20 Links Parade,
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12 miles E of Dundee
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Seven times an Open Championship venue, Carnoustie was the penultimate Scottish golf course added to the Open Championship rotation – Turnberry was the last.
Carnoustie is a big natural seaside links and is widely considered to be one of the world's most difficult golf courses. In fact, according to the results of a Top 100 survey, Carnoustie is the toughest golf course in Britain & Ireland.
The first record of golf being played across this links land dates back to 1527; a 10-hole course was laid out in 1842 by Allan Robertson. Fifteen years later, in 1857, an 18-hole course was fashioned by Old Tom Morris. James Braid extended the course in 1926 and it has hardly changed since.
The main A930 road passes through the town in an east-west direction, running parallel to the railway line as it approaches the town centre. Shortly after turning off the main drag, the road narrows considerably and you’ll cross under a litle railway bridge, allowing you to reach Links Parade and the car parks next to the hotel at the back of the 18th green on the Championship course.
Much has been written about Carnoustie over the years. The finishing holes are especially brutal at this eight-time Open Championship venue and many consider that it has one of the greatest back nines in championship golf. Others will recall John Van de Velde’s barefoot paddle in the Barry Burn at the 18th hole during the 1999 Open Championship. Bernard Darwin perhaps had Van de Velde in his mind when, in 1910, he wrote in his book The Golf Courses of the British Isles: “he had got burns badly on his nerves… there really is some justification for the nervous golfer who has water on the brain after a round at Carnoustie.” You have to cross the snaking burn no less than five times whilst playing the closing two holes. We mustn’t forget to mention wee Jockie’s Burn—the young son of Barry—he comes in to catch your approach shot to the 3rd green.
In addition to burns, Carnoustie has some of the most formidable bunkers to contend with. There’s a plethora of them and some are alarmingly cavernous. The par five 6th measures 520 yards from the white tees and is regarded as one of the world’s best holes. Named, “Hogan’s Alley”, after the immortal Ben Hogan who won the Open Championship in 1953. Two fearsome looking bunkers lie waiting in the middle of the fairway and a third bunker to the right hand side ensures that the tee shot is daunting.
The 15th, 16th and 17th are considered the world over to be three of golf’s very best closing holes. “Lucky Slap”, the 15th, is a 460-yard par four, where the fairway slopes from left to right into the path of two waiting bunkers and the approach shot must avoid a cluster of three bunkers sited to the right of the green. “Hardest par three in golf; downwind it is difficult, into an easterly wind it is practically impossible”, according to the yardage guide. We won’t argue because the 16th, called “Barry Burn”, measures 245 yards from the white tees; for the ladies it’s a short par four measuring 212 yards. The 17th is a complete conundrum, called “Island” because the Barry Burn snakes in front of the tee and then loops back, cutting across the fairway. Into the prevailing wind, it is tough to know what to do on this brutal 400-yard-plus par four.
After winning at St Andrews and Royal Liverpool in 2005 and 2006 respectively, Tiger Woods was chasing a rare treble. He tried to emulate Peter Thomson (1954-1956) by winning a third consecutive Open at Carnoustie however Padraig Harrington had different ideas, claiming his first Major title, pushing Woods back to 12th place in the 2007 championship.
Carnoustie isn’t the most scenic golf course—rarely do you catch sea glimpses—but it is incredibly tough, even from the forward tees. Bring your “A” game here and pray for the weather to be kind. But be aware that should you plan to play Carnoustie in the winter (Nov-Mar), mats are required on the fairways and the first cut of rough.
Architect Martin Ebert kindly supplied the following update at the start of 2017:
Mackenzie & Ebert made recent changes to the 3rd hole on the course, where we have created fairway to the right of reconfigured central bunkers to tempt golfers into being more aggressive from the tee. Previously, the only option was really a 6-iron shot to the corner and then a pitch to the green in stroke play though a few players tried to drive the green recently in The Amateur match play stages.
