20 Links Parade,
- +44 (0) 1241 802270
12 miles E of Dundee
Contact in advance - not Sat/Sun am
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 recent 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 seven-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 Championship at Carnoustie however Padraig Harrington had different ideas, claiming his first Major title pushing Woods back to 12th place in the 2007 Open 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.
I played Carnoustie several times in the Craws Nest Tassie shortly after the 2018 Open. The course was in great condition, although recovering in parts as you might expect having just hosted a major championship.
To date, I haven’t played a more enjoyable, more testing, more complete golf course. Everything about Carnoustie is sheer class and playing one round just isn’t enough.
It was famously nicknamed Carnasty after the 1999 Open and whilst I agree it’s a stern test, it’s also a fair test and possible to score well... without the wind.
During the Tassie however, we had the pleasure of playing in 35mph winds. The CSS stood at 78 and I’ll never forget trying to negotiate the 17th and 18th in what felt like a tropical cyclone.
After a one in a half hour drive from Edinburgh, I arrived on a cold winters morning. The staff greeted me with the upmost care, insuring everything of a five star experience. Unfortunately, the temp greens where on so a lot of the teeth where taken away from the course. However the fairways where lush. Playing with a local couple from Saint Andrews, whom play Carnoustie on a regular basis I was told the course history and more importantly the places to avoid. This really enhanced my round as I shot a +2 74 on the famed course. I would certainly play again, given the chance. The one in a half hour drive and 13 hour flight where far worth the round.
The main thing about Carnoustie is the brutal but amazing finishing stretch ! I have to admit thinking "I dont know what all the fuss was about, its not that hard "...... until I hit the 14th tee and then I took a beating on the way home normally reserved for Mike Tysons opponents in the mid eighties!
A great course and definitely worthy of the plaudits it gets, a must for a golfing enthusiast and I cant really add anything that hasn't already been said.
All the open courses are brilliant and I honestly think your favourite is the one you play best at or more important, .....when you get the best weather ! When you compare the best of the rest , ie Ganton ,Royal Porthcawl , Royal St Davids, Saunton Sands, Burnham and Berrow, you realise the open courses have something extra that is hard to explain but is definitely justified in making them the top of the pecking order and you must put this on your bucket list.
WHAT A TEST OF GOLF. The hardest test of links golf i have ever tried and it was not a windy day !
The design is brilliant as you already know and the set up is splendid. Good shots are rewarded and poor shots... are poor shots.
And the last 3 holes are even more difficult than you can imagine even if you have already heard of these holes for years.
Play it and you'll understand why Van de Velde's crash could only happen on this course....
After the round at New Course for the Eden Tournament I drove to Carnoustie to see the new Club House, Indoor Center and spend the afternoon with my good friend Colin McLeod who after 15 years leading the Golf Department decided to take a voluntary retirement. He is the kindest person the Golf Industry has put in front of me, the proudest men of his job I have met and a great character. In a sunny windy afternoon, could I ask for a better farewell round with him? No.
After the morning round where I struggled to putt and score at New Course, I felt like a different player at Carnoustie and played maybe my best round of my 5 times there. But the highlight is not my score (who cares!) but being able to spend all afternoon with Colin, give a revision of his 15 years there, all that was achieved, the improvements to the golf center (the indoor part is awesome!) and how the course has kept the highest standars in all the services involved with oturist golfers: arrival, proshop, bar/restaurant, practice facilities, the starter and the entire experience at Carnoustie are World Class and although I will miss him I trust Carnoustie Links will keep the same.
The course played very soft as it had received that massive rain a couple of days before (It was totall flooded 2 days before), greens rolling as usual (perfect) and with a sunny windy afternoon you can’t ask for more enjoyable conditions to play there. The challenge is there, one of the most demanding courses for your tee shots, the 3 par 3s demand very precise shots (I carry five 3s on 16th, never a bogey! Well … maybe until my next visit) and some approach shots require precision and intelligence.
One thing that doesn’t change is the fantastic views of the hotel from almost every corner of the course, in a sunny day it is one nice picture after another.
Carnoustie Championship has the look of a public golf course; in the United States it reminds me of course owned by a local town or municipality. It is wild and unkempt looking in spots. So by that definition is does not compare to the other great links course in the UK or Ireland because it lacks the beauty,
However, it is by far the most difficult of the links courses. Perhaps only Trump International Scotland or Royal County Down can rival it for difficulty on a windy day, but even those fall short.
