Turnberry Links: The Ailsa Course

01
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Touring Turnberry, Starting on the 1st Hole

The 354 yds par 4, 1st hole on the Ailsa Course at Turnberry Resort
Looking up the No. 1 fairway at the Turnberry Ailsa course. David Cannon/Getty Images

The famed Turnberry links are part of the Turnberry Resort in Ayrshire, Scotland, next to the Firth of Clyde. Turnberry includes three golf courses: the 9-hole Arran Course; the 18-hole Kintyre Course; and the 18-hole Ailsa Course, which is one of the most famous and highly regarded golf courses in the world, and is the course featured in this photo gallery. The Turnberry Resort is also home to a Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy.

The Turnberry Ailsa Course has been the site of the Open Championship (a k a, the British Open) numerous times. The most famous Open here was the 1977 "Duel in the Sun," in which Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus battled head-to-head for the final two rounds before Watson emerged victorious.

As at all links courses, golfers at Turnberry Resort must deal with firm and fast fairways, undulating fairways and greens, deep bunkers and stiff breezes. Playing conditions change with the weather, and the weather changes all the time.

Address: Turnberry Resort, Maidens Road, KA26 9LT, Turnberry, Ayrshire, Scotland
Phone: +44.1655.331.000
Website: turnberry.co.uk

In addition to the hole-by-hole tour, interspersed in this gallery are more pages about Turnberry's history. Click through to find them, or you can go directly to one that interests you:

  • Can you play Turnberry?
  • The three golf courses at Turnberry
  • Turnberry course origins and architects
  • Major tournaments played at Turnberry (and the winners)
  • More trivia and tidbits
  • All hole yardages, pars and names listed

Hole 1 at Turnberry

  • Name of hole: Ailsa Craig
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 354

The first hole at the Ailsa is named for the most famous feature of the Turnberry landscape, the Ailsa Craig, a huge granite dome that looms offshore in the Firth of Clyde. You can't see it in the view above down the first fairway, but it is visible from most points on the course and we'll see it several times throughout this photo gallery.

02
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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 2

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 2
David Cannon / Getty Images
  • Name of hole: Mak Siccar ("make sure")
  • Par: 4
  • Yards (as played in the 2009 Open Championship): 428

This dogleg left has several menacing fairway bunkers, including two in the fairway.

03
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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 3

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 3
David Cannon / Getty Images
  • Name of hole: Blaw Wearie ("out of breath")
  • Par: 4
  • Yards (as played in the 2009 Open Championship): 489

The prevailing wind here - which blows in off the sea from the direction of Ailsa Craig - is straight into the players. In fact, most days that wind makes the first three holes play very tough.

04
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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 4

Turnberry Ailsa Course
A view of the par-3 fourth from the tee. The Turnberry Lighthouse is in the distance on the left. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission
  • Name of hole: Woe-Be-Tide
  • Par: 3
  • Yards (as played in the 2009 Open Championship): 166

The first par-3 on the Ailsa Course because a run of holes at Turnberry that play along the coastline. Holes 4 through 11 are seaside holes.

05
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Can You Play Turnberry?

Turnberry Ailsa Course
The fourth green on Turnberry's Ailsa course has the Turnberry Resort hotel and the Turnberry clubhouse as its backdrop. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission

Yes, Turnberry is a resort facility, complete with hotel, spa, restaurants and bars. You can book stay-and-play packages, or just a tee time for a round of golf. Green fees are higher for visitors compared to resort guests; May-September is the "high season" and golf is more expensive during that time. It's cheapest in November-December. Memberships are also available.

06
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Three Golf Courses at Turnberry

Turnberry Ailsa Course
A view of the approach to the No. 5 green. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission

There are three golf courses at the Turnberry Resort:

  • Ailsa Course: The Ailsa is the gem of Turnberry, an 18-holer that has hosted many majors. And it's the one whose photo gallery you are now viewing.
  • Kintyre Course: The Kintyre is an 18-hole, par-72 layout that plays to 6,921 yards. Like Ailsa, the Kintyre links also offers many holes that play alongside or toward the sea. The British Open final qualifying tournament has been played here.
  • Arran Course: The course now called Arran is a 9-holer inspired as a "teaching course" for the golf pros of the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy, which is part of the Turnberry Resort. It is a par-31 layout with both par-3 and par-4 holes.

