Andy Marshall PGA Professional’s Top 10 Courses in Ayrshire
Royal Troon is one of the greatest links courses in Scotland – founded in 1878 by a few enthusiasts, Troon Golf Club soon outgrew its purely local reputation. The Old Course today represents a stern golfing examination and in particular the inward half of Royal Troon is widely accepted as the most demanding of any Course on the Championship rota. It’s a challenging test of golfing ability with the wind and deep rough to contend with – with gorse and broom on each hole – where shot making is essential.
Royal Troon Golf Club proudly hosted The 145th Open Championship in July of 2016 where the modern day ‘Duel in the Sun’ took place between Stenson and Mickelson. It was the ninth occasion The Open had been held at Royal Troon and considering the Club’s humble beginning in 1878, the journey has been remarkable with great credit due to some forward thinking members during the Club’s early years.
The first 6 holes go straight Southwards along the seashore – normally downwind where you’re generally able to fashion a score. The back 9 is is a great challenge – generally back into the breeze with the last 2 being tough finishing holes. The 17th – Rabbit (at 218 yards off the back tees) is the last and most difficult of the short holes where the tee-shot can be as much as a driver, depending upon the wind. The plateau green falls away sharply on both sides and is well guarded by bunkers, short and on the right and left hand sides. A challenging hole if you have pencil and card in your hand. The 18th – Craigend (at 464 yards off the back tees) requires an ideal drive straight down the centre to avoid the bunkers on either side of the fairway. Bunkers short of the green will catch a mishit second shot and the green itself, which lies right in front of the clubhouse, is protected by a bunker to the left and two more to the right. An overhit approach shot could finish on the path at the rear of the green, which is out of bounds.
From my (and many others) perspective the best hole on the course is the infamous Postage Stamp 8th – originally called “Ailsa” because there is a perfect view of the rocky islet of that name from the tee. The smallness of the putting surface accounted for the current name when William Park writing in “Golf Illustrated” said, ” A pitching surface skimmed down to the size of a Postage Stamp”. Much has been written about this 8th hole – the tee is on high ground and a dropping shot is played over a gully to a long but extremely narrow green set into the side of a large sandhill. Two bunkers protect the left side of the green while a large 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 safe way to play this hole, the ball must find the green with the tee-shot. Depending on wind direction this 123 yard hole can play between a wedge and a 6 iron and can make or break anyone’s scorecard (including those of the top professionals!)
You will love the experience of Royal Troon – with a very welcoming clubhouse and a club with great history – it should be on your ‘must play list’