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35 miles S of Glasgow
May to Oct - Mon, Tue & Thu only
David L.K. Brown
Charles Hunter, George Strath, Willie Fernie, James Braid
Troon was founded in 1878 as a five-hole golf course following a meeting in the local pub by a group of golf enthusiasts. It was Charlie Hunter, Keeper of the Green at Prestwick, who laid out the original course and a few of his greens are still in play today. George Strath, Troon's first professional, later extended the course to twelve holes and then to eighteen by 1884. Willie Fernie and James Braid later modified and lengthened the layout. In 1923, Royal Troon Golf Club hosted its first Open and finally moved out of the shadow of its famous neighbour, Prestwick. (By 1923, Prestwick had already hosted 23 Open Championships).
"The course at Troon is perhaps a little overshadowed by its more famous neighbour," wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1910 book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, "but it is a very fine course nevertheless, especially since it has been lengthened of late years. It has, moreover, one of the finest short holes to be found anywhere."
In 1978, Troon’s centenary year, royal patronage was bestowed. Royal Troon Golf Club remains the first (and last) club in Great Britain to have been granted Royal status under the long reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Royal Troon is a traditional out and back links course. The opening few holes are relatively gentle, with a series of short par fours running along the Firth of Clyde. It’s from these early holes that you get the chance to soak up the views. On a clear day, you can see the distant Ailsa Craig in the south, and to the west, the majestic mountains on the Isle of Arran.
The course measures 7,208 yards from the championship tips but line is more important than distance from the tee. Bunkers are everywhere, the majority of which are not visible from the tees. There’s plenty of deep rough and a smattering of gorse and broom to punish the wayward shot. Make your score on the outward nine holes; the inward holes are severe, often playing into the prevailing northwesterly wind. The stretch of holes from the 7th to the 13th provides an interesting and varied challenge.
The 6th is the longest par five in Open Championship golf and the 8th the “Postage Stamp” is the shortest par three on the Open circuit (123 yards). The name stuck after Willie Park referred to the hole in an article for Golf Illustrated: “a pitching surface skimmed down to the size of a postage stamp”. It was here, in the 1973 Open, at the age of 71, Gene Sarazen holed out in one. The following day, he holed his bunker shot for a two at the same hole. It was an amazing return for Sarazen, who had played in Troon’s inaugural Open in 1923.
The Open Championship returns to Royal Troon in 2023, 100 years since Arthur Havers lifted the Claret Jug at Troon for the first time.
Over the years I've been to Opens I 've covered and played the course a few times. In my mind, Royal Troon reminds me of the fanfare Baltusrol has long received in American golf circles. In sum -- both clubs are well connected to the respective golf associations. And, both clubs have layouts architecturally vapid for far too much of the golf experience. Thankfully, Baltusrol has hired Gil Hanse to change the storyline and what happens given his involvement will be most interesting to see.
Sad to say, but utterly true, far too many people weigh the hosting of major championships held at a given facility as being on par with the actual architecture. The reality is one has little to do with the other.
The other element often downplayed is how consistent is the overall architecture? For example, does a facility base its reputation on simply having a few holes of note and the rest simply at a pedestrian level. A classic example is Pebble Beach -- the oceanside holes are spectacular but the inland holes a good bit less so although a few have been recently upgraded. Some opine that if the select great holes are good enough then the rest need not matter.
Troon has an opening series of holes that diplomatically speaking can be reduced to one painful word -- dull. The essence of the course comes with the middle stretch of holes. And, no doubt, the iconic par-3 8th merits all the attention it rightly deserves. I would dare say when one highlights the global best super short par-3 holes --the Postage Stamp delivers the mail spectacularly and without peer.
But the opening stretch reminds me of the famed Elvis Presley song -- "return to sender" -- because there is nothing present that stirs the soul -- or frankly causes much of a pulse. Following a continuous straight line of holes does get painfully repetitive and the architectural inclusions, shall I call them that, are just inducements to take a snooze.
