"Sure out of luck." I said.
"Aye," said Charles. "You call it S-O-L. At Prestwick we call it the Sleepers."
Prestwick has a number of other charming atrocities. There is a 201-yard 5th hole the caddies call the Himalayas. It plays with anything from a five-iron to a driver, depending on the wind. You flog the shot over a mountainous dune and discover, on the other side, about 100 feet down, a green. You ring a bell when you've putted out. There is a wonderful 15th hole of only 329 yards, straightaway, but the fairway is total heather except for the width of an umbrella, and there is no green at all that I could find. All in all, I would say that Prestwick has 18 holes all right, but I dare any visitor to find more than, say, 12.
Only a couple of graveyards and trash piles away from Prestwick lies Troon. In fact, from the 10th tee at Prestwick you can see Troon better than you can see Prestwick. The course is on the Firth, not so much as Turn-berry but more so than Prestwick, and the town is filled with small resort hotels and rooming houses that advertise bed-and-breakfast. Troon is the seaside getaway on weekends for the inhabitants of Glasgow. You can wade there, and hike, and go camping in the drizzle. But the best thing you can do if you are privileged enough is play Old Troon, the championship course of the snootiest club on the West Coast. Mr. A. Sweet, sektry, will arrange the round if he approves the cut of your blazer.
Old Troon is the only Scottish links on the West Coast that the R&A keeps on what Keith Mackenzie terms "the championship rota." These are courses fit to host the British Open. In Scotland they have been narrowed down to St. Andrews, Muirfield, Carnoustie and Troon. And in England they are Birkdale, Lytham and Hoylake. Troon takes immense pride in the fact that it is the jewel of the West and even more pride in the fact that it was the scene of one of Arnold Palmer's most glorious weeks. It was at Troon in 1962 that Palmer won the British Open by six strokes (276) on a course that Gary Player declared "unfair" before departing in a rage, and a course that drew such horrid individual holes out of Jack Nicklaus as a 10 and an 8.
For the full haul of 18 holes, Troon is not all that memorable. The rough, for one thing, is more like rugged American rough; you can escape from it in one hearty swing if the waist of your trousers is cinched up. Troon, I found, is what you would call a very pleasant course and perhaps more modern than most Scottish courses, if any layout without the hint of a tree can look modern to an American. This is not to say that Troon is void of character. It has several holes, as a matter of fact, that are as good as any to be found, including the single hardest hole I have ever seen—the 11th—not to forget two others that have been architectural landmarks since they were constructed.
There is the 8th, for example, the famed Postage Stamp. It is so named because the green clings to nothing but the lower half of a heather-covered mound, and a tiny one at that. The hole measures only 125 yards but it can play up to a four-iron if the wind is whipping out of the north. Mr. A. Sweet likes to tell about a member who made a hole in one at the Postage Stamp in a most unusual way. His tee shot came to rest atop the mound. He swung at the ball with a wedge from up there and missed it. But the sweep of the club through the grass dislodged the ball and it trickled down the hill into the cup.
"Rightly, of course, the chap made a 2," said Mr. Sweet.
It did not harm the fame of the Postage Stamp that in 1923, when Troon was first used to stage the Open Championship, none other than Walter Hagen made a double bogey 5 there to blow the title by a stroke to a Mr. Arthur Havers.
All over Scotland one continually finds par-4 holes where, at one time or another, according to the caddies, Jack Nicklaus was on in one. The hole before the Postage Stamp, Troon's 7th, is such a hole. It is renowned for two other reasons: first, it is supposed to be one of golf's earliest doglegs, since the fairway curves sharply to the right, and it is also considered one of the most beautiful of golf holes.