Founded in 1878 by a few enthusiasts, Troon Golf Club soon outgrew its purely local reputation. The Old Course today represents a stern golfing examination and in particular the inward half of Royal Troon is widely accepted as the most demanding of any Course on the Championship rota. Royal Troon Golf Club proudly hosted The 145th Open Championship in July of 2016. It was the ninth occasion The Open had been held at Troon. Considering the Club’s humble beginning in 1878, the journey has been remarkable with great credit due to some forward-thinking members during the Club’s early years. Troon Golf Club was awarded Royal status in 1978 to celebrate its Centenary and has since been known as Royal Troon Golf Club. Being perceived as inferior to The Old Course, Portland still has plenty of punch to your scorecard; you will need to consider your shots on this underdog of a course. Images courtesy of Royal Troon Golf Club.
The Portland Course, originally designed by the Troon professional William Fernie, winner of the Open Championship in 1883, was opened in 1895 and subsequently redesigned by Dr Alister MacKenzie in the early 1920’s. Although a links course, the Portland is a little more sheltered than the Old Course and, of course, shorter. The holes meander through terrain filled with gorse and broom and has a generous helping of Par 3s, five in all. This is tempered however, with five Par 5s, four of which are on the back nine. Royal Troon Portland was named after the Dukes of Portland, whose coal mines and docks made Troon rich during the 1800s. Although it’s shorter than its sister course and sheltered more inland, Royal Troon Golf Club Scotland provides a satisfyingly testing experience for every golfer. Each hole twists and turns through traditional gorse and broom-lined fairways in the relative shelter of the Old Course. The Portland is made up of two loops, each containing nine holes. While this links track may seem easy enough on the scorecard, with its par 3-laden front nine, the four par-five’s on the back nine ensure you’re left in no doubt about the unique challenges presented.
Hole 17, the Fullarton, is named after the Duke of Portland, whose Troon home was called Fullarton House. This is a nifty, short par four with a difference, demanding a challenging tee shot that you need to send over to the left side of the fairway to avoid the nasty rough and whins to your right. On the other hand, taking it too far to the left will prove disastrous, since there’s a ditch running parallel to the 17th fairway. If you manage to navigate these initial obstacles, there’s still a challenge to overcome courtesy of a tricky pitch to the well-bunkered green.
The greens are marvellous, and easily comparable to those on the Old course; the holes meander over firm terrain watched over by colourful heather and broom. Best of all, the course features four satisfying par-5s on the back nine. The Stroke Index one par-4 6th is great fun and the short par-4 17th is particularly tricky thanks to the stream running down the left-hand side.
The Clubhouse of today is vastly different from that which was in place in the late 1870s. At that time, it was a wooden structure, little more than 300 square feet in area, but it was an improvement on the Club’s first home which was a converted railway carriage. As the popularity of the game increased, it was considered fitting to erect a stone-built property and in 1886 the first stage of the present Clubhouse was completed. Two major extensions were completed before 1900 incorporating the Smoke Room and the magnificent Dining Room, both of which to this day contain many of the original features. As the game of golf evolved, gentle and subtle changes have been made to accommodate the golfer of the present generation.
In the early part of 1970s the Ailsa Room was erected and most recently (2006) the Clubhouse was redeveloped to provide an extended Ailsa Room, an integral Professional Shop, new offices, and in general a fully upgraded and newly furnished Clubhouse. This provides a place of warmth and charm, where the golfer may relax in comfortable surroundings. A visitor to Royal Troon will enjoy the ambience which pervades within and will delight in the many artefacts which decorate the Main Corridor and Reception Lobby.