carNoustie - 17 POINTS
It sounds a little bit cliched to say it but here goes. You know what? Carnoustie is too tough a course for me to take a huge amount of joy in when playing. Now, I realise that may not apply to you. You may have had a wonderful round there and think I am talking absolute tosh but I bet there are quite a few people who have had a similar experience. Indeed, when The Open came back after a 24 year hiatus in 1999 it only cemented its reputation as a very tough course.
The course is a long one - from the shortest tees it is 6,434 yards long but a par 70. From the back tees it is 6,941 but a par 72. While that is part of what makes it hard it is added to by the fact that the rough can be absolutely brutal at times, some of the bunkers are fiendishly difficult to escape from and the fairways aren't exactly generous. The overall ambience isn't helped really by the lack of any scenery of note - no views of the sea or sweeping dunes - indeed at times it is quite an industrial vista. Now that obviously doesn't impact the quality of the golf course but to me that is all part of the experience and there are no bonus points for Carnoustie here.
That's not to say this isn't one of the great links courses - it is in the top 30 in all 5 of the World Ranking polls and that is understandable as it is a great test of golf. You need to be driving the ball long and straight and then playing the right lines into very well protected greens, ball striking ability is key to do well around here.
As to the holes there are some obvious highlights to call out and there's a good guide on the Carnoustie site here. The 6th is known as Hogan's Alley. It's a 500 yards plus par 5 with the fairways split between a very tight line between a bunker and OOB on the left and a more open route on the right. Needless to say the left hand side gives you the better line in to the green. When Hogan won here in 1953 he managed to get it between the bunker and OOB in all 4 rounds. Here are two European greats, Harrington (who won here in 2007) and Monty discussing the hole.
After Hogan's Alley the course really shows it teeth, the 7th, 9th and 10th are all long and tough. As the course winds its way back to the hotel the course ups the ante once more. From the forward green tees the yardages for the last 5 holes are as follows - 456, 423, 223, 389, 411, and not a par 5 in sight! Not only are the holes long but the Barry Burn comes into play on numerous occasions. There can surely be no harder finishing run of holes than this in golf. The 18th was made famous by Jean van de Velde in 1999 and Harrington performed heroics in 2007 and you are never safe from a big score until you are on the green.
Such a finish is a great test to pit yourself against and you will hopefully leave with some stories to regale your mates with next time the Open comes around. Just bring a lot of balls and the right attitude and you will have a kind of sadistic fun!
BOOKING THE COURSE
Carnoustie is a little cheaper than most other Open venues. Maybe that's because the course doesn't have quite the cachet of some of the bigger names, the town of Carnoustie itself doesn't have a huge amount else to offer and there are few other top quality courses in the area compared to a St Andrews, Ayr or North Berwick. Winter rates are £87.50 rising to £175 in the summer and you can book online here. The online availability on this site isn't great and I suspect they don't put every tee time up on the site so do give them a call as well if you can't get what you are looking for. This is also unusual amongst the Open rota in being a course you can access through a travel agent like yourgolftravel.com or golfbreaks.com where you may well get a good reduction if booking hotel and other courses around here too.
While it's unlikely that you will want to spend too much time in Carnoustie outside of the golf courses the hotel which over looks the 18th green. You can get some good deals there both directly and through a tour operator and it could be worth spending a night there before your round - a room with a view of the course would certainly whet the appetite.
Dundee is the nearest town of note, only 30 minutes away but you may be better served getting on to your next golf venue, Aberdeen is 1 1/2 hours to the north, St Andrews 45 minutes south. It is perfectly feasible to stay in St Andrews and do a day trip to Carnoustie without breaking too much of a sweat. One course that does have a great reputation closer to Carnoustie is Panmure, which has in the past been used as an Open qualifying course and Hogan spend two weeks there honing his links golf before heading to Carnoustie.