The world-renowned Ailsa Course at The Westin Turnberry Resort – scene of some of golf’s most memorable moments – has been the subject of a considerable revamp ahead of The 2006 Senior British Open Championship, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management, from July 27-30.
A total of 16 new fairway bunkers have been added as Director of Golf Paul Burley and his team seek to maintain the challenge of the historic Ayrshire links in the face of the developments to modern golf.
The changes were made in conjunction with The R&A in preparation for Turnberry’s hosting of The Open Championship in 2009.
Defending champion Tom Watson will spearhead the star-studded field for this year’s £1m Senior British Open Championship, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management, an entirely befitting scenario considering the American’s career will forever be associated with the Ailsa Course.
Not only did Watson triumph over Jack Nicklaus to win the unforgettable ‘Duel in the Sun’ Open Championship in 1977, he also overcame a duel of a different nature at Turnberry in 2003, the last time the Senior British Open Championship was staged there, beating England’s Carl Mason at the second hole of a sudden-death play-off.
Watson went on to collect his second Senior British Open title in 2005, beating Ireland’s Des Smyth in a play-off at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, and once again he will spearhead an outstanding international field of Senior Tour professionals at this year’s Championship, which carries a prize fund of £1m and will be played over the new-look Ailsa Course for the first time.
The majority of the new bunkering has been added between 280 and 290 yards of the tees and nowhere are the changes more noticeable than at the par four first hole, where three new traps will give the players strategic options.
“The changes to the first hole are really noticeable,” confirmed Burley. “There are two new bunkers down the left and one down the right. The landing area is very narrow so players will have to think about club selection rather than just stepping up there and hitting driver. You will have to be extremely accurate.”
The other 13 new fairway bunkers have been split between seven holes, all of them par fours. Two have been added at the third, fifth, eighth and 14th holes, one each at the 12th and 13th, and the final three bunkers have been employed to strengthen the finish at the 18th.
To complete the project, Courses Manager George Brown and his team filled in an original bunker that stood 200 yards from the 14th tee, meaning the course has a net gain of 15 bunkers and a grand total of 81.
Burley explained: “The key to all of this was to provide a test to the best players in the world but at the same time also meeting the needs of our members at Turnberry and their guests. We feel we have achieved those aims while also maintaining the unique character of the Ailsa Course.
“The course is in terrific shape and I am certain the players will have a great week at The Senior British Open Championship.”
The field contains 22 Major Champions including, among others, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Jerry Pate, Gary Player, Scott Simpson, Craig Stadler and Fuzzy Zoeller, plus leading Europeans Mark James, Mark McNulty, Des Smyth and Sam Torrance.
Tickets for The 2006 Senior British Open Championship, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management – a tournament jointly sanctioned by The R&A, the European Seniors Tour and the US Champions Tour – can be purchased by telephoning the Ticketline on 01334 460010, or by logging on at www.ticketmaster.co.uk.
A season ticket (which allows entry to the course on all four tournament days plus the practice day on Wednesday July 26) is priced at £50 if purchased before July 1, 2006, and £60 thereafter. A one-day ticket costs £15 (£20) and entry to the practice day is £10. There is no entry charge for U-16s, providing they are accompanied by an adult, and car parking is also free.