Just down the road from Prestwick GC on the Ayreshire coast you will find Royal Troon, one of the nine great links that currently form the Open Rota. That is to say, these courses host The Open Championship on rotation from year to year.
Royal Troon was formed in 1878 with its layout being sculpted by input from George Strath, Willie Fernie, and James Braid successively. But although the course has been tweaked and lengthened since, little structural change has been made in the last 90 years.
To date Royal Troon has hosted 8 Open Championships with winners including:
Justin Leonard, Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Watson, Tom Weiskpof, Arnold Palmer, and Bobby Locke, and more recently Henrik Stenson in his magical dual with Phil Mickelson.
Royal Troon is a wonderful championship course, and any serious golfer will rejoice at the challenge of testing themselves against this great links. Having recently returned from playing our Open Rota tournament- where we play our own tournament over all 9 of the Open Rota courses- I must say that as a test of golf Royal Troon does not suffer by comparison with it's esteemed brethren.
But this is not a "pretty" course!
The site is blessed with a sandy terrain right on the beach, but the dunes are largely low lying, and when the wind whips off the ocean, there is nowhere to hide. On these days, the camera may well stay in the bag, as Royal Troon has little of the visual appeal that say Turnberry down the road can exude. It can be positively bleak by comparison...
Yet if it is real golf you came to play Royal Troon will not disappoint. The opening holes, right behind the coastal foredune, with ocean on the right, are tremendous, strategic championship golf holes. This is a really great stretch of championship links golf holes. Then the course turns inland, and for the first time we encounter a pocket of towering dunes with a gorgeous valley which forms the basis of the 7th fairway. This part of the course is very attractive. I loved the 7th hole!
And then we come to the incomparable par 3 "postage stamp", one of the most famous holes in golf. It is only a short hole, but fraught with danger. Hit the green or pay the penalty!!
Unfortunately the par 4 9th hole takes us out of this little oasis at Troon, as the course now moves into a section of the course away from the dunes and the sea, and into a number holes that are framed by trees and shrubs, and where the railway line makes it's presence felt.
There are some good holes here where you need to drive the ball straight to stay in play, testing holes, without ever being particularly memorable. And then Troon plays its final card- the long haul home, generally into the wind, and it can wreck a score! All are good strong golf holes, and a great test of golf.
So there you have it.
Royal Troon is not pretty, but it's pretty bloody good.
I want to go back, and I really look forward to playing that front nine again in particular.
The Travelling Golfer can tailor a golf trip to Scotland to suit your group. For itinerary suggesitons see Destinations. Note also that Royal Troon GC is a feature course played on The Open Rota Tour- a hosted tour of all current Open Championship played as a tournament.
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