Modern golf dates back to 1751 in Girvan, the birthplace of the game, less than ten miles from Turnberry. Along Scotland's Sunshine Coast, the links between land and sea were nature's own courses, and the pastime was well loved. However, a lack of formal transportation made travel difficult and contests informal, local affairs. Without any permanent settlement to support the game at Turnberry, golf would remain absent in those parts for another 150 years.
Archibald Kennedy, the Third Marquess of Ailsa (Lord Ailsa), owned Turnberry's 76,000 acres and denied two attempts to establish a formal club on his land. It wasn't until 1896 that Lord Ailsa, a keen golfer and an active member of the South-Western Railway board, saw the financial opportunity of building a course at Turnberry and a train line from Ayr to Maidens, Turnberry and Girvan.
On 6 July 1901, the first man-made links, designed by Willie Fernie, were opened for play at Turnberry. The Clubhouse followed soon after, with a match between two teams headed by the Club Captain and Vice Captain to mark the occasion.
Though the course opened four years before the railway came to be, it was an immediate success. As the longest in the west of Scotland at 6,248 yards, Turnberry was so well regarded that after just seven years, it held its first professional tournament and attracted a strong field that included the reigning Open champion, Arnaud Massey. Several other significant tournaments were held at Turnberry during that time, including the Ladies' British Open Amateur Championship of 1912.
"The important new golf links at Turnberry, adjacent to Turnberry Castle and lighthouse on the Ayrshire coast, was opened for play on Saturday last week. The more one sees of the links serves to confirm the impression that the course will one day be among the finest in the kingdom." - Golf Illustrated article