Royal Troon

Donald Steel & Company provided advice to Royal Troon in advance of the 2004 Open and Mackenzie & Ebert have continued with input for the 2016 Open (the 9th to be played over the links) which saw the fantastic battle between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson.

Like so many historic links, the course starts with the front nine running closest to the coast line. In fact no links starts closer with the 1st tee touching the very edge of the beach. The front nine also enjoys the most famous par 3 on The Open rota and also its shortest hole at just 123 yards which was actually played at a length of just 100 yards on the Saturday of the 2016 Open. The wonderful Postage Stamp leaves even the highest calibre of golfer thinking of what tragedy might befall them if the short iron is even a hair off line.

Royal Troon

However, it is the back nine which provides the most challenging of examinations which every Champion Golfer of the Year must pass to hold the Claret Jug aloft. In 2004, the 10th, 11th and 12th holes were ranked the third, first and second most difficult holes respectively. What a test that triumvirate of holes presents. The back nine continues with seriously strong par 4s at the 13th, 15th and 18th.

If there is any question mark which is occasionally raised about the course it is a concern that the first few holes are too easy but courses come in all shapes and sizes and every layout has its own rhythm. At Royal Troon, everyone knows that the scoring normally has to be made in the early part of the round. That brings its own pressure and potential for a loss of patience if the birdies do not fall.

Following The Open in 2004, a review of the course was commissioned by The R&A, in line with a study of all of The Open venues to assess how they might be improved to be most suitable for the modern day game. All of the great courses have evolved regularly over many years for a variety of reasons so it is the right thing to conduct reviews intermittently as long as such studies are sympathetic to the heritage of a course and club. Any adjustments must also bear in mind the fact that courses which champions play over to claim their spoils have to be enjoyable places to play for the club members and visitors for more than 99% of the time.

One aspect which is worth drawing attention to at Royal Troon is that the review of the Old Course did not result in a major lengthening exercise being undertaken. The course length was 7,175 yards in 2004 and played at 7,190 yards in 2016. It was only considered necessary to lengthen a few holes and by a minor amount.


The review included conducting as much historical research into the evolution and development of the course as possible. Club archives were looked into, old newspaper cuttings assessed, past aerial and ground photography was sourced and analysed and a wonderful illustration of the layout for The Open in 1923 was unearthed. In addition, Club members with long memories and former members of the greenstaff were quizzed. That has helped to shape the proposals which were considered by the Club and The R&A and led to the implementation of certain adjustments which are described in the above booklet.

While there were some new developments for the course, a large majority of the adjustments could be described as restoration of old characteristics and features. After the Prestwick greenkeeper, Charlie Hunter, and Troon professionals George Strath and Willie Fernie carried out the early work in laying out and developing the course at Troon, James Braid was responsible for toughening the layout for its first Open in 1923. Troon’s Portland Course, originally laid out by Willie Fernie in 1895, was redesigned by Dr Alister MacKenzie in 1921 and was used for qualifying in The Open in 1923. Whilst at Troon, the Club received advice from Dr. MacKenzie on remodelling the bunker at the 10th hole of the Old Course. This is the only clearly identifiable feature on an Open course upon which he provided input.

While minor adjustments were made to every hole for The 145th Open in 2016, the major changes to the course focussed on the 9th, 10th and 15th holes, with those at the 10th and 15th involving the restoration of old features. A backdrop of trees behind the 9th green was replaced with a dunescape, the old bunker in the carry of the 10th hole was restored and the tees and first part of the 15th fairway were moved to the left of the 14th hole, reinstating the old line of the hole.