BBC BLOGS - Rob Hodgetts
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A jewel in the, er, sun

Rob Hodgetts | 08:51 UK time, Tuesday, 14 July 2009

There's an old saying in these parts: "If ye can see Ailsa Craig, it's gaun tae rain. If ye canny see it, it's already raining."

The first part is definitely true. It was lovely when we went out and the granite isle was shining in the Firth of Clyde.

The second, I couldn't tell you. Head bowed, eyes screwed up against the deluge, I was too busy scuttling back off the course to check as it fair belted it down.

"Turnberry is a magnificent setting," Peter Allis told me last week. "When the weather's nice it's one of the great venues of the world."

Turnberry_landscapeHis commentary cohort Ken Brown added: "Without any question it's the most picturesque and elegant-looking of the Open courses. It really is a stunning-looking golf course with some high quality holes. The cream of the holes are the pars threes - they are as good a four par threes as you will find anywhere."

Having now set foot on the Ailsa course - first sighted as a youngster on Mr Alliss's Pro-Celebrity Golf TV shows, featuring Kojak himself, - I can concur that it is, indeed, spectacular. When the weather's nice.

With a backdrop of hills and views out across the water to Ailsa Craig, Arran and the Kintyre peninsula beyond, Turnberry sits like a jewel on an already lavish cloth.

Each hole is almost self-contained in its own little valley, with humps and mounds providing a natural arena for the gallery. The fairways are a rich green, velvet-smooth, and fast running - Ian Poulter belted an iron about 295 yards off the 2nd.

Beyond that, though, the rough screams danger. Thick and lush on the ground, long and wispy higher up, great swathes of swaying brown marram fronds issue a siren call to wayward golf balls.

A fairly stiff southerly breeze was blowing as I headed out for a quick look with colleague Mark Orlovac on Monday evening, but a cheerful local policeman guarding the 5th tee - everyone we've met so far has been super-keen to chat - told us this was nothing.

The policeman was a fount of knowledge - the wind will come in on a rising tide, he said. I wonder how many players have cross-checked the tide tables with their tee times and yardage charts?

For the record, the first four holes are alternately into and against the prevailing wind, with the breeze coming off the left from the 5th to the 8th. Holes nine to 14 are crosswind to varying degrees before a tough finishing stretch into the teeth of it.

At least judging the direction, if not the strength, is fairly easy. Word on the fairways is that it remains pretty constantly from the south. Unlike other courses where the old saying goes: "The prevailing wind is out of the west, but it doesn't usually come from there."

For fans heading to Turnberry, a little tip. If the weather looks ominous, the 9th tee, out on the far western extremity of the course by the famous lighthouse, might...might offer the brolly-less a last-chance refuge from the rain. We smugly dodged a deluge here as a fierce-looking squall passed across the course inside us.

Apparently, when Alliss and David Thomas did some work on the course ahead of the 1977 Open, they had wanted to resite the 9th green under the lighthouse to form a stunning par three across the water and then have a 600-odd yard par-five 10th sweeping down past the light.

"So the green hung over a little cove rather like the last green at Pebble Beach," Alliss told me.

I can imagine it would have looked great, but they only had £25,000 to play with and had to shelve their plans.

But the Ailsa course is still a stunner and has been tweaked again since the Open was last here in 1994. It is playing 247 yards longer at 7,204 yards, with some tighter bunkering and nips and tucks here and there.

The 10th, for example, has a new tee sited on a rocky outcrop near the lighthouse. The drive is blind, over the corner of the bay.

According to one of the local marshals guarding the hole, most players so far have been opting for two five irons. Placement, rather than pile-driving, is going to be the order of the day.

Poulter has said he is only playing three sets of nine holes, which means he'll cover one nine only once - a bold move on a chessboard like this.

Our man on the 10th told us he didn't much like Turnberry. Too windy, he said, like Royal Troon just down the road. "On one hole I hit a driver, five iron into the wind, and on the next, same distance but with the wind, an easy seven iron over the back."

