Fergus Bisset heads over the Cairn O’Mount to Angus to play two fabulous links courses at Carnoustie and Panmure.

After that excellent warm-up, final preparations for the Media Jug were completed in the Carnoustie Hotel where general manager Gordon McIntosh, ensured we were fully sustained with generous servings of beef brisket and an unspecified volume of red wine.

The Carnoustie Hotel
It’s amazing to stay right on the edge of an Open Championship course as you can at the Carnoustie Hotel. When I woke the next morning I opened the curtains to unveil a tremendous view, straight down the 1st fairway – inspiring stuff, despite the slightly grey and drizzly conditions. The weather didn’t spoil the day though thankfully, the rain never came to much and was off completely by the time we’d played the front nine.

I’ve always said that I think the Championship course at Carnoustie delivers the best test of golf of any course I’ve ever played and I’ll stand by that. On the way round Colin McLeod of Carnoustie Golf Links asked me my favourite hole. It’s a tough question as so many are so very good. The par-5 6th with Hogan’s Alley and the snaking burn hampering a lay-up, the strong 9th, straightaway but with strategic bunkering waiting to catch a drive or approach that errs just slightly, the 14th with the iconic “spectacle” bunkers and then the last two with the Barry Burn so eager to collect a poorly judged shot. There are no weak links, each hole heads in a slightly different direction and the hazards are perfectly placed so as to be harsh but fair.

The nature of the challenge at Carnoustie leads to amazing tournaments. The Opens held here in recent years have been amongst the most thrilling in the history of the event – Paul Lawrie’s 10-shot comeback and Van de Velde’s implosion in 1999 then the Harrington/Garcia playoff of 2007. The Open will return to the great course in 2018 and this year the British Senior Open will be contested over the links. That one will definitely be worth coming along to with the likes of Bernhard Langer (a winner at Carnoustie in 2010,) 1975 Carnoustie Open champion Tom Watson and home favourite Colin Montgomerie all set to play. John Daly could also tee it up when the tournament is held from July 21st to 24th.

Carnoustie

Carnoustie

Back to the course, I have to mention the greens. The putting surfaces at Carnoustie are as good as you will find anywhere. Despite recent rain, they were of perfect firmness and speed. The R&A use the surfaces at Carnoustie as a benchmark of excellence and it’s obvious why. Even in early April, they were as true as it’s possible for a links green to be – even I can hole putts on greens that good!

And it was a good job that I did because the rest of my game was decidedly wobbly. Perhaps it was the threat of relegation, possibly the red wine (surely not) but I was having one of those days where my body felt like it belonged to someone else. If it wasn’t for a few mid-length putts and one absolute “moonraker” going in, I would have been in trouble. In the end, 29 Stableford points was about as good as I could have hoped for.

And the winner of the Media Jug, getting his hands on the trophy that so many paladins of the sport have failed to lift, was Richard Maunder. His score of gross 71 for 36 points in windy and cold conditions was really very good indeed and he took the title with something to spare – well played sir!

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