Martin Dempster: Turnberry not just Trump’s toy

Revamped 9th and 10th holes at Turnberry 'owned by Donald Trump. Picture: Contributed
Revamped 9th and 10th holes at Turnberry 'owned by Donald Trump. Picture: Contributed
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IT WOULD be easy to think that Turnberry is just a toy for Donald Trump. After all, he’s already got his acclaimed course at Menie Estate north of Aberdeen, so why is he bothering spending time and money on the Ayrshire venue?

In truth, that would be simple enough to answer on any day but make it an idyllic one like yesterday and it is crystal clear. Without a shadow of doubt, Turnberry is one of the most beautiful locations for a golf resort on the planet.

From the second he first clapped eyes on the place, Trump could see potential in Turnberry, enormous potential. It needed money, a serious amount at that, spent on it – both on the golf courses and the hotel and the lodges at the foot of the hill.

Prepared to splash £200 million or more to get that side how he wants it, work is already underway on the hotel. The paint was still drying, in fact, in the suite where his son, Eric, hosted a press conference yesterday in conjunction with the Ricoh Women’s British Open ahead of it being staged at the venue this summer.

Every bedroom – all 200 or so of them – is being given the Trump treatment, which involves the “finest African mahogany” and best of everything. There’s no scrimping when it comes to trying to create a resort that aims to be on par, if not better, than Doral, another of Trump’s golfing properties in Miami.

It will be terrific for the Scottish tourist industry to see the iconic hotel in its full glory, just as Gleneagles Hotel was as it played host to players and officials during last year’s Ryder Cup. What golfing aficionados have been waiting patiently to discover, however, is what exactly did Donald and his team have in mind for our beloved Ailsa Course, where so many Scottish players have enjoyed rounds over the years.

Well? Some, no doubt, will claim the changes are over the top and I already heard one grumble yesterday about the dogleg being taken out of the 18th. In my humble opinion, however, I think they will enhance what was already a great test of golf.

Trump isn’t trying to replicate his Aberdeen course with what he has planned for Turnberry. That wouldn’t be possible because, apart from a couple of holes, they are different terrains. The Menie Estate course sits in huge dunes whereas the ones at Turnberry are more gentle.

In the main, what he’s trying to achieve with the Ailsa Course is make it a bit more dramatic by taking holes closer to the water. Nowhere will that be more evident than the stretch from the ninth – it was a no-brainer to turn it into a par-3 – through to the 11th. Watching how the world’s top players fare at those three holes when the Open Championship returns at some point down the road is a mouth-watering prospect.

In Aberdeen, Trump worked with Martin Hawtree, a quiet man but a genius when it comes to course design. Martin Ebert is also making a name for himself in that business and, while acknowledging that it has been invigorating to work with someone as passionate about a project as Trump, he’s won some of the battles they’ve had in getting to this point. “It has not just been one-way traffic,” reported Ebert. “We’ve had lots of healthy debate – and he described me as the most stubborn person he’s ever met.”

Make no mistake, Turnberry is no toy for Donald Trump. Visits over the past year that entailed being out on the golf course from morning ’til night were for a very good reason.