[While I'm in California on secret Yahoo! business, I've asked a few of my blogmates in the golf world to help out a bit. Jay Flemma of A Walk In The Park presents this preview of next week's British Open.]
Known as "the Pebble Beach of the U.K.," Turnberry's breathtakingly beautiful Ailsa Course, sight of this year's British Open, is draped along Turnberry Point, which stands on the western edge of Scotland's rugged Ayrshire Coast, tucked between Turnberry Bay to the south and the Firth of Clyde to the north.
Like Pebble Beach, the course hugs a windswept, rocky shore, lapped by turbulent, crashing waves. Like Pebble Beach both courses have crowned the greatest golfers of their age. And like Pebble, Turnberry relies heavily on wind to put up a stern defense. Sure, there are a few difficult, rugged, penal holes where balls can plummet to watery grave, but there are plenty of birdie holes in benign conditions. It is the discrepancy between the winning scores that demonstrates the course's need for the weather to offer stern defense: in two British Opens 12-under 268 has won, and once level par 280 claimed the Claret Jug.
The major changes are to 10, 16, and 17. A new tee box on ten is perched on a rock, and now requires a 200 yard carry over the bay. The fairway is widened and plays much closer to the beach, bringing the rocky coast into play. In moving the 17th tee back 60 yards, the 16th green had to be moved slightly, so the hole now doglegs to the right and has deep, wide Wilson's burn running in front and to the right.
The rest of the changes are merely to counteract technology. They claim they've toughened Turnberry, but really all they really did was move some bunkers further out so everyone doesn't drive over them. There are two sets of new bunkers on most holes: one set between 300-320 out to catch Tiger and the few players who are as long as he is, and another set between 280-300 to catch the mere mortals. There isn't much rough to speak of and the bunkers aren't like Royal Lytham's "207 little ponds." They are riveted, but they are much shallower. After all, this is a resort course.
So although some new bunkering and new tees are proclaimed by some to add teeth to the course even in fair weather, the proof of the pudding will be in the tasting, and if history is any guide, a low winning score by Tiger Woods is likely, so long as the weather cooperates.
Click here for Jay's British Open preview and an analysis of Turnberry's course and history: http://jayflemma.thegolfspace.com/?p=1920, and thanks to him for helping out!