The Postage Stamp

The most celebrated short hole in Open Championship golf


It is, in theory, as easy as one-two-three. Which just so happens to be the exact yardage of the Postage Stamp. 

Welcome to Royal Troon’s 8th – often the first hole that knowing golfers around the world think of when asked to discuss the game's best and cutest short par 3s. 

The challenge, from an elevated tee set atop an Ayrshire sand dune, is to fly over the rugged duneland below to find a pear-shaped green that seems to be – tantalisingly – just in front of you.

The backdrop to the Postage Stamp is the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Arran across the water. Originally called Ailsa, after the famous granite rock that is visible from the tee on a clear day, it was nicknamed by Willie Park Jr, twice Open Champion in the 1880s. He described it in Golf Illustrated as:

“A pitching surface skimmed down to the size of a postage stamp.” 

It is fair to say that Park’s description stuck. 


Willie Fernie

Willie Fernie

Royal Troon was designed by Willie Fernie, the Scot who won the Open Championship in 1883 at Musselburgh. The Postage Stamp was shortened to its current length by James Braid.  It has barely changed in the century and more since.

Rarely requiring more than a wedge for the top players – though anything is possible at a seaside links – the green nevertheless appears a tiny target. It is protected by no fewer than five bunkers, each of them a fearsome hazard.

The bunker that runs parallel to and on the left of the green is ominously known as ‘The Coffin’. It is particularly dangerous as its long, narrow shape often dictates an awkward stance.

Miss the green on the other side and you will find a bunker that is lower than the level of the green. From here you can escape momentarily only to see your ball trickling back inexorably towards the sand.

From left or right, it is all too easy, in a bid to make sure of one’s escape, to overshoot and finish in the opposite bunker.

The green itself is mercifully flat. And, given its modest proportions, having found the target you are unlikely to be too far away from the hole. 

James Braid

James Braid

What the greats say

“The Postage Stamp is a perfect example of how you can challenge the best players in the world”

– Phil Mickelson, Open Champion in 2013, and runner-up to Henrik Stenson at Royal Troon in 2016  

“The Postage Stamp is great architecture. It's not about distance, it's about course management, it's about shaping a shot, it's about touch and feel”

– Paul McGinley, the only man to hit two holes-in-one at The Open

“It’s the possibilities. The variation in score, the chance of a double bogey or a birdie, right there, just a millimetre difference”

– Paul Casey 

“For many years, the Postage Stamp haunted me. I feared it, so when I walked onto the tee and faced the wind, I must admit I was somewhat nervous”

– Gene Sarazen, who created history on this hole in 1973 

The Horrors...

Troon’s fabled 8th hole has witnessed some truly glorious moments as well as some horror shows over the years. 

The Postage Stamp was never forgotten by Hermann Tissies following his epic struggles in 1950. The German amateur took five shots to get out of a bunker on his way to carding a ruinous 15. 

The great Tiger Woods was on the fringes of contention back in 1997 at Troon before running up a triple-bogey six here in the final round.   

In 2016, the two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson went one worse, carding a seven after finding trouble in the Coffin bunker. 

And in the 1989 Open, Greg Norman finished with a breathtaking 64 en route to a play-off eventually won by Mark Calcavecchia. There was just one blemish on his card – and it came here at the 8th – when a par would have earned him the Claret Jug. 

...and the glories

Gene Sarazen concluded his Open career with a hole-in-one at the Postage Stamp at his final Open in 1973. 

“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” 

- Gene Sarazen, winner of the 1932 Open, says farewell to the championship in style some 41 years later at the age of 71

The most recent Championship ace at the Postage Stamp came from Ernie Els in 2004. The South African would lose in a play-off to Todd Hamilton. 

8th - Par 3 - 123 yards

The Open returns

The Postage Stamp is the shortest hole on the Open Championship rota. Yet it is respected by even the best – and not just because of its unusually modest yardage.   

In winning the Open here in 2016, Henrik Stenson made a birdie two at the Postage Stamp on Sunday – but only to earn back the dropped shot it had cost him a day earlier. He said:

“You hit a good shot, you make two, you hit a bad one you can walk away with a five. You can have a three-shot swing on a pitching wedge. 

“If you're the kind of 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.” 

Come July, in what will be the 152nd Open Championship and the 10th to be held at Royal Troon, the Postage Stamp will once more challenge and terrify the world’s best players.