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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 July, 2004, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
From scrubland to dreamland
The Claret Jug with Royal Troon's clubhouse in the background
The Claret Jug with Royal Troon's clubhouse in the background
Royal Troon, the venue for the 133rd Open Championship, is golf's equivalent of the ugly duckling.

The sixth Duke of Portland, if he was still around, would be more than a little shocked to see how his rough dunelands have become a beautiful swan.

Troon Golf Club was set up in 1878 when a small group of local enthusiasts came up with a plan to make a course out of some marginal land owned by the Duke.

Despite warnings that the land was unsuitable, five holes were laid out.

Within 10 years of its founding, Troon Golf Club had been extended to first six holes, then 12 and eventually 18.

And after using an old railway carriage as a base for eight years, a stone clubhouse was built in 1886.

With undulating fairways carved out of the dunes, punitive rough and fast-drying greens, Troon soon developed a reputation as a classic links course.

Royal Troon's signature hole, the short but scary Postage Stamp
Royal Troon's signature hole, the short but scary Postage Stamp
But Open recognition did not come until 1923, and it was another 27 years before the course staged its second.

The late arrival of Troon to the Open rotation can be explained by the trials and tribulations the golf club faced in those early years.

Gales, sand storms and flooding were frequent indications of just how marginal the land really was.

And when it wasn't nature making life difficult, man-made hazards arose such as farmers drying seaweed for fertiliser on the greens, and soldiers conducting tank practice during World War II.

After the war, the arrival of transatlantic air traffic to nearby Prestwick brought a new, and totally, unexpected problem: huge chunks of ice shedded from the planes' wings as they came into land.

Thankfully, no members were injured, but it was probably a good thing that developments in de-icing equipment came in sooner rather than later.

But each hurdle was overcome, and the course always bounced back.

Royal Troon's undulating fairways present a daunting challenge
Royal Troon's undulating fairways present a daunting challenge
Troon's reputation was cemented when Arnold Palmer won there in 1962 in typical swashbuckling style.

And by the time the legendary Tom Watson claimed victory in 1982, the club had enjoyed "Royal" status for four years - the most recent club to be granted that accolade.

Tom Weiskopf and Mark Calcavecchia won at Troon either side of Watson, and Justin Leonard became the fifth American to win there in 1997.

Famous for the "best greens in the world", as 1950 champion Bobby Locke would remember in his annual Christmas card to the golf club, Troon also boasts the longest and shortest holes on the Open roster.

And that, as much as its unlikely origins, sums up the idiosyncratic charms of a unique golfing venue.

See the experts' verdict on Royal Troon

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