Golf's Most Stoic Test Across Pure Linksland?
The Round Up
Location: Carnoustie, Scotland
Green Fees: £270 in High Season
Kiwi Caddy’s First Tee Advice: Aim up the left hand side to avoid the blind approach!
The Good: Perfect Conditioning, Amazing bunkering, Integration of the two Burns throughout the layout, Last 3 holes are the best finisher in golf, Strategic golf tee to green
The Bad: Picking the bones a little, but the rough was perhaps grown out a touch too long in spots just off the fairway
The par 5 6th, Hogan's Alley, has the left side lined with OB and bunkering scattered across the left side of the fairway creating a narrow chute off the tee.
The 17th is a par 4 with the Barry Burn looping through the fairway creating an island landing area, with the second shot to a green protected by pot bunkers.
The par 4 18th features the Burn cutting through both sides of the fairway and protecting the front edge of the green. An iconic test to finish!
When on a golf trip to Scotland, everyone’s favourite hobby is comparing itineraries and one course in particular draws a lot more ‘Ooh you poor bastard’ than the others. Carnoustie, or as the locals call it ‘Carnasty’ due to its tough and brutal reputation, is recognized across the globe as one of the golf’s sternest tests. Images of Open Championships with winning scores over par have done absolutely nothing to hurt this reputation and teeing off the first with the iconic white clubhouse as the backdrop, nobody would blame you for feeling slightly apprehensive.
All of this is to say that in my opinion the mythical brutality has been slightly overblown, and Carnoustie’s excellence shines through the challenge.
Carnoustie is a classic Scottish links course, routed across sandy, natural land along the coast. Much like St Andrews, despite the lack of changes in elevation, the humps, ripples, mounds and swales provide plenty of natural variation to the layout, making for some ,crazy bounces and promoting creative approach shots into the greens. Deep pot bunkers are frequent throughout, with Barry Burn and Jockie’s Burn meandering through seven holes. Despite its seaside location, Carnoustie is far from scenic, offering just a couple of restricted glimpses, but feeling the full effects of the coastal breeze!
The bunkering across Carnoustie may well be the most penal in the world of golf. The iconic pits are enormous in size and impact, often forcing players out sideways rather than taking on the towering faces. The bunkers, combined with deep swales and runoffs provide stern protection of the greens. Whilst smaller and less dramatic than those of the Old Course, the greens are a fantastic collection of complexes and offer plenty of variety across the board, and some opportunities for some exciting pin positions.
In tame conditions, the first 15 holes of the course are playable and typical of links courses, offer an endless number of options and ways to play them. Although the rough is punishing when grown out, the fairways are reasonably wide, greens are large, and the entrances to the greens are welcoming enough for players approaching from the correct angles to play the ground game. The holes are laid out in intriguing ways with plenty of variety in shape and length, and the way the routing dances with the natural features of the land as well as navigating the prevalent burns throughout is exemplary, ensuring no two holes are remotely similar. This is links golf in its purest form with just the right amount of charm and quirk.
The sixth hole, Hogan’s Alley, is my favourite par 5 in the world with bunkers protecting the right edge of the fairway and out of bounds up the left creating a narrow shoot. The tenth makes for a similar tee shot, leaving a long approach to a green shielded by a solitary tree and the Barry Burn.
What makes Carnoustie Carnoustie is the final three holes, which is as tough as any final stretch in the game. The 16th is a brutally long par 3, playing 248 yards from the tips to a green guarded by three pot bunkers on the left. The Barry Burn winds in and out of the 17th fairway, creating an island landing area for the tee shot, leaving a long approach into the green.
The Barry Burn continues its dominance of the closing stretch, lining both sides of the 18th fairway, and protecting the front of the green with the clubhouse looming. This is the greatest stretch of golf holes I have played, and one that I would love to play a thousand times over- never the same way twice.
I love Carnoustie. Sure, it’s a stoic test of how well you’re golfing your ball on the day, but if you manage the course well and treat it with respect, it will return the favour. Countless engaging holes requiring strategic decision-making across pure linksland with a sprinkling of charm, quirk and history makes Carnoustie one that should never be overlooked- just bring a good attitude in case the wind gets up!
Booking a Tee Time
Like the majority of UK courses, Carnoustie is available public play. The online booking system is extremely user friendly and can be found HERE. It should be noted that due to its popularity, Carnoustie should be booked as far in advance as possible!