One has to wait till reaching the par-4 7th for the thrill ride to actually commence. Much has been written on the middle stretch of holes and they collectively merit the attention. The all-world 11th is an absolute terror and one that not only can pick one's pocket but will confiscate your trousers as well. When people talk about pressure packed tee shots you'll get quite a few mention the likes of The Road Hole or the 18th at Carnoustie. In my mind, the 11th at Troon is certainly a prime candidate for inclusion.
The ending is demanding but frankly the reputation is bolstered by the headwind generally encountered. When the overall assessment of a course rests squarely on whether Mother Nature adversely impacts matters I believe the final standing needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Let me summarize -- if I had ten rounds to play between Troon and its next door neighbor Prestwick -- I'd play the former at most three times -- the rest on that gem that first hosted The Open.
M. James Ward
Just down the road from Prestwick GC on the Ayreshire coast you will find Royal Troon, one of the ten great links that currently form the Open Rota. That is to say, these courses host The Open Championship on rotation from year to year. Royal Troon is a wonderful championship course, and any serious golfer will rejoice at the challenge of testing themselves against this great links.
Having recently returned from playing our Open Rota tournament- where we play our own tournament over all of the Open Rota courses- I must say that as a test of golf Royal Troon does not suffer by comparison with it's esteemed brethren.
The site is blessed with a sandy terrain right on the beach, but the dunes are largely low lying, and when the wind whips off the ocean, there is nowhere to hide. On these days, the camera may well stay in the bag, as Royal Troon has little of the visual appeal that say Turnberry down the road can exude. It can be positively bleak by comparison...
Yet if it is real golf you came to play Royal Troon will not disappoint.
The opening holes, right behind the coastal foredune, with ocean on the right, are tremendous, strategic championship golf holes.
This is a really great stretch of championship links golf holes. Then the course turns inland, and for the first time we encounter a pocket of towering dunes with a gorgeous valley which forms the basis of the 7th fairway. This part of the course is very attractive. I loved the 7th hole!
And then we come to the incomparable par 3 "postage stamp", one of the most famous holes in golf. It is only a short hole, but fraught with danger. Hit the green or pay the penalty!!
Unfortunately the par 4 ninth hole takes us out of this little oasis at Troon, as the course now moves into a section of the course away from the dunes and the sea, and into a number holes that are framed by trees and shrubs, and where the railway line makes it's presence felt.
There are some good holes here where you need to drive the ball straight to stay in play, testing holes, without ever being particularly memorable. And then Troon plays its final card- the long haul home, generally into the wind, and boy it can wreck a score! All are good strong golf holes, and a great test of golf.
So there you have it. Royal Troon is not pretty, but it's pretty bloody good.
I just want to go back and play it again!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
On a sunny and calm morning in early September 2018 I rolled up to Troon with a booking to play the Portland Course (highly understated in its own right - MacKenzie reworked) and ended up being asked to join in with a group on the Old Course. I made the most of it. It turned out to be one of the best days of golf I've ever had.
The 1st tee, right in the corner of the property by the beach, is definitely one of the more iconic opening tee shots on the Open rota, perhaps surpassed only by St Andrews. 1st to 5th are pleasant holes without significant undulation and not too difficult if you can avoid the bunkers. The beach and O.B. to the right are not really a factor except if you are wild on the 1st tee. Then after the long par three 5th, with its nasty bunkering, the majestic par five 6th leads you into a slightly grander dunescape, providing for a quaintly enclosed green and building you up for the stretch that is about to come.
I can't quite recall, but I don't think the 2016 Open coverage made enough of a big deal about the 7th, 9th and 10th holes, such was the emphasis on the Postage Stamp and the murderous 11th. The 7th tee provides the first enthralling vista of the course; it's all before you from the elevated tee, including the 8th green very much in your eyeline, in fact it is almost directly in line with the 7th green in the distance. A fabulous par four, it plays as a dogleg right down into a valley with the fairway bunkers as targets, from where a short iron approach is played back up to the green at the top of the slope and tucked naturally between dunes and with an intriguing open back edge (on to the 10th fairway) through the green.
