I Got Asked To Play The UK's Most Dramatic Golf Hole... Here's Where I Went

In search of the greatest natural amphitheatre in golf, Joel Tadman travelled North to test his skills to the limit

trump turnberry ailsa course
(Image credit: Future)

When my editor asked me to go and play the most dramatic hole in the UK, there were a few candidates that sprung to mind. The 9th hole at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland perhaps, the Calamity Corner 16th at Royal Portrush too, maybe the 18th hole at Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen, Scotland. But staying in the most northern country of the UK, there was one hole that stood out head and shoulders above the rest. A dramatic hole needs to stir the senses. Visually it needs to offer something completely unique and take your breath away when you see it. The sound of waves crashing against the coastline would certainly help enhance the feeling of drama and the 9th hole on the Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry, in my opinion, is the best of the bunch.

VIDEO: Watch Joel Tadman's Trump Turnberry Experience

The journey from London Stansted to Glasgow airport is brisk and straightforward one - after an hour’s drive on undulating scenic roads you arrive at Trump Turnberry. When the hotel comes into view for the first time perched atop the hill, the scale and majesty of it is a sight to behold. On the other side of the main road, the Trump Turnberry clubhouse sits proudly next to the 18th green on the Ailsa course where so much history has been created down the years when golf’s oldest major championship has been hosted here. Whether it’s the 1977 Duel in the Sun or the heart breaking crescendo to the 2009 tournament, where Tom Watson narrowly fell short of a historic victory at the age of 59 after a final hole bogey.

To get the full Trump Turnberry experience, a night's (or several if the purse strings allow) stay in the hotel is a must. This elegant setting is the perfect place to either relax in luxury or indulge in some adrenalin-fuelled activities depending on your preference. Experiences on offer include quad biking, horse riding, shooting and archery while those seeking a more tranquil stay can opt to spend time in the spa - connected to the hotel via an underground tunnel. The main restaurant provides stunning views of the golf courses down below and the ocean beyond, including Ailsa Craig situated nine miles off the Ayrshire coast. 

Back to the golf and specifically the Ailsa course, one of two championship courses at Trump Turnberry alongside the King Robert the Bruce course. In truth, the Ailsa course has a few candidates for the most dramatic hole, including the par five 10th which starts next to the iconic lighthouse and sweeps along the coastline all the way to a green perched up on a mound, providing stunning views in all directions. But the recently redesigned 9th hole, the product of collaboration between Mr Trump himself and renowned course designer Martin Ebert, is the one that has the most wow factor. A new tee that extends back further away from the green and closer to the sea has created a 250-yard monster par three that is all carry over rocks with no future short or left of a green guarded by pot bunkers for good measure.

Teeing off the tricky first hole, my nerves were in a heightened state. It’s always the case when you play a golf course with so much prestige and history, you want to do it justice so you can recant positive stories to your friends and family who will inevitably ask you about the experience. Sure enough, despite finding the fairway and the green in regulation, three anxious putts led to an opening bogey, followed by another at the second. A tap-in birdie at the third definitely relaxed me, assisted by a helping wind which went against the traditional direction golfers typically deal with. The next few holes were, to say the least, a mixed bag, in part due to the rising anticipation of the prospect of playing the iconic 9th hole - although a birdie on the difficult par four 8th certainly took the edge off the anxiety.

Walking off the 8th green, you walk over a mound to reveal the 9th hole in all its glory. The members tee sits between you and the lighthouse but to get to the very back championship tee, you need to turn sharply left and walk along a narrow path. Traversing it was somewhat disconcerting, especially with a camera in hand, and the tee has the feel of an infinity pool to it with the sheer drop off the edge to the rocks and crashing seas below. There was no real debate on the club selection - playing into the wind it was a driver and I’d need all of it to get to the green. Somewhat rushing given the steady stream of golfers lined up behind, I managed a decent strike that was pulled slightly and tracking the left bunker - not the ideal line by any means. With the green being so far away, I didn’t see the ball land. 

The suspense was painful. I approached the green in hope more than expectation - deep down, I had a feeling my ball would never be seen again and sure enough, it was nowhere to be found. A three putt from the front fringe with my counting tee shot from the members tee we were playing off that day meant I certainly didn’t cover the hole in glory. But this didn’t matter a jot. When you play a hole as difficult as this, the elation you feel when you play it well is amazing yet you let yourself off the hook if you play it badly. Playing the 9th hole on the Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry was still an incredible experience, topped off by the delicious beef pie served at the lighthouse - undoubtedly one of the most spectacular halfway houses in all of golf. 

The fun doesn’t stop there on the Ailsa course as the 10th and 11th holes, a par five and par 3 respectively, are also two of the most visually arresting holes you’ll ever play. In truth, every hole on the course is a treat for the eyes, more than justifying the premium green fee. If you get the chance to play the Ailsa course at Trump Turnberry, you should 100 percent take it - perhaps via the new Ailsa club membership. You’ll create memories that last a lifetime walking in the footsteps of some of the great golfers that have gone before you. I just hope you play the 9th hole better than I did, which wouldn’t be too difficult.

Joel Tadman
Technical Editor

Joel has worked in the golf industry for over 12 years covering both instruction and more recently equipment. He now oversees all product content here at Golf Monthly, managing a team of talented and passionate writers and presenters in delivering the most thorough and accurate reviews, buying advice, comparisons and deals to help the reader find exactly what they are looking for. So whether it's the latest driver, irons, putter or laser rangefinder, Joel has his finger on the pulse keeping up to date with the latest releases in golf. He is also responsible for all content on irons and golf tech, including distance measuring devices and launch monitors.

One of his career highlights came when covering the 2012 Masters he got to play the sacred Augusta National course on the Monday after the tournament concluded, shooting a respectable 86 with just one par and four birdies. To date, his best ever round of golf is a 5-under 67 back in 2011. He currently plays his golf at Burghley Park Golf Club in Stamford, Lincs, with a handicap index of 3.2.

Joel's current What's In The Bag? 

Driver: Titleist TSR3, 9° 

Fairway wood: Titleist TSR3, 15° 

Hybrid: Titleist TSi2, 18° 

Irons: Ping i230 4-UW

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM8, 54°. Titleist Vokey SM9 60° lob wedge, K Grind

Putter: Evnroll ER2V 

Ball: 2023 Titleist Pro V1x