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.
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.
The Burnside is a good warm up for the Championship course, nothing more and nothing less. I cannot see why the Standard Scratch Score is two more than par for the course as it seems a very straightforward track to me with only one par five on the card and only a couple of dozen bunkers throughout – it felt similar in places to nearby Monifieth and Panmure where I played recently, thanks mainly to the small tree copses dotted around the property.
After a fairly gentle front nine (where OOB threatens at holes 2, 3, and 4 and the Barry Burn protects the 5th hole) the round really warms up on the inward half with a far more interesting set of holes. The 11th is called “Deil’s Ha’”with good reason – it may not contain greenside bunkers but a severe slope from back to front on the green tests putting skills to the full. The par three 16th is a little squeezed in – surely the adjacent 17th tees could be moved forward a little – but the penultimate hole is a real cracker, crossing the Barry Burn twice, just like closing hole on the big course.
Burnside is a good way to spend a morning in preparation for the sterner golfing examination in the afternoon next door.