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½ mile S of Troon
May to Oct - Mon, Tue & Thu only
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 11th is a brutal 490-yard par four for the pros and was rated the most difficult hole of the 1997 Open Championship – out-of-bounds and the railway line runs along the right hand side.
Mackenzie & Ebert made minor adjustments to every hole for The 145th Open in 2016, along with more major changes to the 9th, 10th and 15th holes. A backdrop of trees behind the 9th green was replaced with dunes, the former bunker in the carry of the 10th was restored, and both tees and early portion of the 15th fairway were moved to the left of the 14th hole, reinstating the old line of the hole.
The Open Championship returns to Royal Troon in 2023, 100 years since Arthur Havers lifted the Claret Jug at Troon for the first time.
Royal Troon is, overall, a pretty uninspiring course to play. The best holes are reserved in the middle of your round when there are some nice changes in elevation between the 6th and 12th holes (with a blind tee shot at the 10th for good measure)but the opening and closing stretches are pretty bland. Throw in the fact that the Postage Stamp 8th was out of play when we played during the winter and you can guess that our party were not overly enamoured with being unable to play one of the most famous golf holes in the world.
One very big plus point is that the staff in the clubhouse were absolutely fabulous, operating a very sensible, down to earth, winter menu. They treated our visiting party of four as if we were members which is as high an accolade as I can give any golf club employee.
The clubhouse is undergoing extensive renovations so changing was confined to outside portakabins which detracted a little from the overall experience. I can hardly imagine what anyone paying top notch prices in the summer would think of this – our group were on a discounted SGU winter green fee (similar to that offered at other Open venues in Scotland) so we didn’t mind the inconvenience too much.