Royal Troon Golf Club, which now has a total of 45 holes, was founded in 1878, initially with five holes. It lies adjacent to the Firth of Clyde. George Strath was appointed in 1881 as the club’s first golf professional, and together with 1882 Open champion Willie Fernie (golfer), designed the original course, expanding it to 18 holes by 1888. The two were assisted by Charlie Hunter, greenskeeper of the neighbouring Prestwick Golf Club, in Troon’s formative years.
Royal Troon Golf Club Old Course
Depending on the strength and direction of the wind, the Old course can be a serious challenge, and golfers usually need to make their scores heading out with the prevailing wind, as the return journey is testing enough even in calm conditions.
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). Everyone mentions the 8th hole, a short 126 yard par 3. With a stroke index of 18 it’s supposed to be the easiest hole on the golf course. Don’t believe it. Sure, it’s only a wedge but it’s called “Postage Stamp” for a reason. Did you ever see a large postage stamp? Exactly. It’s tiny. Not only is it tiny, it is surrounded by 5 intimidating bunkers. Wait, it gets worse. One of the bunkers is called “The Coffin Bunker”–and the edges are severely sloped so that anything that doesn’t hold the green leaves a delicate chip with a pretty good chance of ending up in bogey or worse. Tiger Woods took a 6 here in his first British Open Championship and it’s the only hole Greg Norman bogeyed when he set the course record with a sizzling 64. In fact, he birdied the first 6 holes, parred # 7 and then bogeyed the “easy” Postage Stamp.
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. There’s only one bunker and that’s near the green. However, gorse and broom line the narrow fairway and bumps and hills and valleys populate it. It’s the kind of hole you can get a decent drive on only to find you’re facing a downhill and/or sidehill lie for your second shot to a inverted saucer green. Oh, and don’t forget the wind. It will probably be blowing in your face. It’s a par 4, but 5 is not a bad score here.
Royal Troon Golf Club Portland Course
The Portland Course, originally designed by the Troon professional William Fernie, winner of the Open Championship in 1883, was opened in 1895 and subsequently redesigned by Dr Alister MacKenzie in the early 1920’s. The Portland course – named after the Dukes of Portland who did much in the 19th century to generate wealth in the area with the construction of docks at Troon harbour and the creation of coal mines in nearby Kilmarnock – is a fine links layout that is, unfortunately, totally overshadowed by the championship course.
A shorter and easier challenger than the Old course, the Portland is no easy test and there is four par-5s on the back nine.