The team at Turnberry in Scotland is preparing to reopen the Ailsa course after a major refresh led by architect Martin Ebert, instigated after Donald Trump bought the resort two years ago. The project, for which construction was handled by Irish contractor SOL Golf, has seen every green on the Ailsa rebuilt, and several holes moved.
The highlight of the changes is the enhancement of Turnberry’s already famous coastal stretch of holes. The iconic tee shot over the cliffs on the ninth hole has been retained, but the hole itself has been converted to a 235 yard par three, with the green located on the site of the former lighthousekeeper’s garden, thus removing the rather unsatifactory hog’s back fairway of the old ninth, which saw most tee shots carom into the rough.
The tenth hole too has seen extensive changes. Ebert has pushed the green back to the location of the former eleventh tee complex, so the sea now laps behind the green as well as to the left. A new championship tee close to the lighthouse (which is being converted into a halfway house plus two ‘Presidential’ suites, expected to cost around £7,000 per night, including private butler service), make the hole into a par five, with an exciting diagonal carry of up to 280 yards over the sea from the back tee. Ebert has also restored Philip Mackenzie Ross’s huge scar bunker in the approach to the green, to threaten second shots.
Finally in this stretch, the architect has constructed a new par three eleventh hole, with the tee to the right of the new tenth green and the green tucked in above a series of rocky inlets and a small beach – the third consecutive hole on which golfers will face a sea carry from the tee. The hole was conceived before the 2009 Turnberry Open by Ebert, and long-time course manager George Brown, who died last year. As an entirely new hole, this writer feels it needs a new name, and that it should be named after Brown, who did so much for Turnberry over so many years.
Elsewhere on the course the first hole has both a new tee complex and a new green, taking it from around 350 yards to over 420, while the par three fourth green has been pushed back and closer to the sea. Another major change is the par three sixth, reduced from 231 yards to 172, in order to free up space for the new eighteenth tee complex, which will give golfers a last sight of the sea, as it has been moved to the seawall dune, straightening the hole and lengthening it to 483 yards.