Trouble at Troon
After weeks of traveling it was fantastic to join Gregor at Royal Troon for a hit. When I first started writing about automatic golf I never would have guessed that I would be able to travel around the world and be treated to such a thing.
I hope that other Tribe members can do the same. I know Steady and Lukey had a game and there’s also a full automatic golf seminar planned for next year. The more we get together and talk and share experiences, the better we all become.
The golf course: The opening few holes are pretty easy (at least they look easy). They’re not overly long and there’s not too much trouble. The biggest defence for the course is the wind – and although windy, these first few holes weren’t too difficult.
The front nine meanders towards Prestwick Golf Course (site of the first Open Championship) and the airport. It was quite a thing for me to see all sorts of planes taking off and landing at close range. The locals seemed oblivious to them however.
The treat on the front nine is the “Postage Stamp” 8th hole. A tiny par three of about 110 metres, I’ve seen this on TV many times and I’ve never really appreciated how difficult the hole really is. And the only way to really experience it is actually play it.
The green, as the name suggests, is tiny. It’s only the fraction of the size of most greens I play on the Melbourne Sandbelt. And the thing is it’s a really intimidating hole. You can’t miss it right or left or you’ll catch deep bunkers. From there it’s likely you’ll take at least 4 shots. I opted for the safe option and played for the larger front section of the green.
With the wind blowing strongly from the left, I aimed there and hoped the wind would bring it back. It did. And the ball found the front of the green. Two-putts later I had secured a par, happy I had negotiated a 110 metre hole safely.
The back nine is tough. Some experts claim it’s the toughest finish in Championship golf. I wouldn’t argue. There’s more trouble from the tee – mostly thick trees and a railway line which is out of bounds.
I also found the fairways to be more undulating, which required all sorts of different shots and creativity.
The holes are long too. Requiring solid shots from the tee and precise iron shots. All the greens are small (bigger than the Postage Stamp) but much smaller than I’m used to.
The 11th hole was the hardest. From the Tiger tee you needed to carry the ball 210 metres over gorse just to find the fairway. With thick trees left and the railway line right, this hole has your full attention. The brick wall lining course and railway line runs all the way to the right of the green. With the wind blowing from the left it was very easy to clear the fence. (I nearly did but the ball just stayed in bounds).
The last three holes are superb. A par 5, 3 and 4. All of them long and all requiring precise play to avoid disaster. The last green sits only a few metres from the clubhouse. A small path (which is out of bounds) separates green and the prying eyes watching from the comfort of the members lounge. If you’re not on your game you can be easily distracted by thoughts of “don’t stuff up in front of the members”.
Some extra thoughts: The bunkering is superb, with fairway and greenside bunkers placed in the perfect location. And they also weren’t huge. Tiny little “pot” bunkers that looked innocent enough until you went into them. Gregor found a couple and had a hard time getting out of them “)
The wind plays havoc here. The holes play in varying directions (or so it seems). And the subtle changes of line require you to take your time and size up each shot appropriately.
This is a great course. It an old-fashioned course that requires you play straight from the tee and be able to hit accurate approach shots. There’s no funny business. It’s a course that rewards accurate play and absolutely punishes you if you go astray.
My Game: I titled this post Trouble at Troon because I didn’t play my best golf. It may have been the lack of game time or all of the travel I’d done. But if I’m honest I played the first nine holes without trusting automatic. I wasn’t really playing golf.
I was keen to play well. I wanted to impress Gregor with my play and avoid disaster. The opening four holes have the beach to the right. Pesky kept telling me not to go there. So I swung “not to go right”. And the ball kept going left.
With demanding rough it was tough to find your ball, let alone get it going towards the green.
Pesky is a shit. He wants to protect you and stroke your ego. But listening to him makes it hard to play remarkable golf. He also makes it all but impossible to really enjoy the experience.
This then becomes a nasty cycle. When you don’t enjoy you stop learning. When you don’t learn you don’t improve.
Listening to Pesky might feel good and make you feel comfortable but you really are going to miss out in the end.
And it took me a few holes to realise this. By the 11th tee I woke up. I decided to free wheel to the finish, to let go and to enjoy the Troon experience.
I spoke to Gregor about, “being prepared to lose your ball”. This means you’ve got to swing in a way that is free from tension or self-doubt. You’ve got to swing without a care in the world.
My tee shot on 11 was a belter. It split the fairway, leaving only a short approach to the green. The rest of the round was much better. By the end of the day I had found my mojo and was playing in an egoless way.
Gregor: He has a solid long game. His swing and routine resembles a dance and his drives all found the fairway. But it was obvious to me that the rest of his game lacked the same conviction.
He was playing safe. Although it looked very similar, he was missing the same spark as he had with his long game.
And this is where it gets tough. Because Gregor thinks he is playing automatically – he believes he is following the process exactly.
But he isn’t. And the best way forward for Gregor is to keep striving. He’s got to swing, pitch, chip and putt more freely with every shot. He’s got to be looser on the 18th green then what he is on the 1st tee.
And there’s really no easy solution for this. And it’s easy to slip back into bad habits (like I did) but it gets easier and easier as you go along. I suggested to Gregor that he plays each shot like he has already successfully made it. That he plays golf like he can’t miss.
This is the mindset we need to take to the golf course each time we play. And it doesn’t matter if you’re playing socially, in competition or you’re playing a Championship course for the first time. We’ve got to play golf without Pesky or ego getting in the way. This is the only way to truly experience remarkable play.
I’m very sorry but accidentally left my camera’s behind. So I don’t have any footage of Gregor or the course. Gregor assures me he’s going to provide some footage of his game. This will be good for everyone to see exactly what I’m talking about.