DE­TER­MIN­ING TURN­BERRY’S OPEN FATE

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Promotion - By ge­off shack­elford

If the R&A truly has a Don­ald Trump prob­lem, it will be mostly of its own mak­ing.The con­sen­sus is clear:The Ailsa course at Trump Turn­berry, which Trump pur­chased in 2014 and just fin­ished re­vi­tal­is­ing, is more ma­jes­tic than ever, and needs to re­main on the Open rota.

Trump and his team have turned what was an iconic but tired fa­cil­ity into an en­gag­ingly re-imag­ined prop­erty.Though al­ways a beau­ti­ful set­ting thanks to views of the Ailsa Craig off the Firth of Clyde and the re­sort’s ma­jes­tic light­house, the old Turn­berry fea­tured no short­age of unin­spired holes and – de­spite be­ing home to four of the Open Cham­pi­onship’s most exciting fin­ishes – a bland back nine.

Af­ter a com­plete over­haul,Trump’s ver­sion of Turn­berry sports al­most no weak mo­ments, the course sprin­kled with clas­sic fringed bunker­ing and an abun­dance of thrilling shot-mak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The work at Turn­berry also ex­tended to James Miller’s 1906 ho­tel de­sign, which pre­vi­ous went through too many ren­o­va­tions to re­tain its sense of place and the grandeur in­tended by its cre­ator. But Trump, who is most proud of his eye for con­struc­tion pre­sen­ta­tion, es­sen­tially re­built the ho­tel, high­light­ing the view out to the links and light­house with large bay win­dows. No money went un­spent up­grad­ing rooms and de­sign, uni­fy­ing the aes­thetic with a mod­ern, lux­u­ri­ous look that never clashes with the re­sort’s coun­try­side set­ting.

Still, Turn­berry faces an uphill bat­tle to host the Open be­cause of the R&A’s aver­sion to the New York real-es­tate mag­nate’s in­flam­ma­tory cam­paign-trail rhetoric and his po­ten­tial for up­stag­ing an event. Few in Scot­land have for­got­ten the then-new can­di­date’s he­li­copter en­trance and ap­pear­ance at the Women’s Bri­tish Open atTurn­berry last July, or his pre­ma­ture men­tion of Trump In­ter­na­tional Links in Aberdeen land­ing a three-year deal to host the Scot­tish Open. (That deal is dead af­ter Aberdeen As­set Man­age­ment’s head man, Martin Gilbert, sig­nalled his com­pany was look­ing at other venues for the event.)

Last De­cem­ber, the In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day re­ported that Trump Turn­berry was out of the Open rota over var­i­ous in­cen­di­ary com­ments by the can­di­date. How­ever, R&A chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Slum­bers de­nied that dur­ing the 145th Open at Royal Troon.

“Turn­berry was and is part of the pool of cour­ses for the Open Cham­pi­onship,” Slum­bers said. “There are at the mo­ment nine cour­ses, and Turn­berry is one of those.”

Slum­bers pointed out that the Open is booked be­tween now and 2021. Only the 2020 and 2021 lo­ca­tions are to be an­nounced, with an English course (pre­sum­ably Royal St Ge­orges) and St An­drews the likely venues, the lat­ter to cel­e­brate the 150th Open in 2021. Oth­ers al­ready an­nounced in­clude Royal Birk­dale (2017), Carnoustie (2018) and Royal Portrush (2019). Muir­field, the host of 16 Opens since 1892, is cur­rently out of the rota be­cause of its vote ear­lier in the year not to ac­cept woman mem­bers. How­ever, the club is ex­pected to re­verse that re­sult with a re-vote be­fore the end of the year.

It means the R&A will be able to wait un­til Trump is pre­sum­ably less po­lar­is­ing to make a de­ci­sion on Turn­berry. Or as Slum­bers said, “We don’t have to con­sider be­yond that for a cou­ple of years, and we’ll pick that up in a cou­ple of years’ time.”

If the R&A stays away from the iconic venue of the 1977 Tom Wat­son-Jack Nick­laus “Duel in the Sun,” as well as Wat­son’s near-mir­a­cle at age 59 in 2009, the last time the course hosted the Open, it will de­prive play­ers and spec­ta­tors from see­ing a rad­i­cally im­proved coast­line stretch of three holes that are com­pa­ra­ble to Au­gusta Na­tional’s Amen Cor­ner. Turn­berry’s ninth, now a dra­matic par 3, can play as long as 227 me­tres, with the green ad­ja­cent to the light­house. The 10th, now a dog­leg-left par 5, fin­ishes tan­ta­lis­ingly on the wa­ter. And the 11th, still a par 3, is moved closer to the rocks.

The R&A en­dorsed the Turn­berry changes and con­veyed many other good ideas through ar­chi­tect Martin Ebert. But it was Trump who set an agenda that fi­nally made the ex­cep­tional can­vas a master­piece. In do­ing so, he also wrote no short­age of cheques, as the place ex­udes a no-de­tailleft-be­hind vibe.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, Trump’s name is only promi­nently dis­played at the re­sort en­trance and in se­lect lo­ca­tions through­out the prop­erty. Oth­er­wise, the brand­ing fo­cus is on the Turn­berry name, legacy and light­house.The golf shop largely car­ries mer­chan­dise sport­ing the re­sort’s clas­sic light­house logo.Trump’s will­ing­ness to turn the fo­cus to dig­ni­fied lux­ury and his­tory (not­with­stand­ing the two or­nate foun­tains he ap­par­ently couldn’t re­sist in­stalling) should sig­nal thatTurn­berry is about the golf,as well as a re­sort wor­thy of five-star sta­tus.

Down one iconic links with Muir­field’s cur­rent sab­bat­i­cal, the R&A needs to make his­tory more im­por­tant than ego and lock up Turn­berry for an­other Open Cham­pi­onship.

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