Great Golf Top 100
The Luxury Travel and Lifestyle Magazine

Playing golf in Scotland - Turnberry, a legend by the sea


Many dream of coming here while the lucky ones never forget. With Presidents and movie stars on the guest list and names of famous players that reads like a "Who's who" in golf, one does not simply "go to Turnberry", one "arrives."


From the moment we were picked up by private hire car from Glasgow International Airport, we experienced nothing but genuinely friendly, efficient and helpful service.
    Ricky, our driver from a local firm used by the Turnberry Resort for airport transfers, was a font of local knowledge, keeping up an interesting commentary during our 45 minute journey. Rangers' football ground, Souter Johnny's house and the farm where Rudolf Hess parachuted in whilst on a secret mission during WW2 and was captured by a local farmer, were a few of the places of interest which may well have gone unnoticed without his input.

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Rich history - On arrival at the hotel, we were warmly greeted by Jim the doorman, resplendent in full highland dress, who gave us a quick orientation. The hotel and golf course have a rich and varied history which he was keen to share.

All service during our stay was very personalized. The majority of the staff are Scottish and obviously enjoy their work - which shines through in the way they deal with the guests. All queries and requests were speedily and efficiently dealt with.

The main areas of the hotel are reminiscent of the Edwardian era, when it was built, but have been tastefully refurbished with modern touches. My husband and I had a deluxe sea view room, where we could sit and enjoy the view of the first tee on the Ailsa course and across the sea to Ailsa Craig even from the bath, so carefully placed by the window.

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Silver service - All bars and restaurants in the hotel face the sea and embrace this view. Jim the doorman was especially proud of the Grand Tea lounge, where you can enjoy refreshments such as afternoon tea with charming old-fashioned "silver service" which was a nostalgic reminder of my childhood experiences in my grandparents' tea rooms.

You can also sit quietly and read or perhaps drink in the view, watching the golfers tee off on the Ailsa course and return from the Kintyre course. Jim said that we were even welcome to sit here in our bath robes as guests are encouraged to relax completely and "feel at home". The 1906 restaurant (so named because of the date the hotel opened, and the opening time in the evening) has old fashioned elegance, teamed with modern cuisine and the wine list on an iPad.

Just down from the hotel, in the clubhouse is the Tappie Tourie restaurant which serves drinks and light meals. We had a pleasant lunch there overlooking the starter's hut on the Ailsa course. A shuttle service is available on request or you can walk down the impressive steps or take a more leisurely stroll round the drive.

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Long history - At the turn of the twentieth century the Marquess of Ailsa who was the Captain of Prestwick Golf Course, (the location of the 1st Open Championship in 1860) built a private course on his Culzean estate, which in turn put Turnberry on the map.

A crucial point in its history was during the golden age of steam, when the Marquess agreed for the Glasgow & South Western Railway to take over this enterprise, and set up a link with the railways by building an extremely fine station. This was then followed by the construction of the hotel, making this fantastic links course available to visitors from far and wide.

Another piece of fascinating history surrounding this links course, is the fact that around 1939 the whole course was completely transformed beyond recognition by flattening, excavating, concreting and tarmacing  as it became an RAF training base for torpedo and air sea rescue units.

The Ailsa Course - Our first day of golf started with a warm welcome from Peter the starter, and one of the professionals Scott Clarke, who explained the course was named after Ailsa Craig the dramatic rock sitting 11 miles out to sea. The feeling one gets when on the same tee as the great names in professional golf is hard enough to describe, add to this names such as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Bill Clinton and our own Royal golfer the Duke of York and you can understand why.

As is common with all links courses there is a distinct lack of trees and water, and there is a proliferation of bunkers quite often on both sides of the fairway, which always helps to keep the mind focused. Being a par 70, and at 7,211 yards Ailsa Course was exceedingly kind to us for the first 4-5 holes, as the wind that usually blows straight off the sea was just a light breeze.

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A favourite hole - En route to hole 5 which is one of Jack Nicklaus's favourites holes, you will see the Isle of Ailsa Craig standing proud in the Firth of Clyde, all laid out in front of you, beautiful! Nine bunkers are strategically placed on this dogleg right to left par-4, and three of the little devils protect the green.

Hole 6 demands your concentration, being a 231 yard Par-3 and one of the courses' most difficult holes, therefore club selection is paramount to reach the elevated green and avoid the usual protective bunkers. Holes 7 and 8 will equally give you something to think about, and lead you to my two favourite holes, number 9 - Bruce's Castle and 10 - Dinna Fouter, translated "Don't mess about."

Both of these holes I can only describe as "spectacular." The remains of Robert the Bruce's castle can be seen clearly in the distance, and the craggy rocks and the sea below makes the whole scene something special. If you have the opportunity on number 9, walk back to where the pro's tee off, and you won't believe your eyes. This hole has no bunkers whatsoever, but the fairway is raised in the middle throwing you to either side, and the green has a steep left slope. I didn't say it was easy.

