The 147th Open Championship tees off Thursday, and as per usual, it’ll take place at a windswept, bunker-pocked, burn-laced links golf course. The courses in the Open rota all share an austere kind of beauty and the ability to devour your scorecard whole and screaming; let’s dig into this year’s model, Carnoustie Golf Links.
The course specs
At the Open, Carnoustie will play to a par of 71, with 7,402 yards off the tee. The course isn’t directly on the water, but the fierce winds can throw a high tee shot halfway to Paris. The course is set up to run long — we’ll see how well that holds up against today’s boomers — and, unlike the U.S. Open, the fairways will be tight and unrelenting. If your ball ends up in one of the open-grave pot bunkers or the burns (narrow, deep waterways) that trace the property, your card is going to suffer. There’s a reason this place has won the name “Car-Nasty.”
In contrast to Augusta National, which names its holes after gentle foliage like trees and flowers, Carnoustie gets downright folksy, with names like “Hillocks” (4), “Brae” (5), the appropriately-named “Short” (a 183-yard par-3), “Barry Burn” (16), and the spectacular “Lucky Slap” (15). By the time you reach “Home” (18), the fourth of Carnoustie’s four vicious closing holes, you’re worn out, and so’s youre scorecard.
The course record stands at 63 courtesy of local product Tommy Fleetwood, who carded that at the 2017 Dunhill Links Championship. Padraig Harrington’s 7-under 277 back in 2007 is the lowest to win the Open Championship.
History at Carnoustie
One of the oldest golf sites in the world, Carnoustie claims to have hosted golf, or some primitive version thereof, since the 16th century. Seven previous Opens have come this way, starting in 1931. Winners at the course include Tom Watson and Gary Player; most recently, Harrington dealt Sergio Garcia one of his many brutal major losses, in a playoff 11 years ago.
But all other Opens pale for historical significance before 1999. That was the year a Frenchman by the name of Jean van de Velde stood on the tee of the tournament’s 72nd hole with a three-shot lead … and proceeded to card a triple-bogey that landed him in a playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie. It won’t surprise you that van de Velde didn’t win; Lawrie managed to capture the playoff, but the image of van de Velde standing shoeless and lost in the burn, staring at his ball, remains one of the iconic images of loss and pain in sports history. Here’s more on that loss:
How will the course play?
Each of the last three Opens at Carnoustie has ended in a playoff; the wicked winds and treacherous features mean that it’s tough to run away from the field. The Open Championship always depends on how weather treats the field, but way-early forecasts seem favorable indeed: rain only on Friday, with winds in the manageable mid-teens. Of course, weather in the U.K. could change by the end of this sentence, so predicting how wind and rain will treat the field four days out isn’t the safest of bets.
Early reports have the course looking baked-out and rolling fast, so the pros might be praying for a bit of rain to slow down putts. Otherwise we’ll be looking at ice-rink-fast greens and more than a few drives rolling right into burns or bunkers.
The tournament begins Thursday morning at 1:35 a.m. Eastern Time. It won’t take long after that for Carnoustie to show its teeth.
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