Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Royal Troon




The excellent small bunkers cut tight to the green on the 5th







First off I will tell you I played Troon with a 30 mph wind and driving rain for about 15 holes. This may or may not be a factor in my opinion. I will leave you to judge that for yourself.

Troon is by far the biggest disappointment on the trip. I had played the course before in 1989 and at that time suggested it to my Dad that it was the least interesting on our trip. The second time round the course left me even more flat than I was the first time. There were a few holes like the 5th or the 15th that were far better than I remembered but there were just as many holes like the 9th, 11th and 16th that were far less interesting. The opening stretch has little to no dunes and very little landform until you hit the par three 5th. The course really hits its stride at the awesome 7th followed by the Postage Stamp which remains one of the greatest par threes in golf. After that the famous stretch run around the large dunes is where Troon is considered to be at its best but the only holes that stood out to me were 10th (which is only good) and 12th (which is a favourite). Once again the golfer moves out into light dunes where the holes are average except for the excellent fairway contours found on the 13th and 15th. It struck me that there are far too many average holes for this to be considered one of the worlds 100 greatest.




The huge roll in front of the 15th and the sunken green





While I pick on the course there is one element that makes the course very interesting and also a course that holds up well for tournament play. The greens are fairly small and the bunkers are cut into the greens as tight as any bunkers are in any links course I have seen. It is the proximity to play combined with the small and deep nature of the bunkers that manages to ratchet up the difficulty. There are very few places where there is an easy approach because the bunkering at Troon seems to be well placed to challenge or collect and approach. I certainly can’t criticize the positioning or technique of the bunkers, in fact I think this is the courses greatest strength. I certainly have begun entertaining the idea of much smaller, tighter and deeper bunkering as a way to have an impact and keep the maintenance down at the same time.



The best short three in the world







I guess my issue with Troon is the routing and setting doesn’t seem to me to be as strong as the detailed work. I’m not convinced that Troon is either a great location or a great routing outside of a couple of holes. Some people would suggest that I’m looking too hard at the site and not enough at the detailed work and that by my standards a great course can’t occur without a good site. For those people I offer courses like Winged Foot, St. Andrew’s Muirfield and Pinehurst to prove that is not true. I still think Troon’s greatness has everything to do with hosting opens and its wonderful history and very little to do with the actually quality of golf it offers.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ian,

I couldn't agree with you more about Troon. Played there in 1998 on a trip which took us to all of the Scottish Open rota courses (and a bunch of other links) and it was the least interesting of any of them. The opening 4 holes are a yawn, 7 and 12 are terrfic and the Postage Stamp (where I made 2) is a gem. Much preferred the design and quality of Western Gailes, which is just up the road...not to mention the fact that our foursome was treated much better at almost every course than at the snooty Troon.

Liked your comments on Nairn as well, which I really enjoyed. Prestwick is fun in a strange way, when you realize that no one would dare design a hole today like some there (eg, The Himalayas). North Berwick by Muirfield has some of the same quirkiness (old stone walls dividing the fairway vertically, for example).

The hilight course for me of the rota courses was Muirfield, where I could happily play forever. The routing avoids the 9 out and 9 in problem and because of that the wind constantly is coming from a different place. Just a great course.

One of my trip companions, and a good friend, is Norm M., who you worked with at Maple Downs a few years ago when he was greens chairman. I sent him your Maple Downs comments a couple of weeks ago, and he told me you had actually run into one another the day you played there. He agreed with all your suggested changes, as I'm sure you know.

Look forward to the rest of your trip notes.

Anonymous said...

Some of your comments are valid here, but to disparage Troons 'quality of golf' is frankly bizarre. You correctly identify the bunkering as being the key to Troons challenge, allied to the small greens. It is not the most heavily bunkered course in the world, but it must be the tightest. However, how people can call the opening holes and closing holes boring is, with the exceptions of the 3rd and the 14th, beyond me. Take the 2nd. Flat and boring land it may be, but I've been lucky enough to play there a fair few times and I still can't decide on the right strategy, due to the bunkering. The 11th not interesting? Were you playing from the yellow (forward) tees? Leaving aside the stunning tee location, it's the only hole in golf that has ever forced me to accept I wasn't good enough to play it, and would have to improve my game. I was 1 over at the time, walked on to the white (members comp. tee) and knew that if I hit the fairway it was luck. Cue a year of swing changes. THAT's a powerful golf hole. People talk about making golf fun and not making the courses too tough, and Troon doesn't fall into this category. Sometimes it just isn't fun. But that's why it's good. I may not always enjoy playing Troon - one of only 2 courses i've ever walked off, and the other was as a child - but it's far more satisfying, and therefore fun, to score well here than almost anywhere else. I should point out that it was a good 20 rounds in before I started to realise that this course was great, whereas courses like Kingsbarns and even Turnberry, seem to become less interesting with play.

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