7 Carnoustie Championship
Architect: T Morris
Stats: 6,941 yds, par 72, SSS 75
Visitor information: Visitors welcome every day of the week during summer. Tee of the day or moving to forward tees is permitted
2008 Ranking: 7 (No Move)
Improvements since 2008 Rankings:
Clubhouse: Currently constructing a new building that will incorporate a Welcome Reception, pro shop, changing facilities and viewing gallery
Gallery: Carnoustie Championship course pictures
Jean Van de Velde’s memorable meltdown in the Barry Burn at the front of Carnoustie’s 18th green in 1999 provided heartbreaking confirmation of the uncompromising nature of this great Scottish links. Few courses anywhere in the world deliver quite such a stern examination of a golfer’s capability.
There may be no views of the sea around the course, but the terrain is pure links. The turf is firm and sandy over natural bumps and hollows. The narrow fairways are protected by gorse, streams and magnetic bunkering as they pick their way carefully towards the vast, supremely maintained, greens.
There are no weak links on the course, each hole demanding excellence. Some, like the sprawling 459-yard 15th, are challenging because of their length; others ask more strategic questions. At the short 337-yard 3rd, there are five bunkers guarding the lay-up area and a burn snaking in front of the green.
Golf at Carnoustie began in the 16th century but the first course didn’t appear until 1850 when legendary St Andrews professional Alan Robertson designed a 10-hole track. It was Robertson’s protégé Old Tom Morris who extended the layout to 18. But the Championship course as we know it didn’t really begin to take shape until 1926 when James Braid oversaw some extensive modifications.
Prior to the 1937 Open it was decided the finishing holes were not challenging enough, so local man James Wright was tasked with a redesign of the final three. It’s fair to say he was successful. Wright, arguably, created the toughest closing stretch in British golf.
Carnoustie’s ongoing popularity is confirmed by the incredible take-up rate for the famous open event contested on the links – The Craw’s Nest Tassie. All 338 places for the 2010 tournament were filled within five minutes of the online application system’s activation.
Quality of test and design: The test is second to none with well-bunkered fairways and sloping greens. The quality of the difficult closing stretch from 15 to 18 stands out.
Presentation: The course is kept in superb condition. The fairways are protected through the winter with mats in use from November to March, a policy which pays dividends in the summer. The greens are unerringly true.
Visual appeal and enjoyment: The views may be limited, but the individual holes are visually appealing. Negotiating Hogan’s Alley, the Spectacles bunkers and the Barry Burn provides great excitement.
Ambience: Carnoustie, like St Andrews, has an interesting feel because if you scrape away The Open history, it’s essentially a locals’ course with a very active playing membership. Visitors are made to feel very welcome in a relaxed atmosphere.
Panellists’ comments: “A fabulous test of golf – not easy, but fair”; “The course has a great flow – it starts gently, then builds through the turn to that famously brutal finish”