Our chat was cut short as the heavens opened, proving that two optical illusions in one day is asking too much.

The first was experiencing the famous Electric Brae on the scenic coastal road from Ayr to Turnberry, where the road appears to go downhill when it is actually going up.

The second illusion, that we were going to escape the next black cloud towering overhead, proved to be more of a delusion and we pegged it.

To be fair, Peter Dawson, boss of the R&A, said last week that Turnberry had escaped much of the recent rain in the region, hence the firm, running fairways.

And convinced by our landlord Ian in nearby Girvan ("Gateway to Ailsa Craig") that the weather had been beautiful for months, we laughed at the umbrella in the boot of the car. My advice for this week - don't.

Mainly because with a brolly up you won't be able to see Ailsa Craig. And then you won't know if it's raining or not.

PS The weather forecast is for light breeze, sunshine and showers most of the week, possibly heaviest Friday morning, suggesting that everyone's going to cop it at some point.

PPS The road signs out of Turnberry read "Haste ye Back". Try and stop us.

PPS You might have heard of Ailsa Craig somewhere before - and I don't mean from Tarby and Brucie's days on Pro-Celebrity golf. The granite from here is used to make curling stones. Remember Rhona Martin?

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  • Comment number 1.


  • Comment number 2.

    Jeez is there any point in anyone turning up?

  • Comment number 3.

    I am disappointed at the lack of inventiveness in this article. It has the usual seaside joke about if it's not raining it's going to; furthermore, I think we know it may rain, the wind may blow and the rough is thick.

    I would like more please on the changes made to the course, how players are getting on in practice, condition of the greens

  • Comment number 4.

    This is a great blog. That whole coastline is jaw-dropping and I think we're in for one of the best Opens for a very long time. It being a chess-game, it's going to be more like what I would call proper golf, i.e not just blasting the ball 300 yards or more and thus cutting out many of the complexities of the course. With some inclement weather, that rough, and the course's hard bits, we should see some very famous people looking very perplexed over the next six days. Oh, and my brother and dad are marshalling at it, and my brother found Tom Watson's ball yesterday. Brilliant. Enjoy.

  • Comment number 5.

    Rob, please could you explain why the Open is not being shown in HD. It's an astonishing decision.

  • Comment number 6.

    Give Me A Break - bear with me, I'm trying to get an answer for you.

    SirGB-thegreatest - obviously there's loads of talking points up here and people will be interested in some more than others. Space precludes covering too much at once, but I hope to get out at some point to have a closer inspection of the greens and watch some practice.

  • Comment number 7.

    Dont know where you got your sayings from but...there not form these parts..
    If is got a hat ist going to be wat
    If is got a coat is going to be hot
    If is got a Tie ist going to be dry.
    Try it out when you look at the does work

  • Comment number 8.

    Hello from sunny (yup, that's right!) Arran. Myself and my wife live right on the SW tip of the island with Ailsa Craig in clear view (though there are days when it's dry but we still can't see Ailsa Craig!) and on a good day, Sanda ('Spoon Island') to the west of us. (Well worth a visit if you really do want to 'get away from it all'). Looking forward to the tournament, though I'm not going to hazard a guess as to the winner.

  • Comment number 9.

    I saw the betting for the Open and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Tiger Woods is around 9/4 and the next person, Sergio Garcia, is around 20/1! Tiger has never played Turnberry before either, so it seems like madness to me especially as there is so much scope to be affected by the elements as Tiger was at the US Open.

    Nice article though, by the way. I would urge people to keep an eye on Ryo Ishikawa who is playing the opening 3-ball with Tiger and Westwood in the first round. He is only 17-years-old and is a sensation in Japan where he is purported to be the next Tiger Woods. Ishikawa played in the Masters but this, as far as I am aware, will be the first time he has ever played in Britain.

  • Comment number 10.

    All the Open venues are a little different with only Lytham and Hoylake being a little drab ..I wish they would have the greens a little harder and faster for the opens so that the players who really can control the ball come out on top.. I think the last open at Sandwich nearly achieved that. The water sogged tree line courses normally presented for the american majors do nothing for me ,,here in the Open there are always many ways to skin the cat

  • Comment number 11.

