Ten reasons to love Turnberry
Saturday 11 July 2009
1. The Craig The spectacular coastline of the Firth of Clyde includes views of the Isle of Arran and the hills of the Kintyre peninsula but hauntingly stuck 10 miles off the coast is the imperious Ailsa Craig. The volcanic rock, two miles in circumference, rises 1,114 feet above the sea and is now only fit for birdlife, particularly gannets, but was once a haven for Catholics during the Scottish Reformation, while for a century granite was mined from the rock and used for making curling stones.
2. The Bruce Robert the Bruce, who would become the Scottish king after banishing the English at Bannockburn in 1314, was born at Turnberry Castle on 11 July 1274. The ruins of the castle remain by the ninth green and 10th tee. Bruce grew up here but had to reclaim it from the English in 1307 and three years later ordered its destruction to prevent it again falling into Sassenach hands. So far, no English golfer has conquered a Turnberry Open either.
3. The Lighthouse Has become the modern symbol for Turnberry and as iconic a feature as on any Open course. Situated on the site of Turnberry Castle by the ninth green, it guides golfers to the turn of the Ailsa course, as well as sailors away from Bristo Rock, the cause of many wrecks before the lighthouse was built in 1873. It is 24 metres high and flashes every 15 seconds. Automated in 1986, it is now controlled from Edinburgh.
4. The Hotel With the red-tiled roof, white-washed walls and the long facade sitting on a hill overlooking the course and the coast, the Turnberry Hotel has been all about grandeur and luxury since opening in 1906. There may be modern additions such as the sumptuous spa but the elegance has always been there since it was built by the Glasgow and South Western Railway. It once had a station yards from the front entrance (which is actually at the back not to spoil the view from below) but now the beautiful people arrive by helicopter.
5. The Airfield During both world wars the course was turned into a military airbase. Grass runways were fine for World War I but the larger planes 20 years later required concrete tracks, some of which still remain to the side of the Ailsa and are ideal for parking and the temporary buildings required for the Open. The hotel was turned into a military hospital while a monument at the 12th green honours those who did not survive their missions. The course was completely rebuilt by Mackenzie Ross in 1951.
6. The President In November 1945 General Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, was invited to use a set of rooms on the top floor of nearby Culzean Castle for his lifetime, as a gesture of Scottish thanks for America's support during World War II. Eisenhower, later to become President of the United States, and his family visited often and he frequently played at Turnberry (below) when in residence. Also a member at Augusta National, Eisenhower is to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Tiger Woods is rumoured to have stayed at Culzean Castle during previous Opens at Troon.
7. The Weather Wildly varying conditions make it ideal for links golf. Nowhere finer on still summer days and during surprisingly mild winters, but within a few holes the wind can get up and the rain lash sideways. Scoring varies accordingly, with the Open record of 63 matched here by Mark Hayes and Greg Norman but breaking 80 is a concern for even the best when a storm breaks. Once at the John Player Classic the tented village was blown away into the sea.
8. The Duel Turnberry's debut as an Open venue in 1977 saw one of the best major finishes ever as Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus clashed over the last 36 holes. In endless sunshine, Watson went ahead for good with a birdie at the 71st hole but had to make a three at the last when Nicklaus made an improbable birdie. Greg Norman and Nick Price created more drama in winning in '86 and '94.
9. The New Owners Dubai-based Leisurecorp bought the Turnberry Hotel last year for £55m. Over the winter the course was closed to get it in perfect condition and the hotel gutted to get it restored in time for the Open. Leisurecorp is also behind the European Tour's $10m (£6.1m) "Race to Dubai" bonus scheme and the $10m Dubai World Championship in November but, not immune from recession, was recently taken over by government agency Nakheel.
10. The Pitch and Putt Alongside the Ailsa there are two other full-scale courses but the most fun can be found across the road from the 18th of the Ailsa at the bottom of the slope up to the hotel. The 12-hole pitch-and-putt course is a little gem and during the Open often a scene where competitors in T-shirts and shorts play alongside their kids. ......... Andy Farrell
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