Gary and Dave on the postage stamp hole 8th at Troon.
Our 7am start from North Berwick for the 2 hour drive west to Western Gailes and Royal Troon was interrupted with a quick stop at the Gullane Golf Club pro shop. Why you might ask? Alasdair Good is the official licensee of all Muirfield Golf Club merchandise. Muirfield does not have a golf professional nor a pro shop but Alasdair stocks a wide range of golf apparel with the Muirfield logo.
As we mentioned yesterday a last minute addition to our golf schedule was Western Gailes – a corker of a course recommended to us by many. It is bounded by the Firth of Clyde on one side and a railway line on the other.
Ex Air Force Captain and Secretary of Western Gailes Jerry warmly greeted us before we headed out for a number of holes with him (6,7,8,9,10,17,18). Playing these holes gave us a great insight into the character of the course.
The seaside terrain delivered a series of holes which were interesting, varied and used the links landscape to maximum advantage.
This hidden gem is not to be missed if you are in this part of the world.
We both played well each and secured one birdie each for the Door of Hope setting up what we hoped would be a solid rest of the day.
A unique tradition of Western Gailes is that members must arrive in a jacket and tie and leave the same way. This discipline is well respected by the membership which has an average age of 67.
A short 12 minute drive and we arrived at Royal Troon – a course which has hosted 8 Open championships. Australians will remember with late night TV watching sadness in 1989 when Greg Norman and Wayne Grady lost in a 4 hole playoff to eventual winner Mark Calcavecchia.
When it comes to hosts we were most fortunate to be entrusted into the care of Jack Paton, the house convenor. Jack was friendly, knowledgable and was genuinely interested in the golf marathon we were undertaking.
Under the threat of rain we headed out and soon started to enjoy the adventure of Royal Troon.
As is proving common, the first five holes run along the water, exposing you to some strong winds and hard fairways, speckled with strategic bunkers. The course then begins to send you inland and your first taste of this is the very difficult par 4 7th hole, a long dogleg right with bunkers well placed to catch a less than well chosen, well played line. You then feel the excitement as you head up the hill to tee off on the infamous ‘postage stamp’ hole.
This has to be the scariest 100 yard shot in golf. From a high tee we played down to a green cut into the side of a dune and surrounded by bunkers on all sides. Any shot not hitting the putting surface would require great expertise in getting up and down. The golf shot of the day was Gary’s tee shot to 5 feet and he was unlucky as his putt did a 270 degree circle before staying out. Dave was just short of the green in the rough and was happy with a bogey.
A refreshing change sees you play 4 holes inland all requiring good drives, but a very fair chance at par or even birdie. You then head back into the teeth of the wind and must work hard for par. Pars here are well deserved as the wind requires accurate shots and the right club selection to find the green. The strong finish to Troon culminates with a long par 4 with the clubhouse presenting a sensational backdrop to the 18th green.
The greens were in exceptional condition and the club will be hosting the British Amateur Championships next week.
One of the more interesting events on the Troon calendar is the ‘cross country match’ which sees the players from Troon and neighboring Prestwick (home of the first Open Championship) play the outward holes at Troon, walk along a pathway carved through the dunes to find Prestwick Golf Club where the balance of holes is played for the morning round and ‘lunch’ follows. After the long ‘lunch’, the remaining holes on Prestwick are played, they trek back to Troon and play the home holes in. A big day.
We felt privileged to play this course and Jack made it even more special.
Shot of the day
An unusual one but probably our best to date. Eagle attitude with unquestionable grit and commitment goes to….Anna and Maureen (our awesome wives). These girls are amazing and are dealing with the daily domestic challenges back home while we experience arguably the best golf in the world. Thanks girls we love you heaps!
Overall birdie tally
David (1 Western Gailes, 1 Royal Troon, cumulative 10)
Gary (1 Western Gailes, 1 Royal Troon, cumulative 20)
Saturday sees a mid morning start (thankfully) for the 45 min drive to another Open venue Turnberry – site of our own Greg Norman’s first Open Championship. Should be fun. Stay tuned….