Why is Carnoustie so difficult?


Jack Nicklaus calls it the toughest golf course on The Open rota, so what makes Carnoustie so tricky? We asked the men in charge of getting the course ready for the World's best ... 

What Craig Boath and Sandy Reid don't know about Carnoustie isn't worth knowing. Craig (below left) is the Head Greenkeeper; Sandy (right) is the Links Superintendent. With 44 years of experience between them, they've grown up on a diet of links golf and rubber shoulders with the greats of the game.

They were there when every player finished over par in 1999; and when Rory won the Silver Medal in 2007. But as they prepare to oversee their fourth Open Championship, they want to set the record straight about the Car-nasty nickname and Tommy Fleetwood's course record-breaking 63 at the Dunhill Links last year...

CB: The course doesn't look much different from 2007. Most of the work has been dedicated to building spectator mounding for better vantage points. The yardage is going to be slightly less this year, but that's only because the first tee has been moved up to accommodate a grandstand.

SR: The 3rd hole is the only one that will play differently. The fairway has been widened and a couple of bunkers have been repositioned. The other changes we've made are what the average golfer might not notice. We've done a lot of work on improving the grass quality in the rough to make it more golfer friendly. It will still be a challenge to get out of, but it will be nothing like what you see at the US Open. The grass will be shin high, not knee high.

CB: That's probably the biggest difference when the Dunhill Links is played here. There isn't much rough at that time of the year and the pin positions are a lot easier because there are amateurs in the field. That's not to take anything away from Fleetwood breaking the course record – he played very good golf – but it will be a lot trickier and tougher. 


SR: I do think the Car-nasty tag is unfortunate because it's probably one of the fairest courses on The Open rota. There's a couple of bunkers which are hidden, but other than that the trouble is all there in front of you. The firmness is probably the biggest defence, especially on and around the greens. Most of them are quite flat so there's a real premium on being accurate and a good ball striker.

CB: It's not a driver's course by any means. It's long, but you only need to hit a driver about eight times around here. It's more about positioning off the tee and missing the bunkers. There are 111 in total. You can't escape them; every hole has some. There's also out of bounds on the last four holes on the front nine, and on the 14th and the final hole. All it takes is a bad bounce with your approach shot on 18 and you can go out of bounds. The same thing happens if you try to get too cute and cut the corner o the tee on the 6th.

SR: The 6th is probably one of the toughest par 5s in the world because it generally plays into the wind and the out of bounds is literally on the edge of the fairway. The only other par 5 is the 14th, which is a moving hole. Harrington made a three in the last round in '07. Birdie is par basically.

CB: You do need to make your score early because the toughest four holes in golf come on 15, 16, 17 and 18. The direction of each of them is different, so sometimes you are swinging with the wind on one hole and then fighting the wind on the next. If they push the tee back, the 16th can play up to 273 yards, so it can be pretty brutal.

SR: What's tough about Carnoustie is that the average score is generally higher than it is at most other venues. If you're off your game, you can easily get swallowed up by the bunkers, ditches and burns. But even if the wind gets up, I don't think the winning score will be over par.

Boy Can It Be TOUGH! 

Paul Lawrie's +6 winning score in 1999 was the highest since 1938. The cut fell at +12, there were 102 rounds in the 80s, two in the 90s and a 78.31 scoring average.

In August 1992, on the first day of the Amateur Championship, only two players broke 80 in 50- 60mph winds

In July1996, a month before he turned pro, Tiger played the Scottish Open here. He shot 81-75...