Postage Stamp, a big menace on a small green

The par-three eighth at Royal Troon - the shortest hole on the Open rotation at just 123 yards - is named the Postage Stamp because of its small green.
The par-three eighth at Royal Troon - the shortest hole on the Open rotation at just 123 yards - is named the Postage Stamp because of its small green.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

TROON • Short holes have done some major damage this golf season. Consider, with sympathy, Jordan Spieth's Masters disaster of a quadruple bogey on Augusta National's par-three 12th, which measures 155 yards.

As the British Open returns today to Royal Troon, it is best, then, to worry about the par-three eighth, the shortest hole on the Open rotation at just 123 yards.

It is named the Postage Stamp because of its small green, even if the rectangular green is shaped more like a mailing label. It also has been called the wee beastie; this is Scotland, after all.

There have been holes-in-one though. Gene Sarazen pulled his off in 1973 at age 71 with a five-iron. Ernie Els had one in 2004 using a pitching wedge and the slightest of headwinds, and then he exchanged high-fives with caddies and playing partners.

But there also has been plenty of pathos. One of the many to come to grief at the Postage Stamp is Tiger Woods, absent this year but very much present in 1997 when he put his tee shot into one of its many bunkers in the final round and recorded a triple-bogey six.

As part of the preparations for this year's Open, the green was cut farther forward than before, creating a new pin position at the front of the green.

There is also a new tee position at the front of the tee box. Open organisers have also added additional grandstand seating around the hole.

Royal Troon has a number of unusual features. There are the blind tee shots at the 10th and 11th holes. There is Blackrock House, a private home that is inside the boundaries of the course next to the second hole. The 11th is known as the Railway Hole for good reason: It runs close enough to the tracks that the trains need reinforced glass to protect against errant golf balls.

Troon also has a bear of a back nine, usually played into the wind, but it is the tiny Postage Stamp that has become the club's signature hole and primary talking point.

"I think the only conversation piece sometimes is how many did you score at the Postage Stamp?" said Douglas McCreath, a golf historian at Royal Troon.

Though Troon Golf Club was founded in 1878, the Postage Stamp and Railway Holes did not exist in their current form until they were constructed in 1909.

The hole got another of its signature features in 1922: a deep rectangular bunker tucked into the base of the sandhill that abuts the green. It is now known as the Coffin bunker.

"It was done for the 1923 Open to stop people deliberately landing it on the hill and rolling it onto the green," McCreath said.

Mission accomplished, and the Coffin bunker has since buried many a golf ball and hope of a great round.

"I think the worst place to be is up against the back lip of that bunker," said Kieron Stevenson, the head professional at Royal Troon. "Sometimes you just have to pick up and move on."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'Postage Stamp, a big menace on a small green'. Print Edition | Subscribe