Top 10 Fun Facts About Royal Troon

Since its earliest days in the 1870s, Royal Troon has epitomized a traditional club environment and proper championship golf. Yet, as this storied venue on the west coast of Scotland prepares to host its 10th Open Championship, the one constant has been change, in a desire for improvement.

With an eye on the soon approaching 152nd playing of the Open, here are 10 fun facts about Royal Troon.

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Royal Troon 18th hole (photo by Kevin Murray)

1. Royal Troon was founded on March 16, 1878, and the club enlisted 52 members to join, prior to the creation of any golf holes. Long acknowledged as having opened with a five-hole layout, the current club history puts the number of holes at 6. Charles “Charlie” Hunter, then custodian (superintendent) of nearby Prestwick, who had trained under Old Tom Morris (architect of Prestwick), earns design credit. The holes were of true linksland character, crafted atop a farm next to the sea.

2. As with many Scottish courses, Troon is the name of the club and the town where it’s located. Situated next to the Firth of Clyde in South Ayrshire, 35 miles southwest of Glasgow, Troon sits in the center of a rich vein of historic golf, with Prestwick, Turnberry (Ailsa), Western Gailes, and Dundonald (a modern classic from Kyle Phillips) all within a short drive.

3. In 2024, Royal Troon will host its 10th Open Championship, tying it with Royal Birkdale for the seventh-most Opens hosted, behind St. Andrews (30), Prestwick (24), Muirfield (16), Royal St. George’s (15), Royal Liverpool (13), and Royal Lytham & St. Annes (11).

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Royal Troon 8th hole (photo by Kevin Murray)

4. Royal Troon wasn’t granted “Royal” status until 1978, during the club’s centennial year. The club where Arnold Palmer won in 1962 and Tom Weiskopf won in 1973 was simply Troon, though some referred to it as Old Troon, both because of its age and because its Championship course is called the “Old.”

5. At least six architects have had a hand in the design of Royal Troon’s Old Course. After Charlie Hunter’s initial salvo, Troon’s first professional, George Strath, extended the course to 12 holes, which soon became 18 holes by 1884. The 1883 Open Championship winner Willie Fernie became Troon’s professional in 1887 and under his guidance, Troon’s course evolved. Fernie, who also designed the two original courses at Turnberry, is responsible for creating the “Postage Stamp” par-three 8th hole (in 1909) and “The Railway” hole, No. 11. Hall-of-Fame player and architect James Braid made further refinements to Troon prior to hosting its first Open in 1923. Most recently, in 2014, Mackenzie & Ebert’s Martin Ebert restored an Alister MacKenzie-designed feature on the 10th hole (a bunker cutting into a dune ridge), created a new dune to replace trees behind the 9th hole (to block the view of an RV park), and altered the 15th by relocating and recontouring the fairway. Ebert returned ahead of this year’s Open and lengthened the par-71 course by 195 yards from how it played in 2016 to a total of 7,385 yards.

6. Royal Troon’s other regulation 18-hole course, called the “Portland,” is shorter than the Old and slightly further inland. It, too, was a Willie Fernie design circa 1896 and was substantially redesigned by Alister MacKenzie in 1920–21. MacKenzie’s work weathered fierce criticism from Gene Sarazen, who suffered through a horrible 85 during final Open qualifying in 1923 and failed to make the Open Championship field.

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Royal Troon 11th hole (photo by Kevin Murray)

7. A classic out-and-back links (think Old Course at St. Andrews) where the 9th hole extends furthest away from the clubhouse, Royal Troon features a front nine along the sea with nearly every hole heading in a southeasterly direction. The back nine then comes back to the northwest, with every hole except the 12th playing in that direction. Typically, the road home is into stiff sea breezes, making the incoming nine one of the hardest in championship golf. As Gary Player once put it, the last nine holes at Troon are “the most difficult in the world when the wind is blowing.”

8. Royal Troon’s championship layout will once again possess the shortest hole on the Open Rota. At 123 yards, the “Postage Stamp” par-three 8th tips the low end of the scale—and has witnessed its share of agonies and ecstasies. At age 71, Gene Sarazen aced the hole with a 5-iron in the first round of the 1973 Open, then birdied it by holing a bunker shot the next day. Forty-five minutes before Sarazen’s ace, Scotland’s David Russell became the youngest player at 19 ever to make a hole-in-one in the Open with his 7-iron. The most recent example of Postage Stamp perfection at the Open Championship was Ernie Els, who carded a one there in 2004. The hole’s saddest victim was German Amateur champion Herman Tissies, who found a left-side bunker and floundered to a 15 on this hole in 1950—and that with a one-putt! Rookie professional Tiger Woods took a triple-bogey six here in 1997’s final round. By using a forward tee and a front hole location, the Postage Stamp shrinks to just 99 yards, as it did during the third round of the 2016 Open.

9. Royal Troon’s championship layout will also possess the longest hole on the Open Rota—thanks to a recent renovation. Prior to 2023, Royal Troon’s par-five 6th hole, called “Turnberry,” was the longest in Open history at 601 yards. However, when Royal Liverpool rolled out its newly tweaked design for last year’s Open, its par-five 13th stretched to 614 yards. Not to be outdone, Royal Troon has reclaimed the crown, elongating its 6th by 22 yards to play 623 yards.

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Royal Troon 7th hole (photo by Kevin Murray)

10. Depending on how competitors fare in the 2024 Open—and the effect the weather may have—Royal Troon’s championship layout might well boast of having the hardest hole on the Open Rota—the par-four 11th. Newly boosted from its 2016 yardage of 482 to 498, “The Railway” is a scorecard wrecker of historic proportions. Called “the most dangerous hole I have ever seen” by Arnold Palmer in 1962, it claimed his rookie rival that year when Jack Nicklaus made a quintuple-bogey 10—in the days prior to 1997 when it played as a par five. Aptly named, the hole features the Glasgow Central-to-Ayr railway line that runs hard up the right side. At the 2016 Open, David Duval, Kristoffer Broberg, and Steven Bowditch each made nine here and 2015 Australian Open champ Matt Jones sliced his drive onto the tracks. “It’s a very tough tee shot, because you see nothing but trouble,” said Jones.

Bonus: Royal Troon’s third course features extra postage. In 2021, Martin Ebert redesigned Royal Troon’s 9-hole par-29 Craigend course into a par-27 layout, with holes ranging from 61–187 yards. In 2022, he returned to place the cherry on top, finalizing a hole called “Wee Postage Stamp” that replicates nearly every feature from the legendary 8th hole on the championship course. Measuring exactly 123 yards, with identical bunkering and green surrounds, the new hole sprung from the mind of past club captain Alasdair Cameron, who posited that such a replica hole would be ideal for older or younger members who couldn’t handle the rigors of the rugged Open Championship venue, but still craved the Postage Stamp experience. All that’s different from its big brother is the slightly altered direction and somewhat less elevation.

What is your favorite fact about Open Championship host Royal Troon?