So up the steps off the 7th green you go - to the famous Postage Stamp. It is most definitely not over-hyped in any way. The walk up the steps to reveal the view from the tee is an inexperience in itself alone. Best par three in the world? It is rightly spoken of up there with Augusta 12, Pebble Beach 7 and Cypress Point 16. What I had not realised previously is that you walk almost right next to the green as you play the 7th, so you have an early gauge of what is in store, not unlike the 16th / 17th situation at Sawgrass, but it still doesn't prepare you for the view from the 8th tee, a view that extends to the Ayrshire coast beyond. The hole is not that short really. I measured it 137 to the back of the green into a one club wind with the pin the middle by the deadly coffin bunker, so I played a sneaky 135-yard knock-down 8 iron (to six feet thank you). So much for the dink with a wedge.
If you're not still mentally on the previous hole, you should realise that the 9th is quite a classy hole itself. It's a dogleg right par four played through an undulating fairway towards what seems the quietest little dune sheltered corner on the Ayrshire coastline, until the planes taking off from Prestwick Airport roar just above your head. One thing you don't see on Open TV coverage is the walk between the 9th green and 10th tee. Probably the longest walk between holes on the course and through a secluded pathway out of reach of spectators and cameras. A couple of holiday site caravans overlook the walkway and you could imagine Palmer, Watson, Weiskopf, Calcavecchia, Leonard, Hamilton and Stenson all having brief moments of reflection that may have relaxed their minds en route to clinching their respective claret jugs.
10 is another undulating par four played down into a valley, with the 7th green and 8th tee to the left side, and up to a perched green. At one point as you walk along the fairway the 7th and 8th greens are visible to the left almost in line with one another - it must be quite a setting during Open time.
Then to the brutal 11th. Officially the hardest hole on the Open rota. The white and yellow tees are elevated away from the railway line and the view from there is worth seeing as it shows the hole nicely, but plays a very different tee shot. The O.B. wall runs down the right side of the entire hole, with the train tracks just the other side of it, and to the left there is the worst jungle on the course, all in all leaving no room for error. I hit a solid straight drive, but then got greedy with my second, blazing a 3-wood on to the 11.40 southbound to Ayr. The 11th green and 12th area is guarded by some trees, the last bit of shelter you will find before the 19th hole. 12 goes back southerly, a tough slight dogleg right par four, then the homeward stretch begins with the difficult 13th, as all of a sudden you feel very exposed to the elements.
I will always love 14 because of my 5-wood and 30 foot putt birdie. Wonderful long par three! Number 15 also caught the attention. A charming fairway mound just before the green that you can use to your advantage, especially if the pin is at the front. It was on this green that Stenson held that monster putt to finally put some distance between himself and Mickelson in their famous 2016 duel. The 16th is a flatish long par five with a cross fairway burn to negotiate and here the setting gradually becomes more urban to the right side of the course as you get closer to the town and the clubhouse. The 17th is a long par three, with a friendly landing area short right of the green and a more punishing fall-off on the left, overlooked by the Marine Hotel from the right, which actually evokes a very St Andrews like kind of vibe.
Most Open rota finishing par fours seem to have certain similarities. Decent if not spectacular par fours in their own right and quite flat with numerous bunkers along the fairway and at greenside, obviously enhanced by the grandeur of the clubhouse setting on any given day and even more so by the grandstands at Open time. The 18th at Troon is no different and a mere driver and 8-iron for me on the day. Note the Stenson bunker (that he somehow did not roll into) on the right side at about 275 yards from the back tee.
I must comment on the welcome I received at Troon. It was exceptional and made the day all the more memorable.
A fantastic open course with a few differences that makes it unique. The postage stamp alone was worthy of the immense green fee and a few other holes made it a truly enjoyable experience. Add a fantastic clubhouse with an understated approach this is a great course and definitely worthy of the plaudits it gets, a must for a golfing enthusiast.
All the open courses are brilliant and I honestly think your favourite is the one you play best at or more important, .....when you get the best weather ! When you compare the best of the rest , ie Ganton ,Royal Porthcawl , Royal St Davids, Saunton Sands, Burnham and Berrow, you realise the open courses have something extra that is hard to explain but is definitely justified in making them the top of the pecking order and you must put this on your bucket list.