What to say about Carnoustie. Well, after a pedestrian start, the third hole is excellent. A short par 4 with bunkers down the middle and a burn down the left and in front of the green leaves you with a decision. Lay up short of the bunkers or take them on leaving a short pitch onto the green.
After that the course idles on by until you get to Hogan's Alley. And again the course just idles on until you get to the finish and those last 4-5 holes are brutal. 459yd par 4, 437yd par 4 235yd par 3, 421yd par 4, 421yd par 4 (yellow tees). Oh and there are excellently placed bunkers on all of them, with the burn being in play on 17 & 18 too. When you get off the course you feel like you've fought through 18 holes of golf.
Hole interest beside, the course was running hard and fast when I played it which meant hitting the tight fairways was a challenge and although the rough had been cut right back, made it a lot more challenging to stop the ball on the greens either, forcing you to run the ball on.
All in all, it was an enjoyable if challenging round, the starter was excellent and gave me the history of Carnoustie as well as a few pointers, but I don't think the course justifies it's 10th place ranking. It's a good course and if you are in the area definitely worth a round, but I personally won't be seeking it out again.
Simply the best best course for me. Brutal in the wind, brutal when not in the wind, it really lives up to the hype of being the toughest around.
The golf centre is kitted out as a championship course should, you could spend hours in there before your round. Stepping into the first fee where legends of the past have been is quite a feeling, Hogan, Watson, Woods, now you.
The bunkers, fairways and greens throughout are immaculate. Best holes for me are 18, 17, 15, 6, 2, 10.... I could go on, every hole is a delight to play. side note, I have in the last aces 13! Playing the final hole with the hotel framing in the background is however a special feeling.
Get yourself to the Caledonia or Carnoustie club after for a pint, you'll have earned it by the end.
Played the Championship course last year, in 30 mile per hour winds. What is considered as the toughest track in the UK, was made even more so with the weather. That said, we loved every minute - especially the closing three holes, which are iconic in the world of golf. The Barry Burn gobbled up two of my balls on the 17th, and unfortunately, the 18th tight in front of the green. Going back next year to have another crack at it. Can't wait!
Carnoustie ranks alongside Portrush and Muirfield as one of the best tests of golf in the British Isles in my view. Every hole presents its own challenge and it’s possible to run up a big number on almost any of them, especially when the wind is up.
It is not the most picturesque course and for many it would be too difficult to consider enjoyable. Having said that, the last couple of times I have played it the rough has been relatively forgiving meaning less risk of lost balls than when I have played it in the past. It’s the other hazards, in particular the bunkers and the burn that make it particularly tricky. The fairway bunkers seem to be positioned in exactly the right spot to make you think and to catch only slightly wayward or miss-hit shots.
Given its difficulty it is not a course I would want to play every day but would relish playing a couple of times a year to really challenge myself. Definitely in the top 10 in my GB&I rankings. Play it and enjoy the experience, whatever you may score!
With a course as famous and stitched in golfing history as Carnoustie, it is very difficult to look past the awe inspiring history to complete an unbiased review. Or more importantly to do this incredible site justice. From its association to Ben Hogan and his only Open win, to the infamous Open of 1999 where ‘Carnasty’ brought some of the world’s best to tears, this course in notorious and needs little introduction.
You may not realise this if you haven’t visited, but there are many golf clubs that share the links at Carnoustie, each with their own clubhouse and rich history. It’s something I wasn’t aware of before visiting and adds to the interest and atmosphere.
We played on a blustery and cold day in mid-May after a period of unseasonably cold and wet weather. The first thing to note was that the rough had clearly been cut recently which meant the intimidation from the tee boxes was lessened somewhat, and you were able to play away from the trouble to relative safety in the rough. This was a shame as I was prepared for 18 holes of unrelenting intimidation.
