The Burnside course at Carnoustie has been used in the past for qualifying when the Open has been held on the Championship course and no less than Ben Hogan entered the tournament this way for the 1953 Open before going on to lift the old claret jug later the same week.
The short holes are a real feature on the Burnside and the 158-yard 5th, named “Burn” and 228-yard 14th, called “Scoup” would not be out of place on any championship course. A strong finish is to be faced, with the long par four 17th – “Sinkies” – measuring all of 473 yards and as difficult a par four to be found anywhere. No respite either at the 307-yard, par four, 18th hole, called “Lismore” where the out of bounds fence has wrecked many a scorecard.
Its illustrious neighbour may overshadow it but the Burnside has its own character and charm and is a fine test of golf in its own right – the par of 68 and a Standard Scratch Score of 70 tells you the Burnside is no pushover.
The three courses at Carnoustie – Championship, Burnside and Buddon – are public links and several local clubs play on them, including Carnoustie Caledonia, Carnoustie Mercantile, Carnoustie New Taymouth, Dalhousie and Carnoustie Ladies – which is the oldest female golf club in the world, having been established in 1873.
There is another club, Carnoustie Golf Club, who also use the three links. It was formed in 1842 so it is one of the ten oldest clubs in the world. At the turn of the 19th century, many Carnoustie members traveled abroad to play and teach golf and some were founding members of the US and Australian PGAs – in recognition of this, Carnoustie have been permitted to use the crests of these two Associations in its signage at the entrance to the clubhouse.
Three former Carnoustie members, Alex, Willie and McDonald Smith, won many professional tournaments in America and Alex’s two US Open winners’ medals from 1906 and 1910 are on display in the clubhouse for all modern day golfers to see.
I live quite local to Carnoustie and had somehow never got around to playing the Burnside. In May of 2021 I finally got around to it and took my father along for the game. Unfortunately for us it was a cold, wet and windy day but the rain never came on strong, although the wind was rather debilitating.
The course lies inland of the Championship course and starts alongside the railway line, with it's own dedicated starters hut. We were met and welcomed by the starter who was first class and managed to keep some impatient members at bay and maintain the tee off time order. All done with an element of joviality. We had booked as the last visitors of the day, however it meant several competing four balls behind us, not that this was an issue as we sailed into the distance.
The course was in very good condition, the rough low to help with the early season form that most golfers suffer from. The course isn't the longest but a strong wind made it a challenge, coming from the North there was a big advantage to balls headed South. However the advantage wasn't making up for the disadvantage of when we turned to face the North.
The majority of the course is routed within the championship links and the feeling is similar to being on the links in St Andrews with golfers in all directions, which creates a great feeling.
Overall the course played open from the tee, mainly due to the benign rough but green complexes and the strategic wandering burn certainly led to a few club debates.
For me the Carnoustie links is as good as it gets, a challenge, with variety and the Burnside not being as penal as the course next door felt like a happier place to be in the wind.
Some holes, in particular the 17th reminded me greatly of the main course and this is a compliment, unique but similar.
As an Angus resident the fees were half price and I would definitely say this is outstanding value for money.
If you are in the area, I would say it is a must play for any golfer.
Nice you finally made it on Robert - sounds like it was worth the wait! There’s not much worse than playing a penal course in a stiff wind. Will be playing Carnoustie Championship in October, so good to know there’s a softer option available if the Open track proves too hard
Genuinely perplexing how this doesn’t rank in the top 100, especially when you look at some of those that do!
As many have said the first few holes aren’t great but at the same time I wouldn’t say they were terrible holes. Certainly when you compare it to a course like Peterhead the first 5 holes are better than there.
From 5 onwards though, the course really does get going. 5 is a fantastic little par 3 surrounded by water on 3 sides. It can be as little as a wedge down wind or a 5 iron into the wind. Absolutely terrifying at times!
6 through to 13 is a lot of mid length par 4s that you always feel like you should make plenty of birdies on but inevitably you fail to do so. The star of the show in that stretch is probably the par 3 9th. 160 yards to a table top green that falls off on all sides. A great short hole. 14,15 and 17 are all good in the closing 5. 16 used to be a great little par 3 though personally I don’t like it much since it has been changed. 18 is a bit like 18 on the old course. Not much too it on paper though the amount of food rounds I’ve seen destroyed by a high slice OB is incredible!
