Nor obviously is the feeble dollar, which has turned even the chintziest U.K. vacation into a wallet-emptying affair.
No, the reason for the recent popularity is the announcement that in 2009, the
Teeing Off at KintyreI arrived on a red-eye from Newark into Glasgow, and was alone at the first tee of Turnberry's Kintyre course a short two hours later. Kintyre is Ailsa's sister course (there's also a challenging nine-hole design there called Arran), and she's no weak sister. If Kintyre doesn't quite have her sibling's stunning looks, she's nonetheless very, very pretty and with quite an agreeable personality. Kintyre's not especially quirky, although the little par-4 eighth hole -- with a blind approach to a wee green hidden in a hollow overlooking the Mull of Kintyre -- is as glorious and wacky as Lucille Ball. Mostly, Kintyre is a fair, straightforward test, as well as an excellent introduction to links-style golf, where the courses are designed for the ball to be played closer to the ground to minimize the effects of the often fierce winds.
Pass the HaggisAll the courses at Turnberry sit close to the sea, while the hotel itself rests magisterially upon the hill above -- the manor as lord of the manor. The hotel would be imposing were it not for the fact that it is sized just right: regal enough to merit its setting, yet as far from showy and excessive as imaginable. Remember, this is Scotland, where showy excess is about as beloved as are the English, which is to say not at all. In a word, the building's a stately offering. Inside, the friendly efficient doormen and bellmen all wear full Scottish regalia, including kilts, of course. During my stay, I attended a traditional Scottish dinner, for which I was fitted with just such an outfit. (In the interest of not-so-full disclosure, I did not opt to go commando, as true Scots are wont to do -- one of the knee-high socks had a stain, which got me to thinking, and thinking is the enemy of the would be commando-wearer.) Regardless, this meal was among the highlights of the trip, in large measure for my first exposure to haggis, a mixture of mutton and offal boiled and served in a sheep's stomach.
On To AilsaTurnberry's place in sporting history was established beyond dispute by the famous 1977 British Open "Duel in the Sun," in which Tom Watson shot a weekend 65-65 to Jack Nicklaus' 65-66 to win by a stroke. I had seen only the briefest of highlights and thus came to Ailsa with no preconceived notions, only the faintest fear that it would perhaps be too stern a test for my 8-handicapper's game. Wrong, wrong and wrong. First and foremost, Ailsa has an exceptionally fair and straightforward layout; it would be navigable even for the player daft enough not to take one of the charming, grizzled veteran caddies on offer. The vast majority of the course's trials are plainly evident -- so, too, from the fourth through the 11th holes, are the coastline, the ocean and the granite dome of Ailsa Craig off in the distance (which is where curling stones begin life).
|The Turnberry Lighthouse|
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