Like the classical piece, ‘In the hall of the mountain king’ (the Alton Tower’s theme tune to those in the U.K.), the course starts slowly and carefully before building to a high intensity crescendo over the closing holes. Famous landmarks on the front nine are ‘Hogan’s bunker’ left of the 5th green and ‘Hogan’s Alley’, the truly frightening 6th hole par 5 with one of the tightest tee shots in golf.
The course has 3 distinct sections, the run to around the 7th, which is true links golf, then 8-13 which is slightly more treelined and sheltered before the run to the finish, which is arguably the most tasking run in anywhere in the world. It starts at hole 14, famous for the Spectacle bunkers located in the middle of the fairway. The par 3 16th is long and the green is extremely difficult to locate. Barry Burn then torments you all the way to the finish with ample opportunity for it to bring your scorecard to a watery demise at the final furlong (think Jean Van de Velde).
This is a classic links course, one of the best in the world with iconic holes and sights of some of the greatest moments in major championship history. I want to play it again when the rough is up and the ground hard to feel the full force if it’s bite. An absolute must on anyone’s golfing bucket list.
Carnoustie is just a rollicking fun day which demands your very best game for you to survive. Every hole is a study in design merits. There are a great mix of holes but predominantly the hole offers options for play. Shorter holes require mostly aerial pursuit while the longer holes offer run up options. There isn't a weak hole here. Maybe 11 isn't strong but it's not weak. This is a must play for everyone with a little game. Carnoustie Championship defines the proper way a municipal course should handle visitor play in my opinion. Drop everything at some point and get here.
As all the professionals will say.... Carnoustie is one of the hardest courses in the world, and I can very much confirm that! The greens are lightning quick and have on average about 5 different bumps and lumps per one. An absolute incredible experience which any keen golfer must do! They treat you like royalty and the course also plays like royalty. Amazing!
I admit to being biased having grown up in Angus. However, having played the full top 100 in Scotland and debating all the courses at length in terms of my own thoughts Carnoustie is often on top.
Deceptively due to the hosting of The Open the course often feels smaller and almost normal when you play it, like any other classic links but the accumulation of 18 great holes and in particular the finishing four holes the course challenges you with every shot and seems to stand above the rest for me.
The turf here, as with near neighbors, Panmure and Monfieth, isn't your normal sandy links, it is more of a peaty soil, hard to describe but it plays well.
I have enjoyed every round I have played here and have played off the various tees and in very different weathers. I have always relished the challenge and have never quite cracked the course.
A quirk of the course, which I find similar to Royal Troon is that despite the grand reputation both courses surprise me in their tightness and in particular the small green sizing, which just adds to the challenge.
A tip for booking is to get our very early or later in the day, to try and avoid slow play which I am afraid the vast amount of visiting 4 ball groups can create.
The course is definitely an equal to Muirfield/Royal Troon and Turnberry but I would say it takes more cunning to avoid all the course hazards and make a great score and for this, it is my number 1.
One of the very best. It’s bigger, grander, more majestic than almost everywhere I’ve played. There are no weak holes, then you get one of the best finishes in the world. Before my visit I’d overlooked 14 with the Spectacles, and the long dogleg 15th with the solitary tree. That was an error on my part.
I found it surprisingly scoreable too. The fairways are fairly wide and don’t have many hanging lies. The routing changing directions means you’re not getting beaten up for 9 holes, then helped on 9 holes. The greens are perfect. There’s only one blind shot.
It’s also very friendly and laid back, of the few Open venues I’ve played it’s the most welcoming and had the most helpful staff. I was even given a history buff of a caddie, because I’d emailed ahead and said I had an interest in past Opens.
Despite making a Van de Velde 7 on the last, I left the course content in the way that only a couple of other courses have managed. It’s a special place that whilst impressing so much, is some how understated and organic as well. It’s easily in my top 3 courses.
I’m a member so admittedly this is a biased take. But off the Open/Hogan tees this is the best of the best. It’s not pretty, it’s not easy and it might not be some people’s idea of fun but as an actual golf course the only place that rivals this for me is County Down