Se­crets of the staff at Trump Turn­berry

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THE year was 1986, and the 115th Open Cham­pi­onship was be­ing staged at Turn­berry. The Aus­tralian Greg Nor­man won in front of a huge crowd, with mil­lions watch­ing on TV. “The emo­tion was the great­est thrill of win­ning the Open be­cause I’ve never be­fore ex­pe­ri­enced it to that de­gree,” said the golfer nick­named the Great White Shark.

One of the peo­ple on the Ayr­shire course was a boy named Ricky Hall. “My fa­ther was the hole con­troller at the 15th hole,” says Hall, now 42, “and that was the first time I ever came to Turn­berry. I was blown away by what I saw, and as­pired to play golf one day at Turn­berry.

“I was lucky enough to do that, and as my ca­reer be­came more golf pro­fes­sional-fo­cused – as in teach­ing and work­ing in the golf in­dus­try – I thought it would be fan­tas­tic to get the op­por­tu­nity to work at Turn­berry, and that has hap­pened.”

In­deed it has. Hall is di­rec­tor of golf at Trump Turn­berry. He has been here since early 2000, ar­riv­ing as a teach­ing pro at the golf academy and ris­ing to be­come head pro be­fore tak­ing his cur­rent po­si­tion half a dozen years ago.

Con­sid­er­able changes have been made to the ho­tel and two golf cour­ses for a claimed out­lay of £150 mil­lion since Turn­berry was ac­quired by the Trump Or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2014. In June last year Don­ald Trump at­tended the grand open­ing. The weather be­haved and the re­designed course looked splen­did in the sun.

“Hav­ing grown up on the west coast of Scot­land, hav­ing come from a golf­ing fam­ily,” says Hall, “I was well aware of Turn­berry, and what it meant to peo­ple: it’s a spe­cial wee cor­ner of the world. It’s such a beau­ti­ful place, and it has only been en­hanced in the last cou­ple of years.”

The Open has been held at Turn­berry four times, most re­cently in 2009, when Ste­wart Cink tri­umphed over the vet­eran Tom Wat­son in a four-hole play­off.

“Fin­gers crossed,” Hall re­sponds when asked if another Open is long over­due. “We’re ready, will­ing and able, and that’s all that we can be. At the end of the day we firmly be­lieve it is de­serv­ing of that. The golf course was one of the best in the world any­way but what has hap­pened over the last cou­ple of years … The changes have been uni­ver­sally ac­cepted as be­ing some­thing very spe­cial.”

In­side the ho­tel, Rab Arm­strong, 53, ex­ec­u­tive house­keeper, is talk­ing about his job. “Ba­si­cally,” he says, “I run the house­keep­ing depart­ment across 21 build­ings, 18 of which can be guestoc­cu­pied, over 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.” That’s a lot of work, I say. “Yeah,” he replies with a laugh. “That’s why I’m bald.”

Arm­strong has worked at Turn­berry for 35 years, hav­ing started as a linen porter. “You have ba­si­cally 40 per cent struc­ture and the rest is re­ac­tionary, which is based on what is hap­pen­ing,” he says of his job. “You can be walk­ing through the front hall and you hap­pen to greet a guest and ask if they’re OK and the next thing they say some­thing that means your whole day is thrown into tur­moil.

“They might say, ‘I’m think­ing of bring­ing my friends down – what is there to do?’ and your next hour is filled – giv­ing them a wee tour, show­ing them what hap­pens, [talk­ing about] the his­tory of the place.”

Arm­strong ob­serves that “a lot of money” has gone into Trump Turn­berry but “the thought be­hind it is ab­so­lutely bril­liant as well”. The de­sign­ers re­spon­si­ble “were here every four to six weeks, and you can see the dif­fer­ence”.

Of Turn­berry’s set­ting he says: “It’s al­ways beau­ti­ful, it’s al­ways phe­nom­e­nal, even when the wind is howl­ing and you go down to the Half­way House at the light­house and have a cup of tea in­side and watch the wa­ter get­ting bat­tered off the rocks. There’s al­ways some­thing beau­ti­ful there to see.”

