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Royal Troon Course Guide


One of the great links courses in Scotland, Royal Troon has hosted The Open on eight occasions since 1923.

The course has a rich history of producing memorable moments from Arthur Havers’ winning performance in 1923, in which he holed from a bunker on the 18th green to lift the Claret Jug, to 71-year-old Gene Sarazen’s hole in one on the famous Postage Stamp 8th hole in 1973 on the 50th anniversary of his own victory at The Open.

The Open at Royal Troon is regarded as one of the most difficult challenges in championship golf and 2016 promises to deliver another worthy Champion Golfer of the Year. This year the course will measure 7190 yards and play as a par 71.

HOLE 1 – SEAL

Hole Par: 4

Yardage: 367

Average Score: 4.10

The Royal Troon motto is “Tam Arte Quam Marte” – “As much by skill as by strength” – and that is immediately apparent on a comparatively straightforward opening hole where bunkers guard both sides of the fairway.

Five more traps protect the slightly elevated green, which has a very narrow entrance for those trying to drive it in favourable conditions. The name refers to a chain of rocks, but it is not unusual to see seals basking on the reefs out in the Firth of Clyde.

HOLE 2 – BLACK ROCK

Hole Par: 4

Yardage: 390

Average Score: 4.06

In 1997 Darren Clarke hit his three-iron tee shot out of bounds onto the beach when trailing by one on the last day.

However, a hook can lead to trouble too as a bunker 250 yards out lies in wait. From there three bunkers, 40 yards short of the green, become much more of a factor.

From the ideal position it should not be too difficult to carry the four further bunkers – two left, two right – which front the putting surface. And the hole’s name? Black Rock is the reef lying offshore between the second and third tees.

HOLE 3 – GYAWS

Hole Par: 4

Yardage: 377

Average Score: 4.14

Gyaws, the old Scottish word for a furrow or drain, is the name given to the burn crossing the 3rd and 16th fairways.

The closest of the three bridges here is 280 yards from the tee, so expect even the longer hitters to keep the driver in the bag.

Ideally the tee shot will finish down the right-hand side to take the bunkers on the left out of the equation. The green slopes away, so control of flight and spin is paramount. Anything short, and even slightly wayward, could well find two left bunkers or another that cuts into the right-hand front portion of the green.

HOLE 4 – DUNURE

Hole Par: 5

Yardage: 555

Average Score: 4.75

The first of three par fives – it used to be four – was the scene in 2004 of Gary Evans’ albatross two, the first on the course during an Open. Remarkably it was the fourth in the Championship in the space of five years. The hole doglegs gently to the right and the initial concern is negotiating the fairway bunkers, one right and two left further on.

However, with a following breeze, virtually the entire field will be eyeing an opportunity to reach the two-tier green in two shots. Dunure, by the way, is the village with its ruined castle across the Ayr Bay.

HOLE 5 – GREENAN

Hole Par: 3

Yardage: 209

Average Score: 3.16

Named after the 16th Century castle, possibly the site of an ancient fort, just south of Ayr. It is a fine par three requiring a well-struck iron to carry into the heart of the green. Miss the target and dangerous bunkers lie to the left, front and right, which is made all the more difficult when the prevailing wind blows off the beach to the right.

When Greg Norman made it five birdies in a row here 17 years ago, with still a par five to come, it was clear something special was on the cards.

HOLE 6 – TURNBERRY

Hole Par: 5

Yardage: 601

Average Score: 5.00

Royal Troon had the shortest and longest holes on The Open course for many years, but while the Postage Stamp 8th retains its distinction, the 6th has been overtaken by the 14th at St Andrews, which for the 2005 Championship was stretched to 618 yards. An arrow-straight drive is required to thread a way between the bunkers left and right, while two more lie in wait further down.

The long and narrow green, meanwhile, is beautifully framed by sand dunes on each side. Turnberry is some 20 miles south, but the lighthouse can be seen and gives the hole its name.

HOLE 7 – TEL-EL-KEBIR

Hole Par: 4

Yardage: 401

Average Score: 3.97

Named after a battle in Egypt in 1882, not long after the original six holes on the course had been extended. Leaving the coastline for the first time it sweeps inland from an elevated tee perched on top of the dunes before dog-legging sharply to the right, with a sandhill and bunker set into the angle.

Any tendency to hook the ball brings more traps into play down the left of the fairway. There is a small gully short of a pear-shaped green with a bunker on each side and set between two more sandhills.

HOLE 8 – POSTAGE STAMP

Hole Par: 3

Yardage: 123

Average Score: 3.09

Originally known as ‘Ailsa’ in tribute to the rock out to sea before Willie Park Jnr wrote of the hole’s “pitching surface skimmed down to the size of a postage stamp”, which stuck.

The green is set in the side of a large sandhill and missing the target – whether you find one of five bunkers or not – can cause mayhem. In The Open of 1950 German amateur Herman Tissies took 15, but at the age of 71 in 1973 Gene Sarazen became the oldest player to record a major hole-in-one – and sank a bunker shot for a two the following day.

Ernie Els aced it last time The Open was played here in 2004.

