South Ayrshire Council, the local authority that Troon comes under, does a marvelous job providing good golf venues for local residents at affordable green fee rates. They have eight courses throughout Ayrshire with Belleisle and Lochgreen marketed as their premier courses.
Lochgreen, Darley and Fullarton are serviced by the same clubhouse in Troon so the starters box outside can be a very busy place in the middle of the summer with members and visiting golfers all reporting for these three courses at the same time.
Ladies, juniors and seniors predominantly use the Fullarton at 4,869 yards. Lochgreen, with a mix of links and parkland, is probably the best of the three courses and, as a matter of fact, it has been used for Open Qualifying before. Jack Nicklaus, no less, qualified for an Open here – by one shot – after scoring 82 and 68!
Nonetheless, locals will tell you the Darley is the most challenging of the three municipal Troon courses due to its many tight fairways that are lined with unforgiving gorse, heather and whins. Terms like “testing” and “strategic” are sometimes used to describe a tough course and both words can justifiably be used in connection with the Darley – it has been reported before to be the fourth most difficult course in the whole of Scotland to play to your handicap.
Don’t, for goodness sake, let that statistic put you off playing here as the Darley is the real deal for links lovers who like their round spiced up by changes in elevation, snaking burns, an abundance of yellow gorse and difficult greens that Donald Ross would be proud of (like the putting surface on the par three 16th hole named “Saucer”).
Many golf societies choose to have an annual away day at the South Ayrshire Council courses in Troon where they can play 36 holes at the one location, combining two of the three courses according to their abilities. What’s the bet that most societies choose the Darley for one or both of their two rounds?
This has to be one of the worst maintained golf courses I’ve seen. Set up on the first tee you think, this looks quite good, after you get out the home stretch you cross a road and things change, badly. Very poorly maintained tees, fairway and greens tell a story of either poor green keeping or a lack of funding, or both.
What was once a gem of a course and tough now has good shots punished with lost balls or needing to take penalty drops.
Gorse, heather and other bushes have been allowed to take hold with no management over a number of years. Bunkers have no sand and almost impossible to get out with downward slopes to high faces.
It’s June and the courses should be in good conditions the greens are inconsistent, 1-4 fairly quick, the rest very slow with a lot of bare patches.
Don’t waste your money on this or any of the other Troon municipal courses. For visitors wanting to play links golf, don’t think this is it. You’ll get far better elsewhere.
The Darley links is one of three courses emanating from the starters office at the Troon Municipal golf complex which is owned, managed and run by South Ayrshire Council.
The words ‘municipal’ and ‘council owned’ would simply deter some people from even considering a round at this course whilst others may head there with some trepidation.
And whilst the course may well indeed find itself down the pecking order of a golfing itinerary in Ayrshire that’s only because the quality of other nearby venues is so high and so deep.
However, the Darley is a very good golf course in its own right and I was extremely impressed with the links on my visit here. The style of course is similar in nature to that of nearby Irvine, Gailes and Kilmarnock – an inland heathland/links hybrid. There’s no view of the sea but the firm and mildly undulating terrain certainly plays like a good old-fashioned links and with deep bunkers, plus an abundance of gorse, the course presents a stern challenge.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
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One of the finest municipal links courses in Scotland. The Open may have been played half a mile away at Royal Troon but I’ll bet less than 1% of Glasgow golfers will have played there as opposed to 90% who will have had a day out at the Darley – it’s a well worn track but my how it wears well!
Golf here is without the airs and graces of a members club, but tight fairways and abundant gorse makes this a challenging place to get around in par figures. The greens are slick, even in winter, and there are lots of cracking holes with burns to cross, long carries off some tees and a good few elevated greens to aim for. Talk about value for money – and they even accept half price vouchers at a venue where a round is less than 20 quid!
There are another two courses attached to the same clubhouse so you can make a real day of it here among real, down to earth golfers – it does you good every so often to take a golfing reality check at venues like Troon Darley!