It was a moment in golfing history that will remembered poignantly as the “Duel in the Sun”.
In 1977, Tom Watson, the reigning Masters champion, and Jack Nicklaus, golf's acknowledged master and a winner of 14 major championships, were tied at 11-under par with three holes to play.
The Turnberry Resort
Thousands of spectators lined the fairway. The sun was shining strong, casting an amber glow over the Ailsa course. It was a contest of epic proportions and one that has since been regularly voted among the best golfing battles in modern history.
The showdown was eventually settled by a single shot, with Tom Watson taking the title. “This is what it's all about, isn't it?” he is recounted as saying to his opponent during the epic championship match.
The importance of that contest in golfing legend is no small feat in a nation that invented golf sometime before 1456. Its importance to Ailsa is undisputed.
The scenic seaside golf course itself can be traced back to 1902, when the third Marquis of Ailsa established The Turnberry Golf Club in Ayr, Scotland and commissioned Willie Fernie of Troon to build a championship length course. The Turnberry Hotel opened next to the course in 1906.
Flanked by craggy rocks and offering breathtaking views of the Irish Sea, the course is considered one of the world's most scenic. However, Ailsa was destroyed while being used as an airfield during the First and Second World Wars and nearly became a footnote in the history books before being restored by Scottish golf course architect Philip Mackenzie Ross in 1951.
More than thirty years after the 1977 duel, the Turnberry Resort, which comprises the Turnberry Hotel and various golf courses, including the Ailsa, is still making history.
Starwood Hotels, the Turnberry Hotel and Ailsa and Arran golf course underwent a major transformation. Starwood invested $21 million to add the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy, a championship golf course named Kintyre and converting the Arran course to a nine-hole teaching course.
Dubai intends to transform Turnberry into a golfing paradise, and has already started on a grand £28 million refurbishment plan, which saw the hotel shut down for renovations last October and many of its old possessions auctioned off for charity.
Last year, Starwood sold the resort to Leisurecorp, the sports and leisure arm of the Dubai government-owned investment company Dubai World, in a deal worth £55 million ($80.6 million; €61.3 million). Starwood remains in the picture retaining a 30-year management contract for the resort.
Dubai though intends to transform Turnberry into a golfing paradise, and has already started on a grand £28 million refurbishment plan, which saw the hotel shut down for renovations last October and many of its old possessions auctioned off for charity. Dubai has already secured the return of the Open Championship to the Ayrshire resort this year, when the Turnberry Resort reopens after its second facelift since its post-war salvaging.
Of course, Leisurecorp is no stranger to golf. The group developed Jumeirah Golf Estates, in its Dubai home, where the Dubai World Championship will be played beginning in November 2009. The competition will be the world's highest stakes golf tournament with $20 million in total prize money.
The Jumeirah complex includes four championship golf courses named after the elements. Greg Norman designed the Fire and Earth courses, Vijay Singh designed the Water course and Air was designed by Sergio García, Pete Dye and Greg Norman.
However, could Leisurecorp's ambitions for Ailsa be challenged by those of billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump, who – after more than a year of battling residents and local authorities – last year won the right to build a £1 billion golfing complex in Aberdeenshire, just 180 miles away?
Dubai will no doubt argue Trump is the rookie. However, in 1977 it was the youthful Watson who beat the long-standing champion, Nicklaus. Could history be repeating itself?