Updated: December 2017
Golfing at Carnoustie Golf Course in Scotland:If you ever have the opportunity to play at Carnoustie Golf Links, make it a plan. The course is a true test of any golfer, especially when the rough is high and winds are up. Throw in a little rain and you have all the conditions necessary for some high scores. In the clubhouse, they have a poster sized image of Sergio Garcia walking off one of the greens showing his score at almost 30 over par through 2 rounds of golf - that was back in 1999 and Garcia did much better in 2007 just barely losing to Padraig Harrington. There are 3 courses to choose from - the Championship Course, Burnside, and Buddon Links. Carnoustie Championship course was laid out in 1840 and Old Tom Morris later came along to make changes. The finishing few holes have made for memorable moments in recent Open Championships held here. Perhaps the greatest failure was that done by Jean Van de Velde in 1999 where he played the 18th like an amateur and ended up losing the tournament. Carnoustie is close to St. Andrews so if you are playing the Old Course, try getting up north to try your luck at Carnoustie.
The official website can be found at http://www.carnoustiegolflinks.co.uk. There you can find details on all the 3 courses, upcoming events and tournaments, phone #'s if you need to contact them, how to book online, and much more. Weather in Carnoustie can change mid round so be prepared for anything. We were lucky enough to enjoy mostly sunny skies in April 2010 with a slight overcast condition as we left the course. The winds were low and the rough was cut down pretty short. Even with the conditions in our favor, only 2 people from our party were able to break 100 (we are all 14 to 16 handicaps). We played from the green tees with a total yardage of 6400 yards and it played to a par 70 with only 1 official par 5 for us. The par 4's are brutal, especially when you are facing the wind off of the tee. Hole #6 is a tough test, they call it Hogan's Alley, you have an out of bounds fence on the left and bunkers along the fairway to the right. Being a par 5 means you have to get some yardage off the tee and take a chance. It's a tough test for golfers of all levels. Even the short 8th hole (a par 3) was tough with an elevated green and OB to the left and bunkers on the right. It's perhaps the smallest green we hit to on our entire trip. The 16th is no bargain at almost 240 yards (par 3). The fairway bunkers on almost every hole make for some interesting choices off the tee. I generally hit driver and hoped for the best, although several times my tee shot got swallowed up by the bunkering complexes. Once in the sand, forget about advancing the ball forward. You will most likely have to sacrifice a shot and hit sideways. Save your mental stamina for the 17th and 18th holes as they are technically difficult and require pinpoint shots from the tee and fairways. We did have one point in our round where the course marshal asked us to speed up play. I guess the members can get a little cranky if you don't play under 4 hours.
Carnoustie Tee Times and Green Fees:How much is it to play at Carnoustie? A single round at the Championship course runs 130 GBP ($200+) while the Burnside and Buddon Links courses are much cheaper. Getting a tee time at Carnoustie was a little tougher than I had originally thought. I tried booking something almost 6 months in advance and the online booking form on their website said no morning tee times were available. It seemed strange to me, but I figured we weren't going to be able to play the course. Then, a few weeks before our trip, my friend mentioned that he had seen times available. I quickly went online and found a morning slot for our foursome. The Carnoustie Hotel supposedly takes lots of slots for their customers and when they know that no one needs the reserved tee times, they hand them back over to the clubhouse for the general public. So, if you try booking a tee time at Carnoustie and have no luck, try again as you get closer to your trip and see what appears in their system. The pro shop told us that almost all of 3 months during the summer of 2010 are completely booked. It's a popular golf course to play in Scotland, but you can get on. Again, if you book online, all it takes is one lead golfer to fill out their form online. Handicap limit is 28 for men and 36 for ladies.
Carnoustie Golf Links - Location and Directions:St. Andrews is roughly 25 miles from Carnoustie, so if you are staying in that area, look into playing at Carnoustie. We drove up from St. Andrews in the morning and it took us about 45 minutes by car. You can take the train, but it would be quite a hassle with golf clubs in tow. For directions and a decent Google map, check out their location page at http://www.carnoustiegolflinks.co.uk/contact-us/how-to-find-us/. When you cross over the Firth of Tay bridge from the St. Andrews area into Dundee on the A92, look for the signs in the city that point you towards the A930 which is what you want to be on. From the Edinburgh Airport you are looking at close to 71 miles and Glasgow Airport is 100 miles from Carnoustie. The signs and directions were pretty straight forward and we found the course with no problems. Get there a few minutes early so you can check-in and get trolley carts, caddies, rental clubs, etc.