It may quite an obvious choice to review the Ailsa course since it is quite well-renowned as one of the finest that the fantastic land of Scotland has to offer, but it's not as obvious a choice as say, going straight for St. Andrew's Old Course. Ailsa could comfortably be described as one of, if not the most scenic open championship-level course in the whole of the country. Views at this golf course stretch for miles and miles, with it being situated near Aisla Craig and allowing for golfers to gaze over at the wonders of the Mull of Kintyre as well as the Isle of Arran. Colin Montgomery himself has claimed that he feels that Ailsa is in fact one of the best links golf courses in the entire world, and he should know: he's played on pretty much every golf course that is worth playing on in the professional world of golf.
Turnberry itself came into play in an official capacity in the year of 1902 and has since undergone quite a tumultuous history that has very nearly resulted in the demise of the whole area entirely. The grounds were actually commandeered by allied forces for use as an airbase; vast swathes of the course were also flattened to make way for runways, with concrete almost bringing to an end the wonderful scenery of the course. It is a credit to the owners of the course that people are even able to enjoy playing on the course to this very day, but its history doesn't stop here. The course hosted the 1977 open, which has since become an event of legend on account of what has since been labelled as the “Duel in the Sun” between Watson and Nicklaus. 1994 also saw a return of the open to Turnberry, as did 2009, though some alterations and improvements to the course were made especially for this event.
Many view the first three holes as a warm-up for those that follow but these three can be overlooked quite easily, which is a disservice to their brilliance. These holes are played with the clubhouse still in sight as well as with a view over Turnberry Bay, and it can be an unnerving experience if you're not accustomed to regular golf matches to make it to the 4th hole because this is where it becomes quite challenging. There is a severe drop-off on the 4th, which is a par 3, so be sure that this one doesn't take you by surprise and scupper you for the rest of the match. The 5th is quite the difficult little hole as well, with the second shot being uphill. The 7th hole is actually rated the most difficult on the whole course, so be sure to have your wits about you.
As a sort of reward for making it through the 7th and 8th, Ailsa rewards you with one of the most glorious holes you are ever likely to come across on a golf course. The 9th hole is awash with scenic brilliance since you're right out in Turnberry Bay here with views that are befitting of the lush Scottish coastline. Inexperienced golfers may stick to land here but if you're confident enough you can choose to employ a bit of risk to carry the ball over the water for a more direct route to the green: it may pay off, it may not, but it's taking the chance that makes this such an awe-inspiring hole, as well as the stunning views of course.
You will find yourself travelling inland from here, and you must not underestimate the final four holes of the course. The ground is treacherous from hereon in until you reach the 18th hole, which has actually been named ‘Duel in the Sun' as a result of the 1977 Open's nerve-wracking events which led to a climax and final duel at this very hole.
Ailsa is a course with as much history in the first half of the 20th century as it has in the latter half. It has been the host of a few opens, all of which have been thrilling and have given the golfing world memories and anecdotes to talk about for decades to come. It's quite the small miracle (in a non-biblical sense) that the golf course itself is even still standing considering its history and the quantity of concrete that was laid down to transform it into a runway/airfield for use during the two world wars. This history makes it all the more incredible to experience however, and should attract history buffs as well as golf pros and aspiring amateurs. This isn't a course for the truly clueless however (the first three holes may lure you into a false sense of security), but mid-handicap and professionals will return here time and time again since it is one of the very best in Scotland and indeed the UK.
The Aisla website has information about the course, its history, and other useful bits of knowledge. You can also contact the main switchboard at 01655 331 000 for general inquiries.