Trump Turnberry and Rusacks Hotel Go For Broke with Major Renovations

Trump Turnberry Scotland (Image: Trump Turnberry)

Trump Turnberry has hosted four Open Championships since opening in 1901. (Image: Trump Turnberry)

Two of Scotland’s iconic resorts are going full out to attract golf travellers. Rusacks Hotel in St. Andrews has announced a $14-million expansion, while Trump Turnberry is spending more than $500-million on a redo aimed at landing an Open Championship.

Donald Trump is not a man given to half measures.

Though Scotland’s rebranded Trump Turnberry resort underwent a major makeover as recently as 2009, the Donald has earmarked more than $500-million for a revamp of a 149-room property that opened in 1901 and has hosted four Open Championships.

Included among those Opens was the famous Duel in the Sun between Jack Nicklaus and eventual winner Tom Watson in 1977, as well as Watson’s heartbreaking loss at the age of 59 to Stewart Cink in 2009.

I visited Turnberry during a recent trip to Scotland and can report that the changes Trump’s team has already made to the property are indeed impressive. The resort’s main foyer, lobby bar and dining rooms have all been lavishly and elegantly refitted. And under the direction of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, the guest rooms are being given a regal makeover.

Macdonald Rusacks Hotel St Andrews (Image: Macdonald Rusacks Hotel)

Macdonald Rusacks Hotel in St. Andrews will add 44 new suites. (Image: Macdonald Rusacks Hotel)

In fact, so comprehensive are the changes that virtually all of Turnberry’s previous contents—plasma televisions, beds, mattresses and chandeliers—were ripped out and put up for auction shortly after Trump took possession from Dubai-based Leisurecorp in 2014.

It’s easy to laugh at the paintings and numerous magazine covers featuring Trump that now adorn the walls. The man’s ego is truly gargantuan. But the resort itself has rarely, if ever, looked better.

And it’s impossible not to get excited about the changes the outspoken U.S. presidential hopeful has in store for the famous Ailsa Course, which this summer hosted the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Under the direction of star architect Martin Ebert, the course will be lengthened 150 yards, which will stretch the test to 7,350 yards during championship play. Changes are planned for almost every hole, while the 6th, 9th, 10th and 14th holes will be completely rebuilt.

Most intriguing of all will be the transformation of the famous par-four 9th “lighthouse” hole into what Trump immodestly calls “the most spectacular par three in the world.” From the championship tees, the hole will play 235 yards downwind across the Firth of Clyde to a green to the right of the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself will be reborn as golf’s most unique halfway house.

Work began on the Ailsa at the end of September, with plans for a gala reopening next June. Of course, the goal of this massive undertaking is to secure a future return of the Open Championship to Turnberry. The first available slot is thought to be 2021. Trump is banking on the R&A to make the right decision.

Word also comes from Scotland of the approval of a 44-suite extension to the iconic Macdonald Rusacks Hotel in St. Andrews. The $14-million revamp of the 128-year-old hotel overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course will include a rooftop restaurant, bar, terrace and glass-fronted suites.

While staying at the Rusacks in July for the Open Championship, Justin Rose described his suite as “the best room in golf.” Work is scheduled to start in 2016.