning luxury train, and The MV Hebridean Princess, a luxurious small cruise ship.

Connoisseurs Scotland Contact

Jeremy Hawkings, Sybrig House, Ridge Way, Donibristle Industrial Park, Hillend, Dalgety Bay, Fife, FY11 9JN. Telephone: 01383-825-800. Fax: 01383-825-700. Toll free in the USA: 1-877-9-SCOTLAND.

How To Get Here

British Airways, www.BritishAirways.com, is the best way to come to Scotland. Once you get here travel golfers ride in style to the golf resorts with Little's Chauffeur Drive, Scotland's No. 1 chauffeur service. Read about them at www.littles.co.uk.


Scenery: A+
Conditions: A
Layout: A
Service: A
Practice Fac.: A+
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: A
Pace of Play: A
Value: A-
Overall Rating: A

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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