Donald Trump plans to make Turnberry more dramatic

Tom Watson plays Turnberry's famous ninth hole in the 1977 Open. Changes to the hole are being considered by Donald Trump
Tom Watson plays Turnberry's famous ninth hole in the 1977 Open. Changes to the hole are being considered by Donald Trump
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DONALD Trump’s “tweaks” to Turnberry, which will be implemented with the “blessing” of the R&A, could include making the signature stretch on the Ayrshire course more spectacular by moving three holes closer to the rocks.

According to the American billionaire, the R&A have fancied the prospect of making changes to the ninth – with its iconic lighthouse – tenth and 11th holes on the Ailsa Course for some time but, under the previous ownership, that wasn’t possible.

Following his purchase of the resort for a reported £35 million, however, it is one of the possibilities Trump is eyeing up following his visit there earlier this week during a trip that started at Doonbeg in Ireland and has now moved on to Aberdeen.

“There are things at Turnberry that the R&A have said for almost 30 years that they would love to do and that is moving the ninth, tenth and 11th holes right on to the rocks,” claimed Trump. “They have thought about that concept for maybe 35 years but nobody has got round to doing it. I would never do anything without the R&A’s blessing but we will certainly look at that. They are spectacular holes but they could be even more spectacular.”

“It’s tweaking,” he added, though some might think such a project is considerably more than that. “There’s a difference between building a new course [as he’s done with Trump International Golf Links at Menie Estate] and tweaking a great course.”

Trump, who was delighted with the warm welcome he received during a two-night stay on the Ayrshire coast, said he had no idea when Turnberry would be staging an Open Championship again in the future. “I have a great relationship with the R&A and the members, but I have no indication of when that might be,” he insisted. “I have great respect for [R&A secretary] Peter Dawson and I’ll be guided by him and his people.”

The world’s oldest major was last staged there in 2009, when Stewart Cink denied Tom Watson a sixth Claret Jug success, and it is widely believed the courses on the rota – St Andrews apart – are now on a ten-year cycle. Historically, Turnberry attendances are among the lowest for the event due to it being an awkward place to travel to. Indeed, with both Royal Portrush in Ireland and Royal Porthcawl in Wales rumoured to be on the R&A’s radar, it has been suggested that the venue of the famous “Duel in the Sun” between Watson and Jack Nicklaus in 1977 could be under threat. But Trump is confident that won’t be the case and believes he can sprinkle some stardust at Turnberry, which will stage the Ricoh Women’s British Open next summer.

“If we are lucky enough to get The Open, I think it will be one of the most successful Opens they’ve ever had,” he claimed. “I also think the crowds would be among the largest the event has ever had because the facility can handle big crowds. We have a massive piece of land and the facility is so good. Turnberry is going to do 60,000 rounds this year – that’s a lot of rounds.”

A proportion of those will be on the Kintyre Course, but that Donald Steel-designed layout could be set for some serious Trump treatment. “One of the things I may do at Turnberry is build a second course due to the fact it’s an amazing piece of land,” he declared. “By that, I mean looking at replacing the Kintyre course. The land is so good and, if I did that, it would be a fabulous new course.”

The majority of Trump’s projected spend will be on the hotel, which sits sentry-like overlooking the Ailsa Course and is now set to get a full makeover. “I’ll spend probably 
$150 million on bringing the hotel to the highest standard of luxury. It will be amazing. There won’t be anything like it – probably in the world,” he said.

“The response to me taking over there has been phenomenal. The response from the local council has been unbelievable – they are so happy and they know that I’m going to give them the best product available. We’ll be putting the McLeod House [his accommodation property at Trump International Golf Links] feeling, which is very special, into the hotel at Turnberry and I don’t think there will be anything to match that.

“One of the big things we are doing with Turnberry, perhaps the biggest thing, is that you have a hotel that has the chance to be one of the greatest hotels in the world. When we finish with it it will be one of the greatest hotels in the world. The majesty of Turnberry is when you are on the tees and looking up on that hill and seeing that hotel. It’s the old expression, ‘You can’t build them like that anymore’. When you look at that building, it’s part of the majesty of Turnberry. We will spend a tremendous amount of money – a 
tremendous amount – to make it one of the great hotels of the world.”


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