C – Carnoustie
GB&I Golf Course Reviews – Z to A
I am showcasing one golf club a day across GB & I over 26 days – in reverse alphabetical order. Full write up and more images can be found on http://golfgurugroup.blogspot.com.
Links House, Links Parade, Carnoustie, DD7 7JE
I was given the opportunity to visit Carnoustie a while back. Subsequently I took a number of clients and again revisited a couple of years ago, just before the Open in 2018.
Carnoustie is the name of the town in which sits this well known championship course. In fact there are three golf courses here, but my focus is on Carnoustie Championship. A double C if you like!
It is unclear where the name Carnoustie came from. Most likely it is from Scandinavian nouns of Car and Noust, meaning Rock and Bay respectively. Another story. The Battle of Barry in 1010 where a Danish General invader, Camus, was put to the sword by clansmen led by Scottish King, Malcom II. The Norse Gods were not happy at the loss of their favourite warrior. To show their displeasure they cursed the neighbourhood and released thousands of crows on Barry Sands. Colonising the locality it became known as Craw’s Nastie, corrupted to Carnoustie. As the village evolved into a borough in 1899, three crows flying was adopted as the crest for the area.
Of the Championship course itself
It has been noted that golf has been played here since 1500, with the present course being mapped out in 1850. Old Tom Morris extended it twenty years later to 18 holes. An extensive redesign was made by James Braid in 1926. However, it was felt his design did have a weak finish so it was a local man, James Wright who we can thank for the closing holes! Wright was drafted in ahead of the 1937 Open Championship. The course as we know it has pretty much remained the same for the last 80 years or so. In fact, it is not a course that flips its holes around when a Championship is played here. There are no airs and graces at Carnoustie, it is what it is. Take it or leave it. Most will take it, and enjoy it, even if they don’t score well.
As you stand on the first tee of the Championship course, the hotel behind you, you’re pretty much out there alone. The Tee box, despite it proximity to the clubhouse and Links House is almost in the middle of the course, or so it seems. You just know that people can see you from the hotel and are most likely watching too. But as it is far enough away, it doesn’t bother you. You ‘get into the course’ from that very first hit. You hit your drive, into a reasonably large area and you can forget the rest. You’re off and into the bosom of the course almost immediately.
Makes a menacing appearance early on, but slinks back into oblivion until the closing holes. It is a relatively flat course, quite open and the weather is in play pretty much all the way round.
When you look at the course on televisions, you see the long whispy grass taunting your every shot. But actually down on the ground, the course is in exceptional condition and you can see clear cut fairways. Hogans Alley, 6th hole a par 5 SI2, 485/520 yards is good demonstration of this. Although a relatively narrow fairway, the 1953 Open Championship winner, who has been honoured with the naming of this hole, showed the way when hitting it straight down the middle. As golfers we often hear, just hit it down the middle. Not an easy feat at the best of times, but when confronted with a narrow landing strip, the task appears near impossible.
I will be honest with you.
I never really quite understood the nerves of some golfers, I’m a happy hit and play golfer. But even I had a little heart flutter on that hole the first time I played it. I did manage to get it where I wanted, in the middle. Needles to say subsequent games have never yielded such good results. Doing it once was clearly a fluke, replicating it is what makes a good golfer!
Was one of the rare moments where I had done some research before visiting. Being such an iconic course, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out on any experiences. You know how it is when you go on holiday only to return home 2 weeks later being told you should have visited…..
I had read up about the Spectacles on hole 14, and was keen to see them in person. A par4/5 at 375/476 yards SI1. The first time I saw them I wasn’t playing, so I was less than impressed. The next time I saw them was as I stood there with a club in my hand. I swear those bunkers had grown overnight! A good par 4/5 they don’t come into pay until about 50 yards short of the hole. In fact, despite their size, they almost sneak up to you. I have not had the pleasure of landing in them yet. Probably a good job as I might still be in them now, with their high sides and uninviting shot to the green. Most likely I’d go out backwards, maybe even with a putter if allowed!! Call me chicken or call me sensible.
To be honest getting to hole 14 is the start of any potential card wrecking day. Whilst I do love this course, I also totally respect it and play it using all my shots. I really love hole 16. The start of Barry Burn making its persistent appearance again over the next few holes. A par 3 at 212/225 yards, SI 13, which looks so inviting and plays more than I have even given it.
Those Carnoustie bunkers
Are in play all around and the Barry Burn sliding in from the left. I always feel as though I can get on the green and pop it in for a birdie. That hasn’t happened yet! I did sneak one in between the bunkers on the left once and it happened to roll close to the green, more good luck than good play if I’m honest!
Then I think I must have taken 3 putts – but thats another story for the 19th!
The greens are generally quite large at Carnoustie, they are short cut and roll like anything – or have the days I’ve played! Carnoustie is one of those places that you look at an aerial picture of and think, what’s the problem?
The oldest Ladies Club in the World
Is at Carnoustie with gender discrimination being a nasty word. That’s the only time ‘nasty’ should be used when referring to this golf course. They have a healthy ladies section and I have always been pleased to see this continues to be the case.
It would be rude of me not to mention the closing holes. Hole 17 a par 4, SI5, playing 364/473 yards. I do recall going in Barry Burn on the 17thwith my second shot A horrible little scummy things barely getting off the ground. I was gutted, even more so when I got close and realised how deep it was with my ball was in sight but out of reach. Carnoustie beat me that hole fair and square. Placement is key to getting any score here and not getting dragged into Carnoustie’s golf abyss.
To me, hole 18, par 4 SI 11 374/444 yards appeared less daunting, although still slightly narrow. Barry Burn on this closing hole has seen many a great golfer weep, John Van de Velde being the most notable of them all. But I’m not going to write about him, you probably know already, and I don’t want to end on a negative!
The key is navigation
And not to be too greedy. I did OK here, but I haven’t experienced the wrath of the Barry Burn on this final hole – yet.
Me, I’m looking forward. I’m seeing the hotel for some welcome food and drink. Now you can relax in the Links House too. The hotel is not owned by the golf club, it is a separate organisation, but has a close working relationship.
With the AIG Women’s Open playing here in August 2021, I can’t wait to return. If only to see if I can relive my one and only straight drive on Hogans Alley, or to see if I can continue to avoid spectacles. But most importantly to see if I can conquer these closing holes – or at least play to my handicap! Whilst there I also hope to experience the lovely Scottish hospitality at The Rookery and to look around the now completed Links House. The latter still under its finals stages of construction when I last visited.
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