The journey to Royal Troon took longer than expected. A delayed journey to Glasgow led to a rush at the train station, which was followed by a public transportation nightmare. We got on the wrong train. A forward and rear train were leaving from the same platform, and we absentmindedly chose the train to Wemyss Bay instead of Ayr. After four years in the UK you would think I could navigate the trains, but apparently not! After sorting out our train debacle, we arrived at Troon in the afternoon eager to see the legendary links course.
As I usually do, I did lots of reading on the Championship course at Royal Troon prior to our visit. The common themes found in reviews of the course are summed up well with the now famous quote, “six dull holes, six exciting holes, six dull holes.” Other reviews spoke of the “snootiness” of the club and terrible customer service. Many of these reviews left me with very low expectations of what was to come.
The course exceeded my expectations, and not only because they had been set so low. Members and staff weren’t warm and fuzzy, but we were treated well. I found that the opening holes, while not the more characterful on the course, used bunkering to make flat terrain interesting. A vicious cross wind and beautiful sunset also made the final six hole a picturesque links golf grind, rather than simply “dull.” The condition of the course was also excellent.
Hole #3 – 371 yards – “Gyaws”
The front nine played downwind during our round, and anything beyond a long iron could reach the burn in the fairway. The real interest in the hole lies in the sloping green. A narrow entrance for running shots slots in between two front bunkers.
Hole #7 – 381 yards – “Tel-el-Kebir”
A long iron allows players to stay clear of the longer bunkers on this dogleg right par 4. Playing to the largest part of the fairway allows a short iron or wedge into the green. A large sloping false front to the green makes a front pin particularly tough.
Hole #8 – 123 yards – “Postage Stamp”
The Postage Stamp is easily Troon’s most famous hole. The tough little par 3 has an unbelievably small green. Depending on the wind, this approach can be a flick wedge, or a mid-iron. The 13th hole at Kingsbarns is reminiscent of the Postage Stamp, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyle Phillips wasn’t directly inspired by this little par 3.
Hole #10 – 385 yards – “Sandhills”
The 10th is an extremely strong par 4 with a raised green and narrowing landing area. A new teeing area for future Open Championships adds nearly 100 yards to the hole and features a blind tee shot from a completely new angle.
Hole #11 – 421 yards – “The Railway”
The 11th is the No. 1 handicap hole on the course. The railroad runs up the right side of the hole, which is reminiscent of other Ayrshire courses such as Prestwick. I certainly didn’t find this to be the hardest hole on the course. That being said, from the championship tees, which add length and a new angle to the hole, it may very well be the toughest on the course.
Hole #14 – 175 yards – “Alton”
The par 3 14th is an excellent example of the flat holes on the back 9 of the course. The photo above was taken with my camera raised above head level and the high grass around the hole still obscures the view. It was difficult to play many of the holes on the back 9 confidently not being able to see fairways or greens.
Hole #16 – 533 yards – “Well”
The par 5 16th featured one of my course design pet peeves. A burn crosses the fairway in the landing area for longer hitters. Not being able to hit driver on a 533 yard par 5 removes any chance of reaching the green in two for normal golfers, and therefore eliminates the risk/reward factor that makes many par 5s so much fun.
Hole #18 – 374 yards – “Craigend”
The final hole on the course features fairway bunkers on the left side and a handful of bunkers surrounding the green. The greens were incredibly firm and fast during our round. Approach shots had to be played in true links style landing balls well short of the hole. The front bunkers make these running shot into the green particularly tough.
While I greatly enjoyed my day at Royal Troon and pint in the clubhouse looking back over the 18th green, it won’t be the first course to which I return when I am back in the UK. After a few trips to the area, I find Turnberry and Prestwick to be more fun than the tough Championship course at Troon. That being said, Troon was a very enjoyable round, and marked the 25th Top 100 in the World golf course that I have played.