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?
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.