HOLE 9 – THE MONK

Hole Par: 3

Yardage: 123

Average Score: 3.09

Out towards the village of Monkton – hence the name – and a stiff two-shotter. Avoiding the two left-hand bunkers is the first concern on this right-turning dogleg, which has a narrow undulating fairway with heavy rough on both sides.

Laying up short into the wider section is no bad plan, but obviously then leaves a longer approach to an elevated two-tiered green, which sees more than its fair share of three putts. There is invariably a sense of foreboding about turning into the feared inward half, but you still need your wits about you here.

HOLE 10 – SANDHILLS

Hole Par: 4

Yardage: 451

Average Score: 4.30

Gary Player described Royal Troon’s back nine as “the most difficult in the world when the wind is blowing” and that difficulty begins immediately with large sandhills dominating the view from the Championship tee.

It is into the prevailing wind, with an errant drive punished by gorse on the right and a deep gully on the left, while the plateau green is set into the side of a hill with a sharp drop on the right.

There are no bunkers on the hole and four other par fours on the homeward run are longer, but the dangers are all around.

HOLE 11 – THE RAILWAY

Hole Par: 4

Yardage: 482

Average Score: 4.41

Changing the 11th from a par five to a par four for the 1997 Open instantly made it the hardest hole on the course in relation to par.

Along the entire right side is a four-foot high stone wall over which is the railway – out of bounds, of course – while a hooked drive invariably finds thick gorse.

Arnold Palmer, winner in 1962, called it “the most dangerous hole I have ever seen” and in the same week Jack Nicklaus, on his Championship debut, ran up a quintuple bogey 10 after driving into the whin, having an air shot and then hitting onto the railway line.

HOLE 12 – THE FOX

Hole Par: 4

Yardage: 430

Average Score: 4.31

There was a time when a nearby wooded area was inhabited by foxes, but most of the trees have gone and only the occasional fox is seen.

The drive at this slight dogleg right is played over a rise into a narrow neck, right of which is rough and gorse. The approach is then played to a raised two-tier green falling off down a bank to the left with a bunker on the right.

In 1989 Mark Calcavecchia, having just made a 50-foot par putt on the 11th, chipped in for birdie from 20 yards and went on to win a play-off.

HOLE 13 – BURMAH

Hole Par: 4

Yardage: 473

Average Score: 4.15

The first of six closing holes all running in a northerly direction and so named because the Club’s founding Captain James Dickie – who held office for four years - had trading connections with the country now known as Myanmar.

The hole was designed shortly after it became a British colony in 1886. Like the 10th it does not have a single bunker, but the drive is to a rolling fairway and elevated green. Following four of the toughest par fours of the course, this is no breather in any sense.

HOLE 14 – ALTON

Hole Par: 3

Yardage: 178

Average Score: 3.10

Bunkers to the left and right make a narrow entrance to the pear-shaped green, so it becomes essential to take a club, which, if well-struck, will find the centre of the putting surface.

Named after part of the nearby Fullarton estate, it can play anything from a seven-iron to a three-iron depending on the wind. And when it blows into your face off the left, any pin placing on that side of the green is difficult to get at.

HOLE 15 – CROSBIE

Hole Par: 4

Yardage: 499

Average Score: 4.28

Now the longest par four on the course, stretched by 16 yards since the 2004 Championship and 42 yards longer than it was when Justin Leonard won in 1997.

The drive is slightly blind to a plateau fairway and should favour the left half, which opens up the second shot to a green resting in a hollow. For those trying to run the ball in there are three bunkers short of the putting surface, but no more around it.

The name is that given to a small fortification near Alton, home of the Fullarton family for centuries.

HOLE 16 – WELL

Hole Par: 5

Yardage: 554

Average Score: 4.74

The 16th is now 12 yards longer than it was for the last The Open in 2004.

The burn encountered on the third hole crosses this fairway too and only if conditions are helping will anyone try a carry of over 280 yards. When Tiger Woods scored 64 in 1997, he hit three-iron off the tee and then a driver off the deck to set up an eagle.

For the lay-up shot, left is best as it gives a better line into the well-protected green. So named because there was a freshwater well close to the course manager’s home.

HOLE 17 – RABBIT

Hole Par: 3

Yardage: 220

Average Score: 3.22

There was no stopping Justin Leonard after he made a 30-foot birdie putt here en route to a closing 65 in the 1997 Open, recalling later: “What a magnificent place to make such memories”.

The tee shot can be as much as driver, depending on the wind, to a level green which falls away sharply on both sides and has deep bunkers short and right. In the Championship’s first four-hole play-off in 1989, Greg Norman and Wayne Grady both bogeyed it, while Mark Calcavecchia’s par brought him level with Norman and minutes later the Claret Jug was his.

HOLE 18 – CRAIGEND

Hole Par: 4

Yardage: 458

Average Score: 4.20

Named after an old farm now demolished, the closing hole has the longest green on the course at 38 yards and out of bounds lies just beyond it.

Greg Norman’s Open chances ended when he flew over the putting surface in the 1989 play-off after driving into a bunker that he never expected to reach. The tee shot is really demanding with trouble left and right, and when the flag is placed back right close to the guarding bunker, par is a really good score.

Yet Mark Calcavecchia birdied it to make the play-off and repeated that to seal victory.

*Supplied by www.theopen.com. Yardage based on 2004 hole placement.

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