• Alistair Tait

Don't return Postage Stamp to sender

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

The world’s best women didn’t tear Royal Troon’s shortest hole asunder in the opening round of the AIG Women’s Open. The Postage Stamp more than held its own even at just 114 yards.

Makes you wonder why more championship courses don’t have short par 3s.

The field played the shortest hole in Open Championship golf in 3.208 shots in the opening round. Far from being the easiest hole on the course, it ranked ninth hardest. The par-5, 574-yard, 6th hole was toughest with an average of 5.757 strokes. Easiest hole was the par-5, 533-yard, 16th at 4.715. It played downwind; the sixth was into the wind.

The Postage Stamp played downwind too, yet there were only 20 birdies made by the best players in the world. There were 28 bogeys, eight doubles and two players, Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Jenny Shin of Korea, tripled the wee hole.

Further proof that size isn’t everything. Again, why aren’t there more short holes? U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy certainly wants to see more. He’s on record as saying:

“From the beginner to Rory McIlroy, everyone loves super-short par 3s. Everyone loves the 106-yard seventh hole at Pebble Beach, or the par-3 Postage Stamp at Troon in Scotland. They're considered genius architecture. The question is, why aren't there more of them?”

Proof that short is sometimes best came at the Postage Stamp in Tiger Woods’s first Open Championship as a professional. His triple bogey six there in the final round of the 1997 Open cost him a chance of his first old claret jug.

The Postage Stamp, Pebble Beach’s aforementioned seventh, Merion’s 127-yard 13th vie for gold, silver and bronze when it comes to really short par 3s in major championship golf.

The USGA pulled a neat trick during the 2017 Walker Cup at ultra-snooty Los Angeles Country Club. Fifty five yards was knocked off the 15th hole during the first round of singles, turning it into a 78-yard, par 3. Wonder if the governing body will repeat the trick for the 2023 U.S. Open? Hope so.

Royal Troon’s eighth wasn’t always called “the Postage Stamp.” Its original name was “Ailsa,” but someone (Anyone know who? Answers on a postcard please.) realised the green was about as big as a stamp and the name, pardon the pun, stuck.

Tom Weiskopf won his only major when the 1973 Open was held at Royal Troon, but Gene Sarazen stole the early headlines. He was one of two players that week, along with amateur David J Russell, to ace the Postage Stamp.

The hole measured 123 yards that day, but the 71 year old only needed one shot to conquer it in his last Open Championship. The Squire, one of five men to complete the career grand slam, was “Champion Golfer of the Year” in 1932, in the only Open ever played at Prince’s Golf Club.

Sarazen hit a 5-iron for his ace in 1973. Well, it was playing into the wind and he was 71. He made it in with the TV cameras turned on, but that’s not what made Sarazen nervous.

“For many years the Postage Stamp hole haunted me,” Sarazen said. “I feared it, so when I walked onto the tee and faced the wind, I must admit I was somewhat nervous.
“I selected my 5-iron as I was determined not to be short. When the crowd roared and I realised the ball was in the hole, I felt there was no better way to close the books on my tournament play than to make a hole-in-one on the Postage Stamp and call it quits.”

That’s what Hermann Tissies felt like doing in the 1950 Open Championship. The German amateur needed 15 shots to complete the hole. He went from bunker to bunker as if he as was a travelling bunker rake salesman. The Scotsman Newspaper described Tissies play as:

“A horrible species of ping-pong played between the bunkers.”

The icing on the cake were the three putts he need to hole out once he eventually got the ball on the green. Tissies clearly hadn’t taken notice of Royal Troon’s motto:

“Tam Arte Quam Marte: As much by skill as by strength.”

The club motto might just have been penned with The Postage Stamp in mind.

More short par 3s, please.

#JustSaying: “If you’re kind of a fan that wants to see carnage, I can highly recommend going out to that 8th hole and sitting in that grandstand on a difficult day, because that hole will cause a lot of problems for sure.” Henrik Stenson, 2016 Champion Golfer of the Year at Royal Troon

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