Nine new greens will be built as part of the much-trailed alterations to Turnberry’s Ailsa course, which was acquired last year by the Trump Organisation.
Released officially at a press conference at the resort to mark the upcoming Women’s Open at Turnberry, the plans, which have been drawn up by architect Martin Ebert, call for extensive changes to some of the course’s most famous holes. In particular, the par four ninth, iconic because of the carry across the cliffs from the championship tee, will be replaced by a long par three, also over the water, to a new green located close to the lighthouse, which will become the course’s halfway house.
Donald Trump’s son Eric, who hosted the press conference, said: “Our main objectives have been to retain the routing of the course, but to emphasise the spectacular coastline views.” The changes will start from the beginning, with the first hole lengthened via new tees and a new green, while the par three fourth will also get a new green. The fifth will also get new tees and green, and will play as a par five for resort visitors, though remaining a four for championship play. The long par three sixth will be shortened with a new green, set hard against a steep dropoff in the dunes. Tees will be set on the edge of the dunes, above the beach.
The par four tenth, for which Ebert built a new championship tee before the 2009 Open, will go even further back, becoming a par five. The green will be moved back to the location of the current eleventh tee complex, thus having the sea on two sides. This, along with the new par three eleventh, also playing across coastal inlets, is something Ebert has wanted to do for many years.
The fourteenth hole will play to a new green set in the middle of the existing ninth fairway, again with a clear view of the sea. The seventeenth will get a new green, turning it into a par four, and with more room behind the green for grandstands. Finally, the home hole will be straightened and lengthened, with new tees up on the seawall dune.
Ebert told GCA: “What drove the scale of the changes was my desire to make room to get the eighteenth tee back onto the dune bank. The existing hole is disappointing with the false dogleg and no view of players for the spectators till they get to the corner. The new hole will all be in view, and the tee shot will be much more strategic, not just a question of getting to the corner. Players will ask themselves ‘Should I hit driver and have a nine iron in or lay up and have a four iron?’ We will take the fairway back quite close to the new tees – I hope lots of golfers, not just those playing from the championship tees, will experience that shot.”
He added: “The shortening of the sixth is because I didn’t want to have two par threes playing over 230 yards in four holes. When you have the ninth at 235 yards, you don't need the sixth at a similar length. The new green on six, which will be edged right and have a wicked drop on the right will turn it into one of the great short threes in the world. Losing 200 yards on the ninth and 80 on the sixth meant the front nine was a lot shorter, and we wanted to get some of that back. The R&A are quite happy with a par of 34 out, but Mr Trump preferred 35 for daily play.”
Ebert said he was well aware that, with nine entirely new greens and several others being altered, there was a danger that the entire feel of the course would change, and said he was keen to avoid that. “Really, it is the setting that makes Turnberry now,” he said. “The detailing of some greens is good, but it’s not as good as the best. There are some nice greens out there, but generally they are slightly bowled in nature. The new greens will have more movement, but they have to blend in with the existing ones. On the fourth hole, for example, there will be a gain in yardage, which we needed, but when you look at the detail of the existing green, it is so collecting that it is very limited in terms of flag locations. The new green will be very different. Similar at the fifteenth, where we intend to massage the contours of the existing green. It is a shame, with the great dropoff to the right of the green, that there is nowhere to put a flag at back right, close to the dropoff. So we will change that.”
Turf for the new fairways will be taken from the Arran course. Work will commence after this summer’s Women’s Open, while the course will close down in September for the large scale works, with a planned reopening next June.