DONALD Trump believes the Ailsa Course at Turnberry will provide an unrivalled stretch of successive coastal holes in golf after the wraps are taken off a raft of changes to the Ayrshire venue next summer.
While details of what the American billionaire had planned for the Open Championship course had filtered out in dribs and drabs since his £36 million purchase of the resort almost exactly a year ago, the full plan has now been unveiled.
In short, it will involve the construction of five new holes and nine new greens, although all 18 putting surfaces will be dug up and relaid as part of a project that has been tagged as the “rebirth” of the Ailsa Course.
With a focus on moving as many holes as possible closer to the Firth of Clyde, thereby improving the views of both Ailsa Craig and Arran, Trump and his course designer, Martin Ebert, are making the most significant changes to the run of holes from the fourth to the 11th, all of which have the water flanking the left side of their fairways.
Three of those eight holes will become par-3s after Trump received blessing from South Ayrshire Council to move the green at the ninth, currently a blind par-4 with a hog’s-back fairway, closer to the iconic lighthouse. Announced recently that it will become a new halfway house, the lighthouse will also now provide a stunning backdrop as golfers hit from the current tee that sits halfway out to sea, across the ocean to the new green. Visually, it will be stunning and, measuring 235 yards with a 200-yard carry required from the championship tees, it also has scope to become one of the most feared holes on the Open Championship rota.
“It’s in the eyes of the beholder,” said Eric Trump when asked to rate that particular change as he deputised for his father at a media day for this summer’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, which will be the last big event to be held on the current layout before it closes in September to allow construction work to begin. “But I think it will be hard to beat anywhere. At the same time, I think the par-4 14th hole at Aberdeen (Trump International Golf Links) is also one of the most beautiful holes in golf.”
All being carried out with backing from the R&A, the new changes added to the list first revealed by Trump last July also include the two existing short holes on the front nine. With both a new tee and green, the fourth is being stretched by nearly 30 yards, but that increase will be offset by the sixth being reduced by almost 80 yards.
Across the whole course, the yardage from the championship tees will be stretched by around 150 yards to 7,357 yards, although there is capacity to take that to 7,450 yards. As for the par, it will remain at 70, as it was when Stewart Cink became golf’s most unpopular winner by denying Tom Watson a sixth Claret Jug at the age of 59 in the 2009 Open. In addition to the ninth, the pars are to change at the tenth and 14th – both becoming par 5s – as well as the 17th, shortened to a par-4.
At 499 yards, it will be no pushover if a player comes to it needing a par to stay in front at the business end of an Open Championship and the same certainly applies to a re-modelled 18th. A dogleg in four previous stagings of the R&A’s flagship event, including, of course, when Watson and Jack Nicklaus fought out their famous 1977 battle that led to the hole being christened the “Duel In The Sun”, it is to be straightened so that it plays directly towards the famous hotel on the hill behind the 18th green from new tees set on the dune close to the existing sixth tee.
“Today marks a very important milestone for Turnberry and we are thrilled to be officially unveiling a new and exciting future for this spectacular development,” said Trump snr of the changes to a course that first opened in 1901 before being restored by Mackenzie Ross just over 40 years later after being left “devastated” following its use as an airbase during both world wars.
“We have paid close attention to the prospect of staging future Open Championships. In close consultation with the R&A, we have created an intricate plan which covers every inch of this magnificent course and will make Trump Turnberry a masterpiece in golf course design providing the most challenging and spectacular golf experiences anywhere in the world.”
As part of a £200 million-plus project to get it licked into shape, work is well underway on the hotel, while a £10m revamp of the clubhouse will be completed soon so that it is functioning fully in time for the Ricoh British Women’s Open.
“We wanted to showcase something that has the Trump stamp on it during the Ricoh Women’s British Open,” added Eric, “and we think it will be the best clubhouse in Europe.”
As for when the men’s equivalent might return, it’s in the hands of the R&A, with 2020 likely to be the earliest available slot on the rota. “We would love to see it back here and when it is I think the whole world will be impressed with what we do,” insisted Trump jnr.