Royal Troon History
There is some evidence of golf being played at Troon from as early as 1870. A meeting was held in 1878 proposing the formation of a golf club. Twenty three members from Prestwick, with their own labour built the first links course of six holes. Charles Hunter, keeper of the green at nearby Prestwick, offered professional guidance on how to transform the unappealing scrub land, wild with numerous thick gorse bushes into a golf course. By 1883, six holes had become twelve and then eighteen in 1888. According to the ‘Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News’ in 1885: “The new course at Troon is one which, when there has been a little more trampling, will prove one of the best in Scotland.” By 1900, Willie Fernie the 1883 Open Champion and the club’s new professional had the course looking to some extent like we see it today. After the First World War the course re-designed by five times Champion Golfer James Braid in advance of its first Open in 1923. The club was awarded its Royal Charter in 1978 to commemorate it's centenary. It is the only club to receive the Royal title in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Most recently, Mackenzie Ebert advised on some small changes ahead of the 2016 Open Championship that included the restoration of sand scrapes and a blowhole between the 10th tee and fairway. This recreates the drama of the original blind drive.
Royal Troon Old Course (7208 yards, Par 71)
The Old Course at Royal Troon Golf Club is a traditional Scottish links and a demanding test of golfing skill. It is blessed with sandy terrain being right next to the beach and the Firth of Clyde, but the dunes are mainly low lying. When the wind whips off the Ocean there is nowhere to take cover. On a clear day you can see Ailsa Craig to the distant south and to the north the mountains of the Isle of Arran. The course is mainly out and back but the routing alters direction in the middle a few times before returning to the clubhouse. The initial holes ease you into the round with the sea on the golfers right. You need to make your score count on the front nine which is not too difficult, if you stay away from the astute bunkering. The going starts to get tougher from the seventh hole. The prevailing wind is typically against you on the back nine. There is deep rough and a great deal of hazardous gorse. Strategic play with accurate driving keeping to the fairway is the best way to build a good score. The fairways are undulating and the green complexes demand precision. The bunker placement throughout is extremely well considered. Troon has the longest hole of the Open venues, the 601 yards sixth. It also has the shortest, the 123 yards par three eighth known as 'the Postage Stamp' because of its narrow green. Royal Troon is one of the Open Championship venues and will host the 152nd tournament in 2024. The Troon Portland course, redesigned by Dr Alister Mackenzie in 1920, has hosted qualifying rounds for both the Open Championship and the European Open. The Old course is an exceptionally demanding one and recognised as one of the sternest tests on the Open Championship rota. Troon's test begins with a gentle opening through some striking links land and concludes with a back nine perhaps as tough as any finish in the UK. It is a supreme test of shot making, nerve, power and skill.
Suggested ways to play some memorable Golf Holes
Hole 1 - Seal - 370 yards, par 4, Index 16 - The rebuilt tee at the 1st hole, is close to the beach and provides a traditional links start to the round. There are views of the Irish Sea, Isle of Arran and Ailsa Rock to the golfer’s right. It follows the coast for the opening six holes, which often play downwind. There is ‘The Chain of Rocks’ offshore named Seal, the hole was given this name some 100 years ago. You can often view seals basking on the reef. The hole eases you into the round. The drive should be slightly right to avoid the bunkers guarding the left side of the fairway. Your pitch to the somewhat elevated green should avoid the bunkers on the left and right.
Hole 7 - Tel-El-Kebir - 405 yards, par 4, index 9 - Named after a battle fought in 1882 just before the hole was created. The elevated tee on top of the dunes provides the first enthralling vista of the course laid out before you. A great par four that has a sharp dogleg right. The fairway turns into a valley with pocket of towering dunes, there is a bunker in the angle of the dogleg and fairway bunkers. The fairway appears inviting but the green is difficult to find. Normally a short iron approach is required over a slight gulley to a well-protected green tucked naturally between two sandhills.
