Carnoustie has had it’s share of critics over the last century, most of them said it was too boring, too penal, or had too many weak holes to hold a place in the Open Championship Rota. But in the late 1990s, under the direction of their green superintendent John Philip, an astonishing renovation/restoration of the course was done and the result is a very difficult links golf experience. Of the resultant course changes James Finegan says “A sow’s ear had metamorphosed into a silk purse. This eighteen is the ultimate golfing challenge.”
This is not a course you can play gripping it and ripping it, you have to play almost every shot with proper forethought and flawless execution. There are no breather holes out here-play with absolute resolve on every hole or your scorecard will be punished. Sound of report of shooting range gunfire from the nearby military installation early in the round should remind you that you are in a full contact skirmish out there.
Famous people have left their mark in over 85 years as a championship venue
Built on about as flat a piece of land as any links layout you will ever see the excitement had to be made in the strategic layout of fairway landing areas, green complexes, and the extensive use of burns and OB to cordon off reckless shot execution. As you experience in Florida they incorporated heavy dosages of burns (water) and Barbasol bunkering to make this place very punitive-especially when the wind is present.
A proper Scottish burn….not much water but significant scorecard pain
The closely shaven surrounds to the burns and bunkers give the hazards an especially strong magnetic attraction to a ball hit without sufficient resolve. There are many times when you think you hit the perfect approach and you are scratching your head in disbelief at where it ends up.
Greens that pitch and yaw even without the ever present wind
To add more intrigue the greens are sprawling, oddly shaped with tiers and elevation transitions that make getting the ball close to the day’s pin a big challenge. Without any topography to block the breeze the putting is very wind affected which makes downwind, downhill putting particularly treacherous.
The typical hurdles you must negotiate on the way to the greens
The scorecard reveals much of the difficulty of this course in the yardage alone. Close to 7000 yards from the white tees with a par of 72 with only three par fives on the shortish side there are a bevy of brutish par 4s that add up to that yardage total. From the yellow tee at 6600 yards two of those five pars on the inward nine become punitive par 4s as well.
Crossing the Spectacles Bunkers on the 14th takes extra focus
The last four holes are the most difficult finish you have ever encountered with a manly par three close over 235 yards and the three par four holes all approaching 450 with serious diversionary hazards everywhere you look. The result is a slope rating of 144 and 142 respectively off the white and yellow markers which tells you all you need to know about the challenge at hand.
I will leave the details of this trek to the hole-by-hole description below but suffice it to say that this is the most excruciating test of recreational golf you will ever play. It needs to be experienced once simply because of it’s place in Open Championship lore where the likes of Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Tom Watson, and Padraig Harrington have claimed the Claret Jug.
Simpsons Golf Shop…one of the kitchy treasures in town
Tell the women and the kids to enjoy the day walking the quaint fishing town of Carnoustie and make sure they visit Simpsons Golf Shop across the street, they will have a much more delightful day than you have had.
The Frenchman’s epitaph etched over his watery grave
The place is infamously known as the graveyard of Jean van de Velde’s Open Championship dreams. His nightmare finish on the 18th is commemorated by an inscription of his name on the top of the burn wall where he arrogantly tried to play one of the silliest recovery shots in major championship history. I don’t see you rolling up your pants legs and playing anything standing in the water on the last hole but I am pretty sure that once you are sitting in Calder’s Bar with an Irn-Bru in your hand there will be many wounds to salve from your walk around these links.
Architect: Allan Robertson, Old Tom Morris, James Braid (1840)
Tee Par Rating Slope Yardage
White 72 75 144 6948
Yellow 70 74 142 6595
Red 72 72 132 6144
For more pictures click to review Northern Scotland-Day 7: Carnoustie Golf Links