Visited Troon for the 1st time in April 2008 on my trip to Turnberry. I just had the opportunity to walk to the 1st tee and i must say this experience did not inspired me... at all.
11 years later, i've had the rare opportunity to play the Old Course at Royal Troon with a member of the club on a nice sunny day.
I must say i have enjoyed absolutely every moment of my day.
From the locker room to the bar and trhe proshop, all the staff have been great.
Regarding the course i believe this is one of the finest track i've ever had the chance to experience. I definitely rank it as one of my favourite course ever.
I often heard that the Old course at Royal Troon is the second least of all of the Open Championship courses, with only Royal Liverpool rated as the lowest. It is often lumped in with Royal Lytham & St Annes as well.
I understand the context of the comment, but when remembering that these are golf courses capable of hosting the world's finest players in perhaps the most significant golf tournament of the year, then one can put it in the proper context.
One reviewer noted George Peper's comment about six dull holes, six interesting holes, and six dull holes. I don't get that either and I think Mr. Peper is being a bit harsh in his critique.
Yes, the first five holes are not visually interesting with the holes running parallel to the out of bounds right with the tall grasses on the dunes. Yet the first hole offers some protective bunkers on the fairway and five bunkers fronting the green. The second has eleven bunkers and a slope on the front of the green. The third has a burn that the longer hitters will not take on as well as a green sloping away from you.
The fourth is a long par five that you must avoid the bunkers on the left in order to reach the green in two or three.
The fifth is a long par three where the wind usually determines the type of shot you will want to try to hit the green.
The sixth, the longest par five, has a green beautifully situated in the dunes.
In sum, the first six holes, while not visually interesting, are well defended and well designed.
The seventh is my favorite hole on the course, a wonderful dogleg with eleven bunkers starting from a raised tee and finishing between sand hills. It is both beautiful and strategic.
The famous eighth, the Postage Stamp, is one of the most famous par threes in golf at around 120 yards playing slightly downhill to a green defended by five very deep bunkers and a substantial fall off to the right of the green. You simply must hit the green here or you are looking at a big score relative to par.
The ninth, a dogleg par four where one must avoid the bunkers on the left with the tee shot offers an elevated green with no bunkers. It is very different to the rest of the course but still fits.
The tenth is always the hardest hole on the course for me because I have always faced the wind on the tee shot which is semi-blind and has gorse right and left on the tee shot. Once again, there are no bunkers greenside or even on this hole as the length, elevated green and narrowness of the drive are more than enough for defending the hole.
If the tenth was difficult, eleven is equally difficult with another drive that has to avoid the gorse and a long second shot that cannot be hit off to the right due to the out of bounds from the train line.
The twelfth continues the difficulty of the tee shot with gorse once again on either side of this dogleg hole. The green falls off steeply to the left.
The thirteenth is another hole without a bunker but it does not need it given the difficulty of the drive and the difficulty of the green. The fairway has numerous humps and bumps. It is an incredible golf challenge so I don't know why it is not thought of more highly.
I do find the par three fourteenth to be the easiest hole on the back nine unless the wind is howling. I think it is one of the easier greens.
The fifteenth is a long par four where if you miss the fairway, par is only likely achieved by one putting.
The sixteenth is the second easiest hole coming in, a medium length par five that has a burn that does not come into play for most players but has a well guarded green. The green is not difficult.
The seventeenth, a long par 3 is very difficult due both to length, the crowning of the green and the five deep bunkers surrounding it. It is a very difficult hole and par is an excellent score.
The eighteenth is a unique hole in that in finishes so close to the clubhouse, possibly closer than at Royal Lytham & St Annes (I actually don't want to find out).
There are bunkers everywhere on this long straight par four however the relative flatness of the green is a bit disappointing.
