The Scotsman's Mike Aitken hunkers down in full resort-newsletter mode and swoons breathlessly over the R&A's distance deregulation driven changes to Turnberry, artfully running through the cringe-worthy checklist of what a major championship "test" is to provide.
In terms of heightening the difficulty of the Ailsa - both Tom Watson and Nick Price won at Turnberry with 72 hole totals of 268, the lowest winning scores for an Open in Scotland - the most significant changes have taken place at the 16th, 17th and 18th holes. The 16th, once pretty but toothless, has been transformed. By moving the fairway left, the re-modelled par 4 has become a 458-yard dogleg which approaches the same green from a far trickier angle.Key word, trickier. That usually means rigged to combat the distance jumps that we failed to understand and regulate.
This alteration enabled Martin Ebert from MacKenzie Ebert course designers, with input from the Royal and Ancient,
His name's Peter Dawson...sorry, continue...
to create a new back tee for the 17th which stretches a previously soft par 5 to 558 yards. Throw in a new 18th tee built to the left of the 17th fairway and it's little wonder George Brown, Turnberry's golf course manager, believes the alterations to the last three holes have added a stroke-and-a-half of difficulty to the finish.And now you know why they haven't turned out a decent architect since MacKenzie, and he wasn't really even Scottish.
Where previously the aspiring champion standing on the 16th tee thought about making a couple of birdies, matching par is now no disgrace.Well, and you know Turnberry has produced such dogs for winners. Watson, Norman, Price and that horrible duel in '77! It had to go!
According to Michael Tait, director of the R&A, the changes to the Ailsa are sure to enhance the reputation of a links which hasn't staged an Open since Nick Price clutched the Claret Jug in 1994. "It's important at any Open venue to have closing holes which will test the best players in the world and we believe the changes at 16, 17 and 18 will give Turnberry a very strong finish," said Tait. "The burn in front of the 16th green didn't really come into play for the top players before. By re-routing the hole, and changing the angle, we feel the second shot there is much more challenging.Yawn...
"The Ailsa has always been renowned as the most scenically beautiful links on the championship rota and we were fortunate to be able to build new tees on the seventh and the tenth holes which add to the visual appeal as well as toughening the golf course. The new tee on the seventh has been built on reclaimed land from the sea, while the new tenth tee, with a shot over a rocky promontory, is quite spectacular."
As well as adding 227 yards of length - the par-70 Ailsa measures 7,224 yards compared to 6,967 in 1994 - 21 new bunkers have also been built. Having played the course last week with Stewart Selbie, Turnberry's manager, it is clear how shrewdly these hazards have been deployed. There are now 85 bunkers on the Ailsa and this plodder seemed to splash out of most of them.
Okay everyone on three, one, two, three, "oy vey!"