What now for Turnberry?
Updated: Jan 12, 2021
I feel for the staff at Trump Turnberry. I feel for staff at Trump Aberdeen. I feel for nearby businesses. I feel for the wee towns of Girvan, Maybole and others near Turnberry. They might now suffer because of the Turnberry owner, one Donald J. Trump, soon to be the former 45th president of the United States.
Trump's Scottish courses are sure to take a hit as a result of the toxic brand Trump has become. As recent reports showed, Trump’s courses were already struggling financially.
You can bet many golfers are going to be turned off visiting both venues at this time. Businesses that might have entertained clients at the Turnberry hotel once we emerge from this Covid-19 mess might think again. They may be inclined to follow the PGA of America, which announced yesterday it would not now stage the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster in New Jersey.
In a video sent to PGA of America members, PGA of America president Jim Richerson said:
“It has become clear that conducting the PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster would be detrimental to the PGA of America brand and would put at risk the PGA of America’s ability to deliver our many programs and sustain the longevity of our mission.”
The PGA of America’s announcement will put pressure on the R&A to make a statement on its relationship with Turnberry, which is perhaps unfair.
Contrary to some reports, the R&A has not removed Turnberry from the Open rota. The course remains in the pool of courses which stage the game’s Open Championship. However, the R&A has no contract with Turnberry to stage the Open Championship in the immediate future. Phew!
Turnberry has only staged the championship four times – 1977, 1986, 1994 and 2009. Indeed, many feel that inaugural Turnberry Open is the greatest ever, the famous "Duel in the Sun" when Tom Watson defeated Jack Nicklaus. The course is obviously due to stage another Open, but the R&A has taken the wise, unofficial, decision to put the course on the back burner since Trump came to office.
That unofficial decision to shove Turnberry down the line came when Trump helicoptered into the 2015 Ricoh Women's British Open and created a media circus. R&A officials looked on aghast and decided no way is that happening in the Open Championship.
The R&A has always had an easy out on the Ayrshire course given the logistical problems the isolated venue throws up, problems that mean it historically attracts the lowest crowds of any championship venue. R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers made his last official statement on Turnberry and a future Opens in February last year when he said:
“We need to have much more detailed conversations with the Scottish government and Scotland about infrastructure for Turnberry because it's difficult to get people there.
“The real issue with Turnberry, the real difficulty for us, is getting the infrastructure down. It is a single carriage road as you know to get down to Turnberry, but it is a fantastic golf course. Those of you that haven't played it need to come play it. It's arguably one of the finest. I'm sure we'll stage an Open there in the not‑too‑distant future.”
We can probably now take out the words “not-too” in that last sentence.
Slumbers is right about it being a fantastic golf course, made even more fantastic as a result of revisions by Martin Ebert. Too bad the new layout won’t test the world’s best in an Open Championship in the foreseeable future.
As for Turnberry employees, employees at Trump’s Aberdeen facility, you have to feel for them. These are people with families to support, bills to pay. They could suffer as a result of a problem not of their making.
An Open Championship delivers millions in economic benefit to local areas, millions that towns like Girvan could use on a regular basis. Ditto for the money those wee hotels, guest houses, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, businesses in the town, in Maybole, make from golfers visiting Turnberry.
We often focus on the big story, but there are a lot of little stories attached, and real people who shouldn’t be overlooked. I feel for them right now.
#JustSaying: “I would be very disappointed if they don’t go back to Trump Turnberry. What might happen with the political thing is anybody’s guess. I’m just saying the golf course is A1. I’m not being paid to promote it, but I know one thing – it’s a course that everybody ought to play.” Tom Watson speaking in 2016