    Give Me A Break and anyone else wondering why the Open is not in HD.

    This from BBC TV's executive producer Paul Davies: "We are definitely broadcasting the Open in HD from 2010. The honest and clear answer is that the Open is an incredibly complex technical exercise and we are having a new truck purpose built, which will be finished in September.

    "The R&A are happy that we do it from 2010 onwards when we are completely geared up to do something on the scale of the Open.

    "We have learnt an awful lot from Wimbledon and the Six Nations and we're very excited about it for next year."

    Hope that helps.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks for the explanation Rob. I look forward eagerly to next year. Real shame about this year, though.

    As a matter of interest, though, can you or anyone else there explain why the BBC HD channel is almost a channel in its own right, rather than normally showing BBC1/2 programmes at the same time? I appreciate that this is not always the case but I find it very frustrating when compared with, for example, Channel 4 HD which shows the same programming as Channel 4.

  • Comment number 13.

    Oh, and Sky manage to show most of their European tour golf in HD, so I'm not sure why it's such a big deal for the BBC.

  • Comment number 14.

    Roll on 2010 I say.
    The thing I don't understand is the SD converage seemds to be getting much worse. I thought the pictures from Loch Lomand last week were particulary poor, and I'm not sure why considering SKY were co-brodcasters. Anyway it seems the Amreicans are a bit upset too about the rather backward BBC

    Poor show for 2009.

  • Comment number 15.

    That's because it wasn't in HD from Loch Lomond. BBC were doing the coverage and Sky just showed Thurs/Fri - they apologised for it not being HD. I think the BBC should just commission Sky to do the coverage. They know what they're doing.

  • Comment number 16.

    My God, supermonts, even the Americans are complaining. Surely someone at the BBC needs to be brought to account over this.

  • Comment number 17.

    I noticed in the BBC build up to the 2009 Open that it showed the great champions from the past including those who had won it back to back. it then implied the question whether Padraig would win three in a row. i think that this is a slick presentation, but couldn't it have been a bit more generous and suggested that three in a row would emulate the great peter thompson 54-55-56?

  • Comment number 18.

    I had the pleasure of seeing Matteo Manassero play at the European Team Golf Championship in Conway a couple of weeks ago. Hard to believe he has only just turned 16 yrs. The way he plays golf very much reminds me of Tom Watson - brisk. A couple of practice swings before taking his stance, places his club behind the ball and just hits it. No waggling or twitching,etc. He ended his round with the lowest score of the day a 66 which included a penalty drop out of a bush,3 putts on the second green,and missed 3 birdie chances from within 10 feet. What's more he did not appear to be using any yardage charts a throwback to the days of the great Peter Thompson. If he plays this week in Turnberry like he did in Conway then the golfing world will be in for a real treat. Oh by the way he plays off Plus 5.

  • Comment number 19.

    I was really suprised when I looked at the BBC HD schedule.
    WHAT, NO TURNBERRY 2009 ? ( I was actually shouting )

    Shame it is such a scenic course , with the 4th - 10th running along the beach and cliffs with the sea and Ailsa Craig as a backdrop.

    It is perfect for HD coverage. I can't understand why the Beeb isn't covering it in HD when Wimbledon was covered in HD.

    Just as well I'm going in person as I might not be so forgiving.

    Tell you what, I'll even bring the cameras up from Wimbledon myself if that helps :->

  • Comment number 20.

    Im setting off in 2 hours from chester to watch matteo manassero pay for my holiday to this lad be right in the mixer! we looking at shorts or waterproofs tomorrow ha?!

  • Comment number 21.

    "For a student of history, the United Kingdom is wonderful place to visit. You can learn about the illustrious kings and queens of the past, the poets and playwrights who created the world's richest body of literature and the origin of epochal movements like the Industrial Revolution. You can also see what television looked like 20 years ago."

  • Comment number 22.

  • Comment number 23.



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