Built on a flat piece of land, it feels as if the only rise on the entire course is the 5th green with its back tier.
Much like Ganton, the bunkers are perfectly placed and there are a lot of the beginning with the second hole. On the many times I have played Carnoustie, I found the first hole to be relatively benign as long as you find the green with your approach shot. Without wind, it is an easy two shot hole, on a windy day it becomes trickier.
As mentioned, the second hole gets you to think about where to hit the tee shot given the five fairway bunkers, more to the right. Then there is a series of bunkers at the front of the green which is actually wider than it appears but is also 60 yards deep. It is a hole designed to "wake you up" for what is to follow.
The third hole is a birdie opportunity at only roughly 350 yards although you must carry the burn fronting the green. I did not find the green to be too difficult here.
The fourth hole is a gentle dogleg right. As long as you avoid the fairway bunkers, the second shot becomes pretty easy given it is a shared green with 14 and a relatively flat green. There are four bunkers at the front of the green.
The fifth hole, another dogleg right is one of my favorites on the golf course due to the fairway bunkers perfectly placed opposite each other and the marvelous green. It is a hole that requires some thinking about whether your game is in good enough shape that day to take on the right side of the fairway to get farther down closer to the green. The green is one of the three best on the golf course.
The sixth hole, famous at Hogan's Alley is not that difficult other than the tee shot. Go left and you are out of bounds. Hit a weak tee shot or pull it to the right and you are in a bunker. If the wind is up I actually don't mind hitting just to the right of the fairway bunkers into the rough. I have never found the rough to be that difficult that I should be able to advance the ball down to within 130 yards or less. You do want to get your second as close as possible given the bunker complex surrounding this green, perhaps the best use of green side bunkers on the golf course. It is a very fine golf hole.
The seventh is always more difficult than it appears and is one of my favorites given the out of bounds to the left with the fairway bunkers on the right designed to catch any shot hit slightly off line to the right. It is a very fun golf hole and requires some thinking. The green is not very difficult.
The 8th is fabulous, a 157-187 par 3 that has out of bounds left and four bunkers to the right and left that make saving par a very difficult proposition. The 8th also has one of the better elevated greens on the golf course due to the false front. and run-offs on the edges.
For me, the 9th is one of the weaker holes on the golf course, a par 4 that has some good bunkering off the fairway but the fairway always appears relatively wide to me. The green is flat although large. Play well on this hole because life is about to get a bit harder.
The 10th is a very memorable par 4 of some length, not the longest but every time I have played it I have played into the wind, or even if in a cross-wind it still is hurting. The fairway bunkers on the right must be avoided and for the fourth hole in a row, there is out of bounds to the left. It takes a well struck straight tee shot to give yourself a fighting chance at par. There is a burn about 30-40 yards short of the green that wraps up the right side. There is also a tree on the right that will either knock your ball straight down or back into the burn. Then two bunkers front left are there to remind you that you can't bail out to the left. It is a long green that although somewhat flat is tricky to read.
The 11th hole, a shorter par 4 feels like it should be a breather but again it is well bunkered in the fairway and by the green. The green has some undulations to it. If you miss the green on either side with your approach, you will definitely struggle to save par as the chip must be judged perfectly.
The 12th has always given me fits as it is a long par 4 with a lot of bushes to the right and some gorse as well. The green is partially hidden and it is large. You might make the green and have a 100 feet putt with a few levels as well. It is a very difficult hole and well designed.
On 13 a friend made an ace. Others in the same group all made five such is the genius of this mid-length par 3 with perhaps the best green on the golf course. The bunkers are deep on this hole with the green slightly elevated. One might think the safe play is to go long to the back of the green but if you roll off it is a very difficult chip.
The 14th has the famous spectacles bunkers as well as a shared green. It is a short par five where the tee shot must find the fairway as there is a lot of gorse here. If you find the fairway you should make a par, possible birdie or for the long hitter, have a chance at eagle. It is one of the easier greens to read on the course. Go into the spectacles and you might be looking at double bogey.