There is also a 12-hole pitch-and-putt course on site that is free to play for those staying at the resort.

07
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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 5

Turnberry Ailsa Course
The fifth hole as viewed from the teeing ground. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission
  • Name of hole: Fin Me Oot ("find me out")
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 479
08
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Turnberry Course Origins and Architects

Turnberry Ailsa - No. 5 left greenside
Deep bunkers guard the No. 5 green on its left side. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission

In 1896, Archibald Kennedy (a k a Lord Ailsa) - who owned nearly 80,000 acres of land at Turnberry and was himself a golfer - decided that golf could make money at Turnberry if people could only get there. He decided to build a rail line to provide access, and a golf club as a destination for those commuters.

In 1901, the original Turnberry links, designed by Willie Fernie (winner of the 1883 British Open and club pro at Royal Troon), opened for play. This course, through many alterations, is today's Ailsa Course.

A second Fernie-design links opened in 1909. After World War I it was known as the Arran Course. But in 2001, after being rebuilt by architect Donald Steel, it was renamed to Kintyre.

Both these original layouts were shut down during World Wars I and II, and were essentially destroyed by their wartime uses. The Ailsa reopened following World War II in 1951, after architect Mackenzie Ross refurbished both links. Because of his extensive work rebuilding the Ailsa, it is Ross who is usually credited as the Ailsa's designer.

(There is today another course at Turnberry called Arran, a 9-holer affiliated with Colin Montgomerie's on-site golf academy. It opened in 2002.)

09
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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 6

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 6
David Cannon / Getty Images
  • Name of hole: Tappie Toorie ("hit to the top")
  • Par: 3
  • Yards: 231

This tough par-3 plays long and uphill to a well-bunkered green. "Hit to the top" means you better carry the ball onto the elevated green or risk finding a deep front bunker.

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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 7

Turnberry Ailsa Course
The approach to the 7th green, with the Turnberry Lighthouse almost directly behind. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission
  • Name of hole: Roon The Ben' ("round the mountain")
  • Par: 5
  • Yards: 538
11
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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 8

Turnberry Ailsa Course
The green at No. 8 is next to the Firth of Clyde, with Ailsa Craig (the rock island) in the distance. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission
  • Name of hole: Goat Fell
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 454

Of the coastline holes at Turnberry Ailsa, the fifth through eighth are framed mostly by dunescape. That changes on the next hole, however.

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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 9 Tee

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 9 Tee
David Cannon / Getty Images
  • Name of hole: Bruce's Castle
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 449

The famous rear teeing ground on Ailsa's ninth is a test of nerve all on its own, with a narrow, winding path leading to it and waves crashing over rocks below.

13
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Turnberry - Ailsa Bruce's Castle

Turnberry Ailsa Course
The view from the teeing ground at No. 9. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission

Here's a view from the No. 9 tee up the fairway, Turnberry lighthouse to the left. The tee ball must carry a corner of the Firth. As noted earlier, holes 5-8 are framed by dunescape; holes 9-11 are much more noted for the craggy coastal rocks.

The hole is called Bruce's Castle because from the ninth fairway (and 10th tee) golfers can glimpse the ruins of a castle that is believed to be the birthplace of Robert the Bruce, king of Scotland from 1306 to 1329.

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Ailsa Craig Off Turnberry's No. 9

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 9 - Ailsa Craig
David Cannon / Getty Images

A view Ailsa Craig framing the flagstick on the No. 9 green of Turnberry's Ailsa Course. Ailsa Craig is a granite island rising from the waters of the Firth of Clyde 11 miles off the Ayshire coast. It looks closer, doesn't it? That gives you an idea of how large it is.

Ailsa Craig is quarried for blue hone granite, which is the rock used in the manufacture of curling stones.