Has any guest ever thrown Arm­strong with a re­quest? “One time, we were asked by a guest for a big sheet of poly­thene. I asked where he wanted it, and he said, ‘We can take it up to the bed­room.’ I said, ‘No prob­lem,’ and we took it up to the bed­room.

“They pro­ceeded to take a stag’s head out of the bath. It was a shoot­ing party, and this was the first stag he had shot. And they cut the head off it, and gave him that. He came in, and he still had the blood on his face, and he pro­ceeded to put the stag’s head on top

of the poly­thene. I don’t know if he was think­ing of ship­ping it home, and how that would have worked … but I was grate­ful to give him the poly­thene, so he kept the blood off my car­pets.” He laughs again. “That’s prob­a­bly one of the strangest re­quests I’ve had.”

Guest ex­pe­ri­ence man­ager Gemma Sco­bie, 27, has worked at Turn­berry for six years in a va­ri­ety of roles. Her cur­rent post in­volves “mainly look­ing af­ter VIP guests, look­ing af­ter reg­u­lar guests, deal­ing with feed­back in the ho­tel. I’m also in­volved in the front-of­fice op­er­a­tional side of things. It’s an in­ter­est­ing job,” she says.

“It’s fast-paced, but I love it. The guests make every day dif­fer­ent. There is just such a va­ri­ety. You will get peo­ple who are here for a hon­ey­moon, or for a one-night stay. There are a lot of peo­ple who are here for the golf. You re­ally get to know peo­ple, and I like that.”

Her con­cern for guests is gen­uine. One cou­ple stayed at Trump Turn­berry seven times dur­ing the re­cent ren­o­va­tion, but the wife passed away and, the week­end be­fore last, the man came on his own for the first time. Sco­bie checked him in and took him to his room, and she spent an hour and a half with him, talk­ing to him. It was an emo­tional time for them both.

Sco­bie is mar­ry­ing her fi­ance Steven next month. “We’re ac­tu­ally get­ting mar­ried at the ho­tel,” she laughs. “It just shows you how much I love the place. You look for dif­fer­ent venues, and I thought it’s re­ally strange, get­ting mar­ried where you work.

“But ac­tu­ally, when you trust the peo­ple you work with, and you know the peo­ple who are plan­ning your wed­ding, and there is nowhere like it in terms of the re­views, and with the new ball­room …” The ho­tel has been do­ing “more and more” of th­ese com­plete wed­ding pack­ages, she says.

MOR­VEN Young, 42, is di­rec­tor of re­sort

sales and events, a post she has only oc­cu­pied since the start of April. She has worked at Turn­berry for 17 years, dur­ing which she has been events man­ager, front-of­house man­ager and man­ager of the re­sort sales team.

“The depart­ment I run han­dles all the reser­va­tions from the re­sort. It can be one room up to 192 rooms, and there’s also the golf, spa, din­ing, out­door ac­tiv­i­ties, meet­ings, con­fer­ences, events and wed­dings – it’s ab­so­lutely every­thing.

“I re­ally do en­joy it. Events and reser­va­tions have been the two high­lights of my ca­reer and this job com­bines them. Every sin­gle day is dif­fer­ent, which is good – you’re han­dling dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions every day, which keeps it en­joy­able and fresh.”

Be­sides over­see­ing the day-to-day run­ning of the depart­ment, Young her­self deals with high-end VIP reser­va­tions, “so I might have di­rect con­tact with them and help them with their plan­ning and book­ing”.

The ren­o­va­tions car­ried out by the Trump Or­gan­i­sa­tion, she feels, have been “out­stand­ing”. “The place is out of this world now,” she says. “It was some­thing we were need­ing, and it has been fan­tas­tic that they were able to put the money in and make those changes.”

The Trump Or­gan­i­sa­tion says it has spent £150m on Turn­berry since pur­chas­ing the ho­tel and two golf cour­ses in 2014

Clock­wise from above: di­rec­tor of re­sort sales and events Mor­ven Young; di­rec­tor of golf Ricky Hall; guest ex­pe­ri­ence man­ager Gemma Sco­bie; Don­ald Trump at Turn­berry in 2015; and ex­ec­u­tive house­keeper Rab Arm­strong

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