Courses in Scotland rarely come with such an eventful and awe-inspiring history than that of the Carnoustie course. Those that have played at St. Andrew's Old Course will have stood a mere 9 miles away from Carnoustie since all that separates the two is said distance, with the Firth of Tay laying between the two, separating by only a (relatively) fine margin between two of the finest golf courses that Scotland has to offer. Carnoustie has seen some memorable golf, not least the Open Championship in 1999 that was made memorable by Jean Van de Velde taking to the water of the Barry Burn. It is shame that Velde went on to lose the open, but an upset victory was almost won by him, an event which lodges Carnoustie firmly in the mind of anyone that was lucky enough to be watching the infamous open at the time.
It wasn't until 1872 that the course was extended to 18 holes by Old Tom Morris, a man who has seen to the design of a staggering number of golf courses over the years, a list of which can be found on the World Golf website. Further alterations to the course came in the form of re-bunkering in the latter half of the 1920s, as well as alterations that ensured the natural location of the course was utilised to its full extent, particularly with the famous (or for some, infamous) Barry Burn, one of the most treacherous and also the most windy parts of a course whose distinguishing feature is unpredictability, provided by nature's ever-changing breeze across the sea and over the land on which golfers are trying to battle against it.
It is this wind which gives Carnoustie its worldwide reputation as being quite an unforgiving golf course. Because of its location at the very Northern tip of the Tay Estuary, you should expect there to be some form of wind each and every time that you visit there. This wind can turn even the easiest and shortest holes into a longer affair that damages scores and hurts your rounds. Still , it isn't just the weather one has to worry about: the sheer yardage is quite astounding as well. In fact, Carnoustie has some of the longest tees, with the visitor's tees measuring 6,700 yards (the women's tees are still a hefty 6,127 yards); the shorter tees offer little reprieve at around 6,400 yards.
First impressions of the course are usually of underestimation since the course itself doesn't actually consist of tumultuous hills or interference from trees. In fact, the course looks pretty understated when you arrive, as if it would be quite forgiving and could actually give you the chance to show off a little. This is where most go wrong however, because in addition to the wind, the course itself is much less forgiving than it looks. The natural undulation seen in the fairways as well as some pretty unforgiving rough (which will make you pay for getting yourself tangled up in its sticky grasp), trickily-placed greens, and some cavernous bunkers make for a pretty taxing round of golf, and that's on a good day. If you've forgotten about the wind at this point, this is exactly what the course wants you to do: it will always be blowing, and it will always be forcing you to bring your “A” game, but even then this may not be enough to save you.
When mistakes happen - and it must be believed when it is said that they will happen without fail - the best recourse is to simply return the ball to the course, i.e. get it back in play. The 1999 Open Championship saw Jean van der Velde is a prime example of the dangerous nature of the hazards of the course, which could have you scrabbling around in water or in the rough trying to pull a miraculous shot out of the bag. The best thing to do is to not be a hero and get the ball back onto playable ground so that you can be within your comfort zone again; the wind is simply too unforgiving and the course too tricky for you to perform any golfing miracles.
It should be clear that Carnoustie is therefore not a course for the casual golfer. Even fairly experience players with decent handicaps behind them will find this course a struggle. Its difficulty should not be mistaken for lack of quality however: Carnoustie is one of the finest links golf courses in the entire world, not just Scotland. Online booking is available on the Carnoustie Golf Links Course Website, and a detailed history of the Opens that have been held there can be found at the ‘The Opens' section of the site.