As I said, I like Royal Troon a lot. There may not be a tougher stretch of holes from 7-12 on a golf course so I understand Mr. Peper's comment. However, the other holes are beautifully designed even if they are visually uninteresting. Everyone should play Royal Troon Old a couple of times. If the wind is up, you might only play it once given how difficult it will play. I don't think people should complain about the green fee given how special the golf course is.
Obviously a great Open track but to be honest (like Lytham) I just didn't feel it as I though the opening stretch was a bit bland as was the close.
The best bit is definitely around the turn (including of course the famous Postage Stamp).
Really must try and get to play again to see if I get to like it better.
I played Troon 5/9/17 and had a delightful round and experience. The old course at Troon is "good" but not more when compared to other top clubs and when considering you've just paid the 230 pound visitor fee. It is all relative, I am not comparing this course to your local average muni but rather judging this course on par for its caliber. I have played about 40 of the top 100 clubs on this list, all of the Open courses, and about 30 top 100 courses in the USA.
The club house is beautiful and worth spending some time in. It has been remodeled and is lovely inside. The golf shop for an elite club was disappointing regarding it's selection of merchandise to take home. The staff all around was very welcoming and helpful throughout the day.
The golf course - it is a wonderful experience anytime you get to play an Open venue course so this is a real treat to play, but no way is it worth the price of admission and you should not go out of your way to play it. There are better courses for half the price. Holes 6, 7 - 15 & 18 are the best, the rest are average or even below average for a course of this caliber.
The bunkers are fierce as one would expect, the course conditioning was very good, the greens were a bit slow. The "sand dunes" are really only prominent on holes 7-11, otherwise holes 1-6 and 12-18 are flat (flat for a links course). The golf course really isn't beautiful or interesting, there are a few spots where the course has some interesting design features and some nice views towards the water but nothing to go crazy over. For me, holes 7-11 are the course, without those Troon is a bottom 50 course in this ranking list (sorry but it is true). I had a lovely time playing Troon and a memorable experience on an Open venue but the course is a flop (when compared to its peers at the elite end of the Top 100 list and considering the price to play it).
I’ve not played Royal Troon, but I’d suggest ignoring the above summary. For a self-confessed student of Golf architecture, this reviewer talks rather alot about poor value for money in his reviews.
All whilst handing out 6 ball reviews to ultra private (and therefore ultra expensive to join) US clubs.
Despite this irony, I guess those tracks, like most, are great value when a member signs you in. Although he clearly doesn’t have quite so many contacts in the UK, he should perhaps simply be grateful they allow him to pay a greenfee at all, and just focus on reviewing the course
Playing Royal Troon less than a fortnight after Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson had produced what is arguably the greatest golfing duel in history, and certainly the best final day of an Open Championship, was a special occasion. With the spectator grandstands still in place I really got a feel for the course that I’d witnessed on television just days previously.
The Old course at Royal Troon is not often lauded by many. It is a beautifully looking links in my opinion but it doesn’t have the stunning scenery of nearby Turnberry, the history of St. Andrews, the demands of Carnoustie, the quirk of St. Georges, the dunes of Birkdale, the reverence of Muirfield nor has it produced the great players that Hoylake has.
That said, the course exceeded my expectations and whilst I can’t really argue with any of the above statements in many ways it has a blend of everything which produces an extremely satisfying round of golf. In some ways this makes Troon a jack of all trades and master of none… but don’t fall into the trap of thinking this isn’t great golf; it’s a bloody fine links.
Undoubtedly the best part of the course is holes seven through to eleven though. Walking onto the seventh tee gave me a similar thrill as stepping onto the third tee at Dornoch or the ninth at Cruden Bay and whilst Troon may rank third in this trio the view, which primarily takes in the hole itself, the famed Postage Stamp and a vista out to sea is spectacular.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
The postage stamp is a very noteworthy hole on a course that lacks many standout holes. I know I am in a minority in not loving Royal Troon but I found a bunch of the holes to be rather straightforward and uninteresting. The former editor of Golf Magazine, George Peper's description is more eloquent and concise than mine but in the same vein: "Six dull holes - six interesting holes - six dull holes." Relative to other courses that host the Open Championship or others in England I find Troon to be overrated.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs