Carnoustie (6941 yards par 72)

History of Carnoustie Golf Club

The Carnoustie Golf Club was formally constituted in 1842 although records show that the club existed before this date. Members of the early Carnoustie Golf Club met in various inns or taverns in the town with “Ferriers Inn” being the most popular gathering place. In 1898 a decision was taken by Club members to build the current Clubhouse on Links Parade adjacent to the Championship Course.

Carnoustie is the tenth oldest Golf Club in the world with a unique position in world golf history. The first real golf course at Carnoustie was planned and laid out by Robert Chambers, a publisher from Edinburgh, in the early 1830’s. However, it was the Champion Golfer Alan Robertson of St Andrews who in 1850 designed a 10 hole course, the basis of the course we know today.

Old Tom Morris redesigned and extended it to a full 18 holes in the early 1870s, and James Braid put his stamp on Carnoustie in 1926. Though the members were largely happy with Braid’s vision of Carnoustie, it was felt by many that something was still lacking.

It was the finish that was weak, so in time for the 1937 Open Championship, the final three holes at Carnoustie were redesigned by James Wright, chairman of the Links Committee from 1926-37 and an accountant with a business in Dundee. Wright is credited with having produced the “toughest finishing stretch in golf”.


Carnoustie Championship Golf Course

6945 yards, Par 72

High in the world rankings the Championship course at Carnoustie is the ultimate test of links golf and features the hardest closing stretch of golf holes anywhere. It has hosted ‘The Open’ on eight occasions, most recently the 147th Open in July 2018.

The sandy subsoil that covers the gently rolling terrain, makes it an ideal setting for golf on which James Braid created many quality holes. Remarkably, some of his designs were regarded as too weak for competitive play and the notorious finishing stretch, Carnoustie’s final three holes was introduced.

Now regarded as the toughest links course in the world, Carnoustie is a demanding challenge even on a mild day. In bad weather it will test the best players. It is characterised by heather, gorse, fescue rough, steep faced revetted bunkers and the winding Barry Burn all of which create havoc in the wind.

In addition, there is out of bounds to worry about on several occasions as well as fairway and greenside bunkers that are frequent and penal. Then there are the elusive challenges that do not appear on the hole by hole guide or even in your view from the tee.

The narrow or shallow nature of some greens. The angle those greens are often set at. The borrows in them that are difficult to see. The greenside slopes that mean only precision chipping will succeed.As you play the course every step is worth treasuring. You will walk the old links taking the same enjoyment in the challenges of this incredible course that has tested golfers for many decades.

You will face features and hazards unique to this famous Scottish links and will understand its charm as a golfing venue with views from the tees and fairways which confound, tempt and please you. The round concludes with the last four holes, often described as the finest finish in golf anywhere in the world.

As you play these final holes, accuracy is needed as you face narrow corridors from the tee while approach shots demand precision to greens heavily guarded by steep bunkers and burns. This is Scottish links golf at its absolute best.

The reason that Carnoustie had disappeared from the rota prior to 1999 was absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the course. At the time the event had simply outgrown what remains a modest town. Now the four-star hotel provides an administrative centre while the fans arrive by a combination of boats, trains and cars from all around.


Carnoustie Championship Course - Notes on some memorable holes

Hole 6

Hogan’s Alley - 512 Yards, Par 5, Index 2

The 6th hole was officially renamed in September 2003 as Hogan’s Alley by the 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie. It is said to be one of the world’s best holes.

Named after the immortal Ben Hogan who won the Open Championship in 1953, this hole is where Carnoustie starts to get difficult. Often played into the prevailing wind it can be a severe par 5.

Bunkers and out of bounds await the errant drive.  From the tee the best line is up Hogan’s Alley between the bunkers and the out of bounds fence. It takes a confident player to drive to such a narrow piece of fairway.

The 2nd shot is no less hazardous with a ditch angling across the fairway and the out of bounds still threatening. The approach to an undulating green is not difficult, unless the pin is located on the back right portion of the green. A five is satisfactory on this hole.

Hole 10

South America - 446 Yards, Par 4, Index 3

The back nine  now starts and many say it is the most challenging nine holes in golf. In order to reach the green in two a long and straight drive is required with great care necessary to avoid three bunkers on the right hand side.

Once you have found the fairway, a decision is required. Can your approach carry the Barry Burn which runs some 40 yards in front of the green? It is sometimes better to lay up and accept a five which is a good score on this hole.

Hole 14

Spectacles - 476 Yards, Par 5, Index 1

It is a tough drive from the tee with out of bounds left and bunkers in play. The approach is key. Do you attempt to carry the massive Spectacle cross bunkers or not? These bunkers are huge and intimidating.

A lay up is a conservative play. However, further bunkers closer to the green provide more protection and any player making par has done well.

Hole 15

Lucky Slap - 459 Yards, Par 4, Index 7

A very difficult par four needing a long and accurate drive and then a precise approach to an extremely well protected green. Against the wind not may golfers will be able to get home in two. A lay-up must be kept well clear of the deep bunkers 25 yards short of the green.

Hole 16

Barry Burn - 245 Yards, Par 3, Stroke Index 13

This is said to be one of the hardest par threes in golf. Downwind is said to be difficult, stopping your ball on a small sloping green. Into an easterly wind it is getting close to impossible.

