Carnoustie - Championship
A walk through history
World Ranking 31, Scotland 5
Carnoustie does not let you relax. Every shot from tee through green requires planning and execution. If you try to “hit-and-hope” here, your hopes will not be fulfilled.
In essence, you play each hole backwards. Figure out first where you want your approach to finish, then where you need to it your tee-shot to give you a chance to fulfill your 2nd-shot plan. Oh, and you may want to figure out how to best avoid all those bunkers, burns, heather and gorse with your tee-ball.
Golf has been played over the links at Carnoustie since the 1500s, The present course came into being in 1850, when it was designed by golf’s first professional, Alan Robertson of St Andrews. Some 20 years later Old Tom Morris tweaked and extended the course to 18 holes (4565 yards).
The first British Open Championship at Carnoustie was played in 1931 — won by Tommy Armour. Prior to the 1937 Open Championship the final 3 holes at Carnoustie were redesigned by James Wright, a local man, and he produced what has come to be regarded as the toughest finishing stretch in golf. The 16th is a 250-yard par-3. In the 3rd round of the 1968 Open Championship, the hole was playing directly into the wind. Jack Nicklaus, who hit driver, was the only man in the field to hit the green in regulation. In 1975, 5-time Open Champion Tom Watson failed to hit the 16th in regulation in all five rounds he played — including during the Monday play- off win over Jack Newton. In fact, Watson made bogey 5-of-5 times.
￼ While you’re laboring around one of our game’s most demanding courses, you’ll enjoy the history you’re sharing with so many of the game’s greats. In 1953, Ben Hogan decided to travel to the U.K. for the first time to play in the Open Championship at Carnoustie. He won famously, thus completing the Hogan Triple Crown after triumphing at both The Masters and the U.S. Open that year.
Though the Scots adored the “Wee Ice Mon”, he wasn’t too keen on the course. It was his first, and last, appearance at the British Open. “I’ve got a lawn mower back in Texas, I’ll send it over,” Hogan said after winning.
Jack Nicklaus certainly was not enamored by Carnoustie at first. This is what he said in 1983: “When I first went to Carnoustie in 1967 to play a television match with Arnold and Gary, I thought Carnoustie was the worst golf course I’d ever seen. And by the time I’d finished the Open in 1968, I thought it was the hardest golf course I’d ever seen, but a darn good course, and I really had great respect for it. and the last time I went back in ’75, I had even greater respect for it. Now Carnoustie is one my favorites.”
The 6th at Carnoustie is a wonderful 570-yard par-5 and the home of the very first “Hogan’s Alley.” There is out-of-bounds all the way down the left side; and on the final day (two 18-hole rounds), Hogan decided the best position off the tee was between the OB left and the bunkers that normally guard the left side of the fairway. He started his drive left of the fence and cut it back into play, left of those bunkers. Actually, I should say “drives,” plural. Because you see, as legend has it, in his second round that day his drive at 6 stopped right next to the divot hole where his first drive had ended up in his morning round.
Of course, when you play the 18th, keep in mind the 1999 finish of Jean Van de Velde and his painfully famous finishing triple-bogey that cost him the Claret Jug. If you feel the urge, play the hole with just a 7-iron for your first two shots and see if you can make the double-bogey 6 which would have won Van de Velde the Open.
October 28, 2014
Quite possibly Britain's most difficult links
Carnoustie is not romantic, it does not whisper sweet refrains of the joys of a life lived without constraint. In many ways, it is perfectly fitting that this was the course where Ben Hogan won his one and only Open Championship in which he competed in 1953 (the Scots named him “the wee Ice Man” that week). Like Hogan, Carnoustie is a course that we want to love and to understand it’s mystery; it’s mystic, but it remains emotionally indifferent in guiding us down our pathway to discovery.
Carnoustie is described as the most difficult course in all of Great Britain and it may well be if the winds of fate turn against you. From the par 5, 6th (“Hogan’s Alley”) to the finishing holes that posses the subtlety of a punch in the jaw, Cournoustie could not care less about your sense of inspiration, yet you will depart inspired none-the-less.
March 3, 2014
There are prettier Open Championship courses...
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my round on Carnoustie, getting brutalized at every turn by its massive pots, narrow fairways and sinister greens. I just tend to favor more scenic links in Scotland like Royal Dornoch, North Berwick and Cruden Bay. History abounds at every turn here. Playing the closing holes at Carnoustie, thanks to the infamous Wee Burn, are no picnic, just be happy to escape without having to partially disrobe like a certain Open Championship competitor. Good thing the hotel and bar were built in recent years, so a pint or two is nearby. You'll need one after playing here.
By the way, I'm happy to report I carded a tidy 7 on 18 just like Mr. Van de Velde.
February 26, 2014