Hole 8 - Postage Stamp - 123 yards, par 3, index 18 - Championship par threes today are often almost twice the length of this hole. It makes the point that subtle creativity of design is more effective a solution to modern equipment than building a new tee to make a hole 30 yards longer. The tee is on high ground and a dropping shot is played over a gully to a long but exceptionally narrow green, that is set into the side of a sandhill. Two bunkers protect the left side of the green and a huge crater bunker shields the approach. Any mistake on the right will find one of the two deep bunkers with near vertical faces. There is no easy way to play this hole. The ball must find and hold the green with the tee-shot. Many top players have failed to score well on the shortest hole in Open Championship golf. Much has been written about it and its fame is talked about world- wide. Veteran major Champion Gene Sarazan at the age of 71 had it tamed in the 1973 Open. He had a hole in one during his first round and in his second took just 2 shots. A dramatic display of golf watched by millions on TV. Despite the short distance it is far from an easy par 3. Many have found out the hard way including Tiger Woods who took a six there is 1997. The Postage Stamp with its ever-narrowing shelf green is even more formidable than you imagine it to be. Standing over what should be a simple short-iron shot, only your skill, nerve and good sense can save you from golfing disaster. The tiny green is bounded by bunkers whose only purpose is to ruin your scorecard.
Hole 9 - The Monk - 422 yards, par 4, index 5 - This hole looks towards the village of Monkton and moves away from the sea and the main dunes. It is a classy hole that doglegs right with an undulating fairway towards a dune sheltered corner. The tee-shot at this hole is fairly straightforward but blind. It should be played short of the two bunkers on the left-hand side of the dog-leg onto a narrow undulating fairway, with heavy rough on either side. A mid-iron approach is typically required to reach a raised two-tiered green.
Hole 10 - Sandhills - 452 yards, par 4, index 10 - You are at the very farthest point from the clubhouse. From the tee it is another blind drive, and the challenge is daunting. You a confronted with large sandhills, a hill of gorse and wild rough. As yet unseen a fairway tumbles down traversing the hummocks and finally leading to a raised green. It is a particularly difficult tee shot into a prevailing wind. Anything offline can be punished by gorse on the right and a large gully on the left. The approach must find the plateau green set into the side of a hill with a sharp drop on the right.
Hole 11 - The Railway - 483 yards, par 4, index 1 - There is a very intimidating view from the tee. The out of bounds wall runs all the way down the right side of the hole. The train tracks are just the other side of it. To the left is a thick jungle of gorse and other hazards so the last thing you need is a hooked drive. It is one of the hardest par fours on the Open rota and famously cost a young Tiger Woods a quadruple bogey eight in the second round of the 1997 championship. It was rated the hardest hole of that Championship. The tee shot is really high pressure, some say up with the Road Hole at St Andrews. A long approach shot must beware the railway just a few yards off the green to the right.
Hole 12 - The Fox – 429 yards, par 4, index 6 - The twelfth hole goes back southerly. It is the last of four consecutive blind tee shots and the shortest par four on the back nine. This hole has a slight dogleg with the drive played over a rise into the narrow neck of the fairway. The tee-shot should be played left of centre to avoid the ridge of rough and gorse on the right. The approach shot is played to a somewhat raised two-tiered green falling off down a bank to the left and guarded by a bunker on the right. Most of the holes on the inward half play into the prevailing wind.
Hole 15 - Crosbie - 502 yards, par 4, index 3 - The name is given to a small fortification near Alton, which was the home of the Fullarton Family for centuries. The first of the very demanding four finishing holes, the fifteenth is a long two shotter. The drive should favour the left half of the fairway to open up the second shot to a flat green which rests in a hollow. This hole is well bunkered on the approach and the emphasis is on an accurate second shot.
Hole 16 - Well - 553 yards, par 5, Index 8 - The longest hole on the inward nine with the tee-shot played to a flat fairway laying-up short of the burn. It crosses the fairway at driving distance and the wind usually dictates whether or not it can be attacked from the tee. If not, reaching the green in two is practically impossible. The line for the second shot favours the left to be in the best position for the approach to the green, which is well protected by bunkers.
Hole 17 - Rabbit - 218 yards, par 3, index 13 - This is the final and toughest of the short holes. The tee-shot can be as much as a driver, depending upon the wind. The raised green falls away sharply on three sides. This makes saving par after missing the green particularly awkward. Just ask Greg Norman and Ernie Els, who bogeyed it during Open play-offs in which they were expected to prevail. It is well guarded by bunkers short of the green and on the right and left hand sides. Tom Doak in his Confidential Guide to Golf Courses wrote. “The 17th is overlooked as a terrific long par 3.”