In the 1968 Open Jack Nicklaus was the only player to get past the pin in the final round. A par on this hole is an excellent feat.

Hole 17

Island - 433 Yards, Par 4, Stroke Index 5

The Barry Burn winds and twists its way in front of the tee and then loops back cutting across the fairway. The drive must be aimed between the island part of the hole. You are then left with  a long difficult approach to a green protected by gorse and bunkers.

Hole 18

Home - 444 Yards, Par 4, Index 11

It would be difficult to find a tougher finishing hole anywhere. The burn is in play for the drive to the right and left of the hole and also short. Fairway bunkers edge in to the right hand side.

The Barry Burn crosses right in front of the green and it poses a huge obstacle for the 2nd shot. It was here that the hopes of Jean Van De Velde sunk in 1999 when Paul Lawrie went on to take the title in a play off after making up 10 shots on the day.


Summary of the eight Opens played at Carnoustie

66th Open 1931

Tommy Armour came back from five strokes behind to win the first Open staged at Carnoustie. Armour was tied for sixth after 54 holes. On the monster 6,900-yard course, Armour produced something special equalling the course record with 71. Jurado was the only player who could beat him but found the Barry Burn on the 17th and took a six.

He made a closing 77 that was one stroke too many. Armour, born in Edinburgh, lost the sight of one eye due to mustard gas in WWI and later moved to America. He was the last Scottish born player to win The Open until Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie in 1999.


72nd Open 1937

Henry Cotton won The Open for a second time at Carnoustie in 1937 with impressive play. He won by two strokes from Reg Whitcombe, the youngest of three brothers, and headed a field that included the entire American Ryder Cup team who had beaten the hosts at Southport just before the tournament.

Carnoustie, at over 7,000 yards, was tough enough without the incessant cold rain that plagued the final day. Cotton had scored rounds of 74, 72 and 73 to be three off the lead and now produced a 71 for a total of 290.


82nd Open 1953

Ben Hogan played the British Open only once and he made it count, winning by four strokes. It was Hogan's third win in three major championship appearances in 1953 (he didn't play the PGA Championship).

Hogan was tied for fourth place at the midway point, moved into a tie for the lead with Roberto De Vicenzo after three rounds, and shot 68 in the final round to win by four.


97th Open 1968

Gary Player hit one of the greatest shots of his career to win the 1968 Open at Carnoustie and claim the Claret Jug for a second time. It came at the par five 14th hole, named the “Spectacles. Player eagled the hole in both his last two rounds, using a 2-iron in the third round but on the final day the hole was playing into a teeth of a gale.

The South African played a 3-wood and struck the ball so well that finished two feet from the hole. Player won by two strokes from former Champions Jack Nicklaus and Bob Charles.


104th Open 1975

Tom Watson joined Ben Hogan (1953) and Tony Lema (1964) as the only winners of The Open on their debut since WWII in a tense play-off. He would come to dominate The Open with five victories in nine years.

Sunday’s play-off in the rain was a tight affair, which the 25-year-old Watson won with 71 against 72. They were tied playing the last, but the Australian Jack Newton bunkered his approach and missed from 18 feet to match Watson’s par. It was the last 18-hole playoff in The Open, with a four-hole format later adopted.


128th Open 1999

Carnoustie’s return to the Open rota after 24 years was highly dramatic. Jean Van de Velde,  led by three strokes on the 72nd tee but his second shot took a freak bounce off a grandstand railing and finished in thick rough. From there he chipped into the Barry Burn, took a drop, went in a bunker and ended up with a triple-bogey seven.

It meant a play-off that was won by Paul Lawrie, with birdies at the 17th and 18th holes. Lawrie then ranked 241st in the world, was the first Scottish-born winner in Scotland since Tommy Armour in 1931. After qualifying at Downfield, he was the first qualifier to win since exemptions for the leading players were introduced in 1963.

His scores of 73, 74 and 76 had left him 10 strokes behind through 54 holes, double the previous record comeback margin. A fine 67 had put him in the clubhouse at six over but still an unlikely winner with Van de Velde still on the course.


136th Open 2007

Padraig Harrington beat Sergio Garcia in a four-hole play-off after a dramatic finish. The Irishman won his first major title despite blowing a one-shot lead in the Barry Burn in regulation play in scenes reminiscent of Jean van de Velde's infamous collapse in 1999.

He put two shots into the stream in front of the 18th on route to a double-bogey six to allow Garcia a par putt to win the Open. But the Spaniard, who was three clear overnight, missed and Harrington beat his Ryder Cup team-mate by one stroke over the extra holes to become Europe's first major champion since Scotland's Paul Lawrie won a play-off in 1999.


147th Open 2018

Francesco Molinari became the first Italian player to win a major title after one of the most dramatic final rounds in Open Championship history. Molinari, who had two wins and two second places in his previous five starts this season, carded a nerveless closing 69 at a windswept Carnoustie to finish eight under par, two shots clear of Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

Playing alongside a rejuvenated Tiger Woods, Molinari followed 13 straight pars with a birdie on the 14th and finished a brilliant round in fitting style with another from just three feet on the 18th.

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