People rave about 16-17 but for me 15 is a brilliantly designed golf hole, a slight dogleg left with bunkers down the right side. It is a longer par 4 so to have a chance at par you need to hit a long tee shot that finds the fairway. There are four bunkers, three on the right guarding the green. The green is one of the better ones on the course.
Next comes the long par 3. When I first played Carnoustie in 1993, this was the longest par 3 I ever played at 245 yards. Now, there are many par 3's even longer as technology changed the game. It is very good par 3 not just for the length but primarily because the green is so good with a false front, run-offs on the sides, different levels. A par feels like a birdie here but even a double bogey does not demoralize you.
The 17th is probably the most famous golf hole at Carnoustie Championship due to the combination of length and having to cross a burn twice. Downwind, playing from the correct tees, a ball hit down the left side can make it over both burns. Into the wind, there is no reason to take on the second burn with your tee shot unless you are a very long hitter. Then comes an approach shot to a narrow opening due to the bunkers at the front of the green. Once on the green it is pretty level and easy to read but getting there is very difficult. I have made 4 here several times but have also made triple bogey. I think every foursome probably has that range of scores on this hole.
Finally you are at the Home hole, probably weary and exhausted. I have stood on this tee so many times and marveled at the view of the hole with the hotel now behind it. When I first played Carnoustie there was an old metal shed to the left of the hole, where we changed into three layers of clothing it was so cold that day (in late August!)
If you hit it straight off the tee, the hole is simple as the second time the burn crosses in front of the green there is actually about another 25-30 yards to the green. The green is well bunkered left and right but the green itself is flat and should be no worse than a two putt. It is a tremendous finishing hole.
Carnoustie Championship is a must play. Most of the fairway bunkers are deep and penal, although the green side bunkers are not difficult to get out unless you are against one of the side walls.
What makes Carnoustie so difficult? The routing makes you play every which way into the wind, BUT you actually rarely feel like the wind is your friend due to the placement of the bunkers and their depth. The burn comes into play on several holes, and the wind usually blows pretty strong here.
If during the Open they would to set up the course with high rough (which they have done before), the winning score would likely be level par. Without the rough, the pros are so long and so good out of the bunkers that it is no surprise the winning score is in the double digits under par because the greens are relatively simple. If Carnoustie had the greens of other Open championship courses, it would result in a higher score by 3-4 shots per player, but it would also make the course unfair and perhaps unplayable for the average player.
Once your round is completed, you know you have faced one of the sternest tests in golf.
Carnoustie is a brilliant course in a less than ideal setting when compared to many other well known links in Scotland. It was a wonderful part of the first golf trip I ever took and even though not every hole is etched in my memory it's amazing how many I can still remember. What a testament to the course itself. I played it on a windless day so didn't face the Carnasty Monster that many people have seen. One thing is certain, it's a serious test of golf for the strong player but given the soft conditions and fact I played from the medal tees I managed the second best score of the 10 rounds I played on the trip.
That's a bet I wouldn't be willing to make if I were to repeat my trip there so many years later.
Love to get back here one day soon as well.
Clearly an outstanding golfing experience. Open Championship setting with long difficult holes, bunkers, fescue and all that links golf demands. Great reception area with indoor driving range boxes. Unique links golf setting in traditional layout. Caddy service really recommended as layups and driving directions are difficult to see.
Great finish with hole 18 and the history of Open Championship
I've played Carnoustie a number of times, and it can be an absolute brute. Great opener, beastly second and it goes from there right through to the famously exacting final three holes.
Some houses border the course at the far end, but otherwise it's a surprisingly natural Links for such a famous course. Walk back to the Championship 18th tee and thank God you'll never need to thread a drive between the OOB and the Barry Burn with the World watching !
Visiting tips - If you get your dates right you can play the full course without mats at the Winter rate, and excellent packages are available with Montrose, Monifieth and Panmure staying at the course hotel.
It's very difficult to be unbiased with this review. Would this course deserve a 6 balls rating if I wasn't so attached to the great Open memories? I am not sure.
The course condition is OF COURSE Outstanding/Immaculate tee to green.
The design is very unique, with raw and natural ondulated fairways, and ridiculously challenging at times.
There's some magic in it. Maybe I am too emotionally attached to it. But it's worth playing it to understand the level of game the Open presents there.