Unusual bunker - The 10th hole lives up to its name, "don't mess about." Hit your tee shot too far left, and you're in the Firth of Clyde, hit it down the middle you're possibly in one of the two pot bunkers placed most strategically. You should aim very slightly right or left of the two bunkers, and then if you succeed, your second shot has to avoid the most unusual bunker I have ever seen - an "island bunker" middle to right of the fairway. Make sure you buy a Stroke Saver if only for this hole alone.

The back nine slowly leads you away from the sea and the iconic Turnberrry Lighthouse landmark, with many of the holes having had a number of enhancements. These consists of new bunkers, elevated tees, a remodeled 16th creating a long 458 yard par-4 dogleg, then finally leading to the 18th re-named "Duel in the Sun" after the famous 1977 Open Championship where Tom Watson had a one shot lead over his great rival Jack Nicklaus.

The Kintyre Course - The Kintyre Course, equally of Championship status, offers you the chance to walk the historic land of the 1st golf course built at Turnberry, formerly known as the Nine-hole Arran. Kintyre offers undulating greens, some high tees, glorious fairways, thick Scottish rough. and although the avenues of gorse offer some protection from the wind, Kintyre's challenge is relenting.

The 8th a 309 yards par 4, is my favourite and also the "signature" hole. An elevated tee creates a dramatic panoramic view of the ocean, with a blind second shot to the green, which is set in a gully way down by the rocks. Although equally unseen from the tee box, and assuming you are safe on the fairway, your second shot requires just a delicate pitch to avoid the two protective bunkers. Sounds easy doesn't it?

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Take a walk - After your round, that is if you have any energy left, why not take a walk down to the lighthouse. What a chill! As I walked along the path of the golf course, all I could hear was a robin singing in a nearby bush and crows further away in the tall trees by the hotel. Then the sound of the sea lured me over the top of the dunes and I was rewarded by an unspoiled beach and that view of Ailsa Craig. Depending on the time of year you can have the whole beach to yourself and it'll take you about an hour to reach the lighthouse. I couldn't resist exploring the beach and the rock pools before heading up to the iconic lighthouse and the remains of the ancient Turnberry Castle where I was greeted by more stunning views round the corner from Turnberry Point.

In season you can stop for a cuppa at Halfway House. I then took the more direct route back to the hotel down through the Kintyre course and along the remains of the runway from the WW2 training aerodrome. This took about half the time.

The Spa - If you want a bit of pampering, then the Spa is for you. On one of the days of our stay, I chose to relax by the pool having a leisurely swim and trying out the Jacuzzi and sauna. On my second visit, I had booked a facial. The whole area around the treatment rooms have a tranquil atmosphere with soft candle light in the corridors.

My therapist discussed which treatment would be most beneficial for me and as I slipped under the towel on the bed, I realized it was heated.....instant relaxation. The therapist inspected my skin with a special lamp before starting the facial. It was deeply relaxing with lots of attention to neck, shoulders and décolletage and a head massage to finish whilst waiting for the face mask to do its work.

The process ended with advice about my skin care regime and suitable beauty products. I was then encouraged to chill out for a while in a relaxation room with drinks to get the full effect of the treatment. If you feel more energetic you can "go for the burn" in the well equipped gym.

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Lots to offer - Other facilities are multiple with choices such as off road driving, a horseback trek along a sandy sunset beach, trout fishing, falconry, clay pigeon and target shooting, hill walking, biking and so on. Finally eight luxury apartments are located just yards from the hotel offering two to six bedrooms, and some self-catering cottages are opposite the golf course with stunning views of Scotland's western ocean.

But alas, for us this most unforgettable weekend had come to an end and it was time to get back to reality. Coming to Turnberry had long been a dream of mine, and now I can finally say, "I have played the legend."

Good to know

Turnberry is situated just one hour from Glasgow Airport, or 25 minutes from Prestwick Airport. Glasgow airport is host to over 40 airlines serving approximately 80 cities worldwide. Glasgow Prestwick Airport offers flights to and from over 25 European cities. Scotland's second biggest airport Edinburgh International is a two hours' drive away.

EasyJet flies to Glasgow from Bristol, London Gatwick, London Luton and London Stansted. Prices one way start from £17.99 and include all taxes (prices are subject to change).Visit to book.

EasyJet fly from London airports several times a day, also from Belfast and Bristol. Turnberry also has two helicopter landing pads.

Turnberry info:

 Phone: (44)(1655) 331000

Nearby Destinations

Ayr  25.0 km/15.5 miles

Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran  62.0 km/38.5 miles

Goat Fell Summit, Isle of Arran  62.0 km/38.5 miles

Glasgow  86.0 km/53.4 miles

Edinburgh City Centre  152.0 km/94.4 miles

Photos courtesy of Turnberry