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Turnberry Lighthouse at No. 10 Tee

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 10 Tee
David Cannon / Getty Images
  • Name of hole: Dinna Fouter ("don't mess about")
  • Par: 4
  • Yards (as played in the 2009 Open Championship): 457

Another great scene on the Ailsa - teeing off No. 10 with the Turnberry lighthouse as the backdrop.

According to Turnberry's website, the lighthouse is 24 meters tall and one must climb 76 steps to reach the top. The lighthouse has stood at Turnberry Point since 1873, built to warn passing ships away from Bristo Rock. Its light first shone in 1878 and still shines today, going off every 15 seconds.

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Major Tournaments Played at Turnberry

Turnberry Ailsa Course
The approach to the No. 10 green at Turnberry Ailsa must carry an "island bunker" in the middle of the fairway. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission

Important tournaments that have taken place at Turnberry (all on the Ailsa Course), and their winners (click on the British Open years to view the final scores and read a recap of those tournaments):

  • 1912 British Ladies Amateur: Gladys Ravenscroft
  • 1921 British Ladies Amateur: Cecil Leitch
  • 1937 British Ladies Amateur: Jessie Anderson
  • 1961 British Amateur: Michael Bonallack
  • 1963 Walker Cup: Team USA
  • 1977 British Open: Tom Watson
  • 1983 British Amateur: Philip Parkin
  • 1986 British Open: Greg Norman
  • 1987 Senior British Open: Neil Coles
  • 1988 Senior British Open: Gary Player
  • 1989 Senior British Open: Bob Charles
  • 1990 Senior British Open: Gary Player
  • 1994 British Open: Nick Price
  • 1996 British Amateur: Warren Bladon
  • 2002 Women's British Open: Karrie Webb
  • 2003 Senior British Open: Tom Watson
  • 2006 Senior British Open: Loren Roberts
  • 2008 British Amateur: Reinier Saxton
  • 2009 British Open: Stewart Cink
  • 2012 Senior British Open: Fred Couples
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Turnberry Trivia and Tidbits

Turnberry Ailsa Course
The Turnberry Lighthouse and Ailsa Craig are both prominent on the No. 10 hole. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission
  • The Ailsa Course takes it name from two sources: Ailsa Craig, the island 11 miles offshore; and Archibald Kennedy, the third Marquess of Ailsa (a k a Lord Ailsa), who owned the land on which The Ailsa was built.
  • Ailsa Craig, the huge rock island that sits 11 miles offshore in the Firth of Clyde, dominates the Turnberry horizon on clear days. For centuries, the craig has served as a quarry for blue hone granite, which is used to make the polished round stones for the sport of curling.
  • The Royal Flying Corps during World War I and Royal Air Force during World War II used Turnberry's fairways for training and the entire area as a base camp. The Turnberry hotel served as a hospital during both wars.
  • Another icon on the grounds of Turnberry Resort is the Turnberry Lighthouse. Construction began in 1873 on a spit of land known as Turnberry Point, and its beacon shone for the first time in 1878. (Its desigers, David and Thomas Stevenson, were relatives of the author Robert Louis Stevenson.) Today, the lighthouse shines every 15 seconds. It is 24 meters tall, and there are 76 steps to climb to reach the top.
  • The Senior British Open was first played in 1987, and Turnberry's Ailsa Course was that tournament's home the first four years of its existence (1987-90).
  • Tom Watson won both the British Open (1977) and Senior British Open (2003) at Turnberry.
  • Watson, at age 60, very nearly won the 2009 British Open at Turnberry. Had he made a short par putt on the 72nd hole, he would have become (by far) the oldest major winner in golf history. But he missed that putt, then lost a playoff to Stewart Cink.
  • Warren Bladon, who later appeared as a cast member on the Golf Channel series The Big Break IV, won the 1996 British Amateur at Turnberry.
18
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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 11

Turnberry Ailsa Course
Hole No. 11 at Turnberry. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission
  • Name of hole: Maidens
  • Par: 3
  • Yards: 175
19
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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 12

Turnberry Ailsa Course
The No. 12 fairway at Turnberry Ailsa. During World War II, the Royal Air Force (RAF) used this hole as a runway. Photo by Stewart Abramson; used with permission
  • Name of hole: Monument
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 447

The hole is named "Monument" because of the monument to World War I and World War II pilots who took off from Turnberry but didn't make it back. That monument is on the hill overlooking the green.

