Sunday, 2 January 2011

Royal Troon

Bunkering at the 5th Green

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.

Postage Stamp in the Rain
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.

Contours in front of 15th Green
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.

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