Carnoustie Golf Trip
During my year as captain, a golfing buddy and I decided on a little trip to play Carnoustie and some other local courses.
On one of our previous trips, we ended up having to sleep in the car due to being unable to find any accommodation. I wasn’t doing that again! I decided on this occasion I was going to pre-book since the trip was taking place during August.
The primary focus of the trip was playing the Championship Links at Carnoustie.
Because of the fickle nature of the weather in the UK, neither of us was keen on pre-booking too much golf. We decided to take our chances on a day-by-day basis to see where we could grab a tee-time depending upon the state of the weather.
Little did we know that the particular week we had picked would turn out to be pretty wet. Indeed there would be a massive mudslide on one of the main roads in the area and some localized flooding near our accommodation!
It was an early start since we had about 400 miles to travel and wanted to fit in a round of golf on the way up to the Carnoustie area.
I had plumped for Ladybank Golf Club as our first round of the week. I thought the heathland/parkland layout might be a more gentle introduction to the sterner tests that would await us later in our trip.
Ladybank is primarily a members course although welcoming to visitors. It has hosted final qualifying for the Open Championship on many occasions.
It is located on a fairly flat piece of land. The holes meandering through pine or birch with plenty of heather to grab your ball should you stray off-line.
I will have to attribute my score that day to my own poor play and the need for accuracy over brute strength. The course has a reputation for great conditioning and that was true when we played.
We didn’t stay to sample the delights of the clubhouse as we still had about an hour of driving to do that day to reach our bed-and-breakfast.
We decided to give ourselves a little bit of links practice prior to tackling the challenge of the Championship course. So the following morning we booked ourselves onto the Burnside course.
Coming in at around 6000 yards the length will not defeat you on its own. However, as you know the difficulty of a links course is often down to the strength and direction of the wind you happen to be playing in.
The first few holes are a little lackluster but the course soon comes alive and offers some interesting holes. The fifth hole called “Burn” is a tempting little par-3 of 158 yards from the competition tees. The Barry Burn lurking on three sides of the green means you have to hit an accurate shot to avoid a watery grave.
The 17th is another standout hole. 461 yards from the back tee you need to hit along straight drive followed by a second shot to carry the burn twice.
The rough had been kept reasonably short no doubt to help with the pace of play. This was in contrast to the championship links as we would find out later in the week!
The Burnside is used as a final qualifying venue for the Open Championship. Indeed it was the venue where Ben Hogan qualified prior to winning the championship in 1953.
All in all an excellent introduction to the Carnoustie Links.
The weather turned against us in the afternoon so we didn’t play an extra round. The following day’s weather didn’t look too promising either. We decided to avoid the rain and sample some of the delights of Dundee.
Indeed the rain was so heavy that the area near our bed and breakfast had in places flooded. We later saw on the news that a number of cars got buried in a mudslide! Summer in the UK!
Having had a rest day we were supposed to be playing Downfield Golf Club on our fourth day. Driving over to the club however it looked like that area seemed to have had even more rain. Our fears were confirmed when we reach the course to find the car park empty and a “course closed” sign. A quick look at some of the greens near the clubhouse showed the bunkers were still full of water from the day before.
Luckily for us, the professional set us up with a game over at Scotscraig Golf Club which had coped with the previous day’s deluge better than Downfield. It’s a shame that I didn’t get to play as it had been on my wish list for a while having seen a number of excellent reviews. Hopefully I’ll get another chance at some point.
Scotscraig is another final qualifying venue and is a linksy-heathland hybrid. It was formed more than 200 years ago! Although it did seem to disappear for about 50 years or so.
There were plenty of opportunities to find trouble with bunkers, gorse and trees that would all happily attract your ball. I don’t recall the bunkers being particularly penal, certainly in comparison with some links that I’ve played. Not overly long from the visitor’s tees but the course can still be affected by the wind as it is very close to the coast.
Given the tremendous rain on the day before it was surprising the course played as well as it did. I suppose the big advantage of links type turf.
We only had two days of our trip left and the final day was already pre-booked for an open competition at Forfar Golf Club. That meant that the Championship Links at Carnoustie would have to be played on our penultimate day.
Scene of so much drama down the years such as van de Velde in the burn on 18 and Harrington beating Garcia in a playoff.
When we played the rough was pretty brutal, certainly for players of our standard. The greens, like most links greens, were a nice pace and ran true. The bunkers at times were fiendishly difficult. Particularly if you are used to much shallower parkland-style bunkers.
I also find sand in links bunkers tends to be very fine.
Despite the popularity of the course and its difficulty, I didn’t think the pace of play was too bad. Looking back now at the price we paid compared to the green fees of today it seems a relative bargain.
I was soundly beaten on the day by my friend who managed to get very close to his handicap. I spent far too much time in the sand I’m afraid.
My personal highlights were managing to get a par on the difficult par-3 16th after hitting a driver from the tee. I also managed to get up and down from the back of the green on 18 for a par which was a great way to finish the round.
Forfar Golf Club is another links/heathland mix. Links style turf and undulations are accompanied by course and tree-lined fairways.
You feel a certain sense of isolation walking amongst the trees. The course was in great condition when we played and by all accounts, the club maintains an excellent level of conditioning in general.
The green fees are pretty reasonable when you compare it with other venues in the area. For us, it was an absolute steal as we were playing in an open competition. Looking at the club website You can still enter their 36 hole open for the princely sum of £20. You would have to look long and hard to find better value than that!
Carnoustie Golf Trip: Conclusion
The Championship Links at Carnoustie is one of those must play venues. Unfortunately, the steep increase in the green fee since I played means it is now beyond the reach of many golfers. £270 for a round of golf is a heck of a lot of money. Especially when you consider there are many courses in the area that will offer you 12 months membership for a little more than £500!
There’s one thing I’ve learned though in 30 odd years of playing golf. No matter how expensive a green fee is, it will almost certainly rise faster than inflation!