Golf: Carnoustie the crucible for the game's best

The Championship has been restored to the grand stage. By Bruce Critchley

NOW THAT THE OPEN is back at Carnoustie one can only wonder why it took so long, though to be fair the Royal & Ancient have always been aware of Carnoustie's special qualities. Access and accommodation have been the problem, access under or over the railway line that pins the course hard against the North Sea and accommodation suitable for today's stars.

What has never been in question is Carnoustie's stature as an 18-hole test of golf. Indeed with other courses on the championship rota increasingly under attack from the ever-growing talent of the world's best, Carnoustie's return to the fold had become imperative. The R & A have, in the main, resisted the dreaded combination of narrow fairways and knee-high rough, preferring to put their trust in the innate cunning of an old links and a decent blow at some point during the championship. Recently, however, particularly with the Old Course at St Andrews, it has looked as though the top players can now bludgeon their way through a course's subtleties and only a stiff breeze keeps embarrassingly low scores at bay.

With Carnoustie there are no such concerns. A variety of punishments await the errant shot, steep-faced bunkers, grassy hollows and, over the closing holes, the serpentine charms of Barry Burn. There has also been room to extend holes where necessary to keep the hazards in play as the ball is hit ever further.

Now 7,361 yards, it is as long as any championship lay-out on either side of the Atlantic. Although the wet spring has put paid to the hopes of the organisers for it to be firm and running, which would have put a premium on imagination, the rough is thicker than normal to compensate. A couple of players have had an early glimpse and their first comments were critical - fairways too narrow and rough too dense - although a good yardstick is that if players are mildly carping then the course is probably about right. After all you can always cut the rough in the last few days, but you cannot grow it.

Carnoustie's strength is that every shot needs careful planning. The player who can dictate which side of the fairway he drives to will have an advantage over those struggling just to keep the ball in play. The greens have their own quirky character, especially as there are plenty of awkward pin positions. Most of the greens are long but narrow, which puts the emphasis on straight approaches and club selection.

Above all Carnoustie never lets up. You start with a handful of tough par fours, the most dangerous of which could easily be the third, just 342 yards long but with a pulpit green which slopes sharply to a burn at the front. Just when you need a breather you come to the sixth, the first of two par fives, but which could easily play the hardest hole all week, particularly if the wind comes in from the south-west.

At 578 yards, this hole was made famous in 1953 when Ben Hogan chose to drive left of the two bunkers which are intended to push the tee shot away right. The gap between them and the out of bounds is only 30 yards but in calm conditions it affords the best line to the green, and Hogan twice made four on his way to victory in the only Open he ever played in.

The one significant alteration to the course for this championship has been to put a new bunker beyond those two. Tiger Woods cleared them during the 1996 Scottish Open and others might now do the same with a following wind.

The predominant winds are from the north-east and south-west and you either play into them going out or coming home. Being on the east coast, Carnoustie is generally less draughty than Turnberry or Troon but it doesn't need much to make it a monster.

If you want to find fault with Carnoustie some point to the closing holes. The 16th is as long as a par three can be, yet the green is a narrow saddle and from the tee would look little wider than a gymnast's vaulting horse, and the 18th has never really known whether it should be a par four or five.

These, though, are small defects amid the general magnificence of the place. Each time the championship has come here it has produced a winner of the highest calibre and it would take a brave man to bet that this year will be any different.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power