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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 13

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 13
David Cannon / Getty Images
  • Name of hole: Tickly Tap ("tricky little stroke")
  • Par: 4
  • Yards (as played in the 2009 Open Championship): 410

One of the rare greens on the Ailsa with no bunkers.

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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 14

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 14
David Cannon / Getty Images
  • Name of hole: Risk-An-Hope
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 449

To make this hole longer for the 2009 British Open, the course "borrowed" a teeing ground from the Kintyre Course, one of the other links at Turnberry.

22
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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 15

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 15
David Cannon / Getty Images
  • Name of hole: Ca' Canny ("take care")
  • Par: 3
  • Yards: 206

The last of the par-3s on the Ailsa has a well-protected green: A trio of bunkers to the left of the putting surface, and the surface itself steeply running off on the right side.

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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 16

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 16
David Cannon / Getty Images
  • Name of hole: Wee Burn
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 455

The "wee burn" in question is Wilson's Burn, which crosses in front of the green and up the right side of the green.

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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 17

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 17
David Cannon / Getty Images
  • Name of hole: Lang Whang ("good whack")
  • Par: 5
  • Yards: 558

The longest hole at Turnberry Ailsa moves just slightly to the left, but has bunkers in the driving area, the layup area, and around the green.

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Turnberry - Ailsa Course No. 18

Turnberry Ailsa Hole 18
David Cannon / Getty Images
  • Name of hole: Duel in the Sun
  • Par: 4
  • Yards: 461

The name of the hole is a reference to the epic 1977 battle between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus on the Ailsa. The Open Championship was first played at Turnberry that year, and spectators witnessed great golf and great weather. Whether the weather turn ugly - blustery, chilly, wet - goes a long way to determining just how difficult the Ailsa plays.

List of Holes, Pars, Yardages and Names

Here is the all-in-one-place list of pars and hole yardages for Turnberry Ailsa, as listed on the resort's website. Also, hole names are provided in parentheses.

No. 1 - Par 4 - 354 yards (Ailsa Craig)
No. 2 - Par 4 - 428 yards (Mak Siccar)
No. 3 - Par 4 - 489 yards (Blaw Wearie)
No. 4 - Par 3 - 168 yards (Woe-Be-Tide)
No. 5 - Par 4 - 479 yards (Fin Me Oot)
No. 6 - Par 3 - 231 yards (Tappie Toorie)
No. 7 - Par 5 - 538 yards (Roon The Ben)
No. 8 - Par 4 - 454 yards (Goat Fell)
No. 9 - Par 4 - 449 yards (Bruce's Castle)
Out - Par 35 - 3,590 yards
No. 10 - Par 4 - 457 yards (Dinna Fouter)
No. 11 - Par 3 - 175 yards (Maidens)
No. 12 - Par 4 - 447 yards (Monument)
No. 13 - Par 4 - 410 yards (Tickly Tap)
No. 14 - Par 4 - 449 yards (Risk-An-Hope)
No. 15 - Par 3 - 206 yards (Ca' Canny)
No. 16 - Par 4 - 455 yards (Wee Burn)
No. 17 - Par 5 - 558 yards (Lang Whang)
No. 18 - Par 4 - 461 yards (Duel In The Sun)
In - Par 35 - 3,621 yards
Total - Par 70 - 7,211 yards

There are three other sets of tees at the Ailsa. The White are 6,493 yards; the Yellow, 6,100 yards; and the Red, 5,802 yards. The White and Yellow are par-69 for men; the Red are par-75 for women. There are 85 sand bunkers, and the average green size on the Ailsa Course is 6,500 square feet.

Turfgrasses are fescue and bentgrass in the fairways; fescue rough; and a mix of browntop bentgrass, fecsue and poa annua on the greens.