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WINNING the last Open championship held at Turnberry in 1994: worth £125,000 to the champion Nick Price. Winning this year's Open championship at the same venue: worth £750,000.

Standing on the 18th tee on a glorious sun-bathed evening playing a round of golf for fun with friends and hearing the skirl of bagpipes drifting down from the adjacent Turnberry Hotel as you prepare to drive: priceless.

For the first time in the round my companions and I forgot that we were treading the same fairways and greens as had Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson in the legendary ‘Duel in the Sun', as the closing rounds of the 1977 Open are known. Instead, we basked in the knowledge that we were enjoying a very special moment of our own in a truly spectacular setting.

I should point out that the bagpipes were not being played to herald the completion of our round on the famed Ailsa Course; every evening a lone piper stands outside the hotel and treats guests to a rendition of a collection of well-known and well-loved tunes.

It is just part of what elevates this resort on the south west Ayrshire coast to a plateau reserved for the world's finest golfing venues and where preparations have been underway for the 138th Open championship ever since the announcement on December 1 2005 by the R&A that their crown jewel event was to be staged here from July
16-19.

Of course we did not face the same test as awaits the Open participants off the back tees, but allow me to outline the welcome which awaits visitors to a resort whose origins date back to the turn of the last century.

The setting, among Arran's peaks, the Mull of Kintyre, the faraway coastline of Northern Ireland and the imposing outline of the volcanic Ailsa Craig, has long since beguiled the television viewer tuning in to events such as the Open and BBC2's late, lamented Pro-Celebrity Golf series. But even coverage on a High Definition channel would do scant justice to its charms.

Golfers are drawn to Turnberry to meet the challenges of both the Ailsa and Kintyre courses, particularly the famous drive off the back tee at the par-4 9th hole on the former layout, known as Bruce's Castle as remains of the 14th century Scottish King's abode can be viewed from its green, as well as the 10th tee. But it is the plethora of amenities which have been added over the years – Turnberry celebrated its centenary three years ago – which are likely to entice visitors from around the globe to return to the Westin resort.

Among the most recent additions are the lodges and cottages built within walking distance of the hotel.

These prove particularly popular with families and golfing groups, offering hotel bedroom accommodation complemented by a communal lounge complete with TV, fridge and comfortable sofas and armchairs – the perfect setting, as our group discovered, to talk about pulled drives, duffed chips and missed putts without fear of boring non-golfing hotel residents.

For those wanting to attempt to raise their standard of golf to the level where they can talk, instead, of arrow-straight drives, crisply-struck chips and single putts, Turnberry opened the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy.

Its state-of-the-art facilities include 16 covered bays with spectacular views of Ailsa Craig and the course's famed lighthouse, an audio-visual theatre with a group tuition facility, an open air driving range, and two large teaching areas complete with computerised digital videos, simulators and swing analysers.

Tuitional programmes range from Monty's Fundamental review, priced £20, to – it just had to be, didn't it? – the Full Monty at around £200.

Turnberry also boasts a spa offering a wide range of treatments (including hot stone therapy, aromatherapy and hydrotherapy) and an outdoor activity centre providing pursuits such as quad-biking, archery, horse riding, fishing, and falconry. These are easy to list; more difficulty is met when trying to convey the relaxed and relaxing nature of the hotel itself, which has played host to hundreds of celebrities and even royalty during its 102 years.

It is an AA Five Star and RAC Five Star Blue Ribbon Hotel, and so opulence and luxuriousness, as you would expect, abound.

Yet it possesses an overwhelming sense of comfort and cosiness which is down in no small measure to the friendliness and attentiveness of the staff.

Despite its name, the Open championship is, of course, closed to all but those blessed with sublime golfing talent. But thankfully – July 16-19 excepted – Turnberry's doors are always open to players of any standard.

Do yourself a favour and accept its invitation and warm welcome.

Turnberry, Scotland

Published: July 13, 2009

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