TROON, Ayrshire, Scotland -- It's a tale of two nines on the Old Course at Royal Troon Golf Club.
The opening nine holes -- the first six hug the shore -- gently ease into the round. It's the more demanding loop that returns to the clubhouse, where Open Championships are won and lost. When the wind blows off the Firth, there is no tougher closing championship test.
Royal Troon, a 7,202-yard par-71 course dating to 1878, will host its ninth Open Championship in 2016. The "Postage Stamp" at no. 8 -- an iconic, pint-sized par 3 of 123 yards -- features maybe the smallest green in tournament golf.
Magnificent dunes and gorse are prominent mid-round, although the club has recently cut back some gorse on several holes. A minefield of gorse lines the par-4 11th hole, called "The Railway," where tracks run up the right side.
Staying patient and playing conservative tends to pay off at Royal Troon G.C. Just ask Todd Hamilton, the unlikely winner of the claret jug in 2004. His savvy play held off Ernie Els and changed his life forever.