Architect: Mackenzie Ross
2006 position: 1
Stats: 6,520 yds; par 69; SSS 73
GF: £160-£400
T: 01655 334032
W: turnberry.co.uk

For many, the true beauty of Mackenzie Ross’ famous linksland has long been embodied in the iconic setting that is the Ailsa’s 9th hole. With the championship tee requiring a drive over the rocky shoreline, and featuring views across to the Mull of Kintyre and Isle of Arran, it is without doubt a fitting trademark for a venue that has hosted three Open Championships, with a fourth looming in 2009.

But while such praise for Turnberry’s flagship par 4 can never be overstated, it would be a crime to ignore the overall craft of the Ailsa course. Ross’ design poses the most dramatic of tests when there is any hint of a breeze. However, it is a credit to the course layout that when the wind drops, the open fairways present a far more subtle challenge.

The stretch of holes closest to the shore from the 4th to the 11th can be punishing at times, but on calmer days there is certainly scope for golfers of all abilities to get round unscathed. Even if things do go wrong there are always those wonderful views to put things in perspective. This coastal run comes after a tamer, yet still challenging start, with the first three holes all requiring accuracy off the tee and attacking approach play.

Of the four par 3s, the 4th was the pick for me. Its elevated green is enveloped by dunes on the right, with little protection from the wind coming off the sea. On the back nine, the 13th suffers in comparison with the holes around it, and the 18th is not the most exciting or demanding of finishing holes. Sadly, it won’t now be possible to savour the experience of playing this wonderful track until after the 2009 Open as the course will be closed for play between now and then. AN

+ Holes 4 to 11 are out of this world; inspiring views at every turn
– Can get busy; lacks club atmosphere; can’t play from “signature” tees

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An introduction to Golf Monthly’s Top 100 Golf Courses by editor, Mike Harris
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