Definitely worth playing if you’re in the area and should definitely be ranked about 75 or so in this site. A travesty that it is not.
Burnside’s short yardage doesn’t make it easy. In some way’s it’s tougher that its big sibling next door – tighter fairways, smaller greens, more gorse and heather. The first 3 holes also have OOB along the right, a nightmare in the wind and for us slicers.
So I didn’t think Burnside was a fun course, I got beaten up but would recommend it as a companion to the Championship 18. It’s certainly on another level to the Buddon which partly runs amid trees and ponds. The first few holes leave a little to be desired, but from the short 5th which plays over the Barry Burn (or into it in my case), the course comes alive.
Highlights were the short 9th and its table-top green, 13’s punchbowl green, and the long 17th which looks and plays like the 17th next door. A few holes certainly wouldn’t be out of place on the Championship course.
Therefore I feel the Burnside should deserve a place in the Scottish top 100, not necessarily high up but it’s well worth playing. If I revisit Carnoustie I’ll happily give it another go.
As Carnoustie is my favourite golf course, one of the many joys of playing Burnside is that it lies (for the most part) inside that majestic links meaning that at any time you can glance over to one of the many great holes that abound there. But Burnside offers a lot in its own right. There are some lovely shortish par fours and a couple of cracking par threes, notably the 5th. It is often said that the 17th is the equal of its counterpart next door and the 18th is played straight at the hotel, one of world golf's iconic views. In addition, Burnside offers several,opportunities to go for a wee paddle a la Jean van de Velde! Because of its situation, Burnside is over-priced (£75 for a summer round in 2020) but that should not detract from its quality. Interestingly, Golf World currently ranks Burnside at #70 in Scotland, whereas this website does not have a place for it inside its Scottish top 100.
As my membership here covers the three courses I will try to be unbiased in my assessment. In my opinion this is the second most enjoyable to play of the golf courses at Carnoustie. It has several good holes such as 5,8,11,14,17. It has large undulating greens which sadly this year have not been in the best of condition possibly still recovering from neglect which they may have suffered around the time of the open. The course in large part is not heavily bunkered but where it is present it is often strategically good. It often carries width and room for error off the tee if not through the width of the fairways then through the lack of gorse, hazards and bunkers tight to the fairways on many holes.
I suspect that many golfers will dismiss the other two courses at Carnoustie in favour of just playing the main attraction. That would be a mistake because both, especially the Burnside, offer some really good golf.
If it wasn’t for a particularly lacklustre run of holes between two and five on the Burnside I would place this course in a similar bracket to many other distinguished and notable links venues in Scotland.
The opening hole on this par 68 layout (5,972 yards) is a nice way to start the round with decisions to be made from the tee and a tricky green complex to contend with. However, the next four holes did very little for me and walking off the fifth green I felt particularly flat.
What follows over the next 12 holes though (the last is a nondescript finisher) is a remarkable transformation from what has gone before. We now enjoy a run of holes that is of such a high standard it’s impossible not to be impressed. The natural movement in the land is excellent, the bunkering is very good, the green complexes are in a different class and the use of angles is very clever. The holes are more visually appealing, they are strategically superior and simply require the golfer to hit better shots.
It’s a shame the opening holes on the Burnside don’t match the quality of the rest of the course but if you can forgive its slow start then you will love it.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Played this again whilst in town for the Craws Nest Tassie again.
SUCH A PITY THAT THE BURNSIDE HAS BEEN DROPPED FOR THE BUDDON !
So many of the holes mirror holes on the Championship and although it is a the smaller sister do NOT under-rate her or expect to be an awful lot easier if the wind blows !
Definitely the Burnside is the understudy to the Championship course at Carnoustie but just like the Portland at Royal Troon and the Kintyre at Turnberry the Burnside is totally overshadowed by the outstanding Open Championship course which sits next door. I think the Kintyre is the second best “relief” course in Scotland. The New course at St Andrews is the premier second course in my view but the Burnside is certainly worth playing as a warm up to the Championship and I think the course is slightly better than some of the reviews below suggest. The famous Barry Burn comes into play, and the 17th “sinkies” is a great hole, the par threes, especially the 5th which is as good a one-shot as you’ll find anywhere are worth the cost of the modest green fee. It will never be as good as the Championship course but the Burnside could be so much better if only its fairway bunkering was half as good as the Championship course.