The British Open hasn't been played at Carnoustie since 1975, so many of today's pros might not know what kind of Scottish mess they are getting into.
Here's a public-service announcement:
Gary Player: "Carnoustie is the toughest course anywhere."
Tom Weiskopf: "The world's toughest links."
Danny Kaye: "Murder."
(OK, so he wasn't a pro golfer, but you get the picture.)
At 7,361 yards for this event, Carnoustie might be golf's ultimate championship test. It is unknown who will pass the exam this week, but here are the words of Carnoustie greenskeeper John Philp:
"Whoever wins the first prize this year is going to work hard for it."
And they all will be working the hardest on the final six holes, where the pressure will be highest, and the wind could be off the charts as well.
No. 13: 169 yards, par 3
This doesn't look like a tough way to begin the final brutal stretch at Carnoustie, but try to get the ball close to the hole. The green is the key. It is long, pinched in the middle and guarded by four bunkers, the largest of which with a slope that will suck up anything close. Five-time British Open winner James Braid revamped the course for the 1931 Open and Carnoustie greenskeeper John Philp says, "Braid had to tuck in a short one somewhere round here, because he was running out of space."
No. 14: 515 yards, par 5
From the tee, only a thin strip fairway is invisible, but there is plenty of landing area. The hole is named "The Spectacles" because of the pair of bunkers about 70 yards short of the green, but they shouldn't come into play for today's long hitters. This could be a chance to make up some strokes. Gary Player in 1968 and Tom Watson in 1975 made eagles on the way to victory.
No. 15: 472 yards, par 4
Let the fun begin. There isn't much margin for error here. The driving zone has been reshaped to run into two fairway bunkers on the right. Try to go left, and a drive can end up in some deep hollows or heavy rough. The second shot, usually a long iron or more, will often be a blind one. The green, however, is more forgiving than many at Carnoustie, Take a par, take a deep breath, and move on.
No. 16.: 250 yards, par 3
How many times on a long par three have you started to take out the driver, then said, "Nah, can't do it." Look for some of the pros to say yes here, depending on the wind. This has been called a par 3 1/2. In the 1968 Open, Jack Nicklaus was the only player to hit his tee shot beyond the flag and he hit--naturally--a driver. Watson played the hole five times in 1975, including a playoff, and never had a three. And there wasn't any wind that year. This is another long green, which slopes toward the Barry Burn on the left.
No. 17: 459 yards, par 4
Legendary golf writer Bernard Darwin said this hole was protected by a "circumbendibus," his word to describe the twists and turns taken by the Barry Burn. Whatever it is, it creates an island fairway that narrows between 240 and 280 yards. How much difference can the wind make? In the Scottish Open, Tiger Woods played No. 17 one day with two five-irons and reached green the next day with two drivers. A bunker has been added to thwart gambling big hitters off the tee.
No. 18: 487 yards, par 4
The distance is forbidding, but with the wind at the their back, many players can turn this into just another driver-wedge. Turn the wind around and anything can happen. The out-of-bounds stakes are very close on the left side. The green is raised and guarded by two bunkers. The everpresent Barry Burn could be a factor again. It crosses the fairway twice again, including once right in front of the green. Johnny Miller put his tee shot in a fairway bunker in 1975, and it now bears his name. Make a mistake on this course and it can stay with you.
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CARNOUSTIE GOLF COURSE
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 OUT Par 4 4 4 4 4 5 4 3 4 36 Yardage 407 462 342 412 411 578 412 183 474 3,681
Hole 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 IN TOTAL Par 4 4 4 3 5 4 3 4 4 35 71 Yardage 466 383 479 169 515 472 250 459 487 3,680 7,361