Royal Troon Golf Club
Tom Doak recommends golf architecture students pay special attention to the bunkering.
Arrive early and check out the oldest known set of golf clubs in the world. Known as the Troon Clubs in the wider world, they are known as the Wood Set as Mr Adam Wood (member and Captain of Royal Troon) donated them to the club in 1915 after being found in the void of a home in Hull, England in 1898. The originals are at the British Golf Museum in St Andrews and the exact replicas are found in a glass case as you enter the clubhouse.
Royal Troon was the last UK club to receive the Royal Title, in 1978.
Golf Course Review
Royal Troon Golf Club lies just north of the 1st Open Host, Prestwick Golf Club. South of the seaside town of Troon and north of Glasgow Prestwick Airport, the Old Course lies directly on the seaside with views of the Firth of Clyde and The Irish Sea. Royal Troon completes the triumvirate of Ayrshire links. The eldest is Prestwick; the youngest is Turnberry, with the middle child being Royal Troon, established in 1878.
Royal Troon Golf Club History
The original course was only five holes and laid out by Charles Hunter in 1878. A year later he would add the sixth. David Strath would later double the number of holes to 12 and finally 18 by 1883. Willie Fernie would tinker with the course between 1888 and 1923. It is him we can thank for the famous Postage Stamp and Railway holes. With the addition of two new holes, he needed to lose two others. This was done by combining 4 holes into the current 6th and 16th holes.
James Braid would later add back tees, 67 new bunkers, and change the par 4 5th into the par 3 we know today in preparation for the 1923 Open. 13 of the 67 bunkers added were on the 18th green alone!
WW2 meant the green sites shrunk, bunkers were filled in or became grass hollows, tees were abandoned and fairway widths tightened.
Following the Open in 1950, it was decided the course needed to be toughened. The solution? Length! By the time the Open would return in 1962, the course would measure over 7000 yards.
While the length has remained virtually unchanged since 1962, the number of bunkers has increased. In 1973, there were 79. In 2004, they numbered 89. For The Open in 2016, there were 98. Many of the changes made by Martin Ebert were a restoration of features that existed prior to WW2 based on extensive historical research.
Royal Troon Golf Club Holes by Architect
Hole 5 – James Braid
Hole 6 – Wille Fernie
Hole 8 (Postage Stamp) – Willie Fernie & James Braid (Bunkers)
Hole 9 – Willie Fernie
Hole 10 – Alister MacKenzie (Bunker Scheme? Or lack thereof?)
Hole 11 (Railway) – Wille Fernie (Lengthened for 1962 Open.)
Hole 16 – Willie Ferne
New tees on 10 – a bold move by Martin Ebert to add extra length and by extension, a completely blind tee shot to an Open venue. I like it but one will have to wait to see how tour pros react to it for the 152nd Open in 2024.
The Postage Stamp at Royal Troon Golf Club
Royal Troon Golf Club is home to the world-famous, par 3, 123-yard, 8th hole known as the Postage Stamp. Surrounded by deep bunkers, this innocuous hole is one of the most treacherous on the Ayrshire coast, Scotland, and perhaps the rest of the world.
The Postage Stamp taught me a very valuable lesson – don’t be hemmed in by convention or rules. If one were designing a course today, very few would place the tee above the 7th green and in the landing area of the 10th tee. No one would place a green on the side of a sandhill – even at 123 yards. The Coffin Bunker is also completely ‘unfair’. In other words, completely sublime and we are richer for it. When we break free from the bindings and trappings of convention, that’s where genius and creativity begin.
To the left of The Postage Stamp is a secondary green that is used when the primary green is being tended to. The members refer to it as the Second Class Stamp.
Golf Architecture Lessons Learnt from Royal Troon
- Green size. Greens are small compared to many other Open venues. (Which greens arent when compared with St Andrews?!) The greens are in keeping with the surrounding topography – the first 4 holes are good examples.
- Bunkering. Where the ground lacks the adventure of natural undulations, bunkers have been added. Restraint in adding bunkers when natural links land dictates you must leave good enough alone. Sometimes, less is more. See holes 10, 11, and 13 which had a single bunker between them all and nothing is lacking. In fact, they are better for it.
- While most will be blown away by The Postage Stamp, Railway was the real highlight for me. A single bunker dictates play from the tee and the stonewall is used to perfection. With so many boundaries and man-made features on golf courses, I am dumbfounded as to why more don’t make use of these features.
- Bunker Size – visit the Coffin Bunker and you’ll be taught a lesson about why golf should avoid fairness or playability as a hallmark of good design. In fact, at Royal Troon it isn’t the small bunkers you need to worry about, it’s the cramp smaller ones…
- Bunker Sand – you may as well be at the beach – the sand is native to the area and it is spectacular. Balls don’t roll to the bottom of the hazard and most will produce a plugged lie or fried egg. If you want to prep for Royal Troon, do a Seve and spend some time with your 7 iron on the beach.
Royal Troon & The Open
Royal Troon Golf Club has hosted The Open nine times. The first time was in 1923 and the most recent was in 2016. The club is scheduled to host the 152nd Open in 2024.
- The 152nd Open in 2024.
- The 145th Open in 2016 was won by Henrik Stenson
- The 133rd Open in 2004 was won by Todd Hamilton
- The 126th Open in 1997 was won by Justin Leonard
- The 118th Open in 1989 was won by Mark Calcavecchia
- The 111th Open in 1982 was won by Tom Watson
- The 102nd Open in 1973 was won by Tom Weiskopf
The modern age of The Open is said to have started with Arnold Palmer’s Open victory at Royal Troon Golf Club in 1962.
- The 91st Open in 1962 was won by Arnold Palmer
- The 79th Open in 1950 was won by Bobby Locke
- The 58th Open in 1923 was won by Arthur Havers.
Royal Troon Golf Club Portland Course
Of interest, Alister Mackenzie advised on the club’s second eighteen, the Portland Course. It had been used by the military during WW1 and Alister MacKenzie was in charge of its reconstruction. It was reopened on Saturday, November 13, 1920. The Portland was constructed for locals who wanted to play but were not members of the club. Originally, it was called the Relief Course before the name was changed in 1924.
While on-site, he advised on the 10th hole of the Old Course. It is thought this is the only input he provided on an Open venue.
Royal Troon Craigend Course
Evalu18 will have more on this 9-hole golf course soon. Designed by Martin Ebert, it opens for play officially in the summer of 2022.
Royal Troon Golf Club Reviews
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Featured Architect: MacKenzie, Alister
As taken from his book, Golf Architecture, Alister MacKenzie felt the following were essential: The course, where possible, should be arranged in two loops of nine holes. There should be a large proportion of good two-shot holes and at least four one-shot holes. There should be little walking between...