An Introduction to Scotland's Carnoustie Golf Links

Carnoustie Links is one of the British Open courses, but you can play it, too

The 16th green on the Championship Course at Carnoustie Golf Links.
A view from behind the 16th green at Carnoustie Golf Links. David Cannon/Getty Images

Carnoustie Golf Links, in the town of Carnoustie, Scotland, is one of the U.K.'s top golf destinations and one of the world's most-famous golf courses.

Every year, Carnoustie is one of three courses that host the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour. And Carnoustie is part of the Open rota, the regular rotation of links courses on which the British Open is played.

There are 60 holes of golf at Carnoustie, the most famous 18 being the Championship Course. When you read articles referring to the Carnoustie links or hear pro golfers talking about Carnoustie, it's the Championship Course being referenced.

The other two 18-hole courses at Carnoustie Golf Links are the Burnside course and Buddon Links course. There is also a six-hole course for junior golfers. Unless otherwise noted, the information presented below refers to the Championship Course.

Where Carnoustie Is Located

The par-4 second hole, named Gulley, on the Championship Links at Carnoustie Golf Links
The second hole at Carnoustie. David Cannon/Getty Images

The town of Carnoustie, Scotland, is north of Edinburgh. The links are located just south of town, where Barry Burn empties into Carnoustie Bay. The links are almost due north of St. Andrews, and northwest of Dundee.

Dundee, 14 miles away, has a small airport with limited options. Large airports close by are in Edinburgh (63 miles away) and Glasgow (90 miles away). Golfers flying into any of those airports will have rail, bus, and rental car options for continuing on to Carnoustie.

The physical address of the links is:

Carnoustie Golf Centre,
Links Parade,
Carnoustie,
Angus,
DD7 7JE

The phone number for the links' golf/administrative office is +44 (0)1241 802270 and its website is carnoustiegolflinks.co.uk.

Can You Play Carnoustie?

A view from behind the green on the par-4 fifth hole on the Championship Course at Carnoustie Golf Links
The fifth green on Carnoustie's Championship Course. David Cannon/Getty Images

Yes, the Carnoustie Links are open to the public. The golf courses are managed by the charitable Carnoustie Golf Links Management Committee, which includes representatives from local golf associations and was formed in 1980 to run the links. All profits are reinvested into the golf courses.

Note that 28 is the handicap limit for men, 36 for women and golfers aged 14 to 18. Golfers younger than 14 are not permitted on the Championship Course. Caddies are available for a separate fee.

To book a tee time, call the reservations department at +44 (0)1241 802270 or email golf@carnoustiegolflinks.co.uk, or use the online booking system.

Green fees in the high season (April 1-Oct. 31) range from £50 for the Burnside and Buddon links to £200 for the Championship Course (fees subject to change) for adults, but there are discounts for golfers booking as a four-ball and for golfers buying a three-day pass.

Fees are significantly cheaper in winter (Nov. 1-March 31), but golfers are required to hit off mats in the fairways during that period. The Carnoustie website links above include many more details about booking and playing the links.

Carnoustie's Origins and Architects

Jesper Parnevik plays his tee shot at the 6th during the Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2016.
Teeing off on Hole No. 6 — Hogan's Alley — at Carnoustie. Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

The Carnoustie Golf Club was founded in 1839 at a time when the links—there is record of golf in the town of Carnoustie going back to 1560—were quite rudimentary, barely beyond a natural state.

Some of the greatest and most important golfers in the history of the sport have had a hand in shaping the links at Carnoustie. In 1842, Allan Robertson, considered the first-ever professional golfer, laid out a 10-hole course.

In 1867, Old Tom Morris (a onetime apprentice to Robertson) added eight new holes, bringing the Carnoustie links to 18 holes.

And in 1926, James Braid—five-time British Open winner and one of the three golfers who made up Britain's legendary "Great Triumvirate" of the late 19th/early 20th century—renovated the links.

More tweaks occurred over the years, including rebuilding most of the bunkers prior to the 1999 Open, and the lengthening of holes at various times. But the routing of today's Championship Course is pretty much the same as it was following Braid's 1926 work.

Carnoustie's Pars and Yardages

Carnoustie Golf Links seventh hole on the Championship Course
Hole No. 7 at Carnoustie. David Cannon/Getty Images

These are the yardages from the White tees, which are the back tees for daily play on the Championship Course:

  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 401 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 435 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 351 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 375 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 387 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 5 - 520 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 394 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 3 - 167 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 413 yards
  • Out - Par 36 - 3,443 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 446 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 362 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 5 - 479 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 3 - 151 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 5 - 476 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 459 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 3 - 245 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 433 yards
  • Hole 1 - Par 4 - 444 yards
  • In - Par 36 - 3,505 yards
  • Total - Par 72 - 6,948 yards

The ratings for each set of tees:

  • White: 6,948 yards, par 72, SSS 75, slope rating 139
  • Yellow: 6,595 yards, par 70, SSS 74, slope rating 135
  • Red: 6,144 yards, par 70, SSS 71, slope rating 130
  • Ladies: 6,127 yards, par 74, SSS 77, slope rating 140

 

Significant Tournaments at Carnoustie

The par-3 13th hole on the Championship Course at Carnoustie Golf Links.
A view of the 13th hole with the town of Carnoustie in the background. David Cannon/Getty Images

Every year the Championship Course at Carnoustie is one of three courses used for the European Tour's Dunhill Links Championship. In addition, the links has been the site of many professional and amateur majors. Here is the list of those majors along with the winners for each:

  • 1931 British Open: Tommy Armour
  • 1937 British Open: Henry Cotton
  • 1947 British Amateur: Willie Turnesa
  • 1953 British Open: Ben Hogan
  • 1961 British Ladies Amateur: Marley Spearman
  • 1966 British Amateur: Bobby Cole
  • 1968 British Open: Gary Player
  • 1971 British Amateur: Steve Melnyk
  • 1973 British Ladies Amateur: Ann Irvin
  • 1975 British Open: Tom Watson
  • 1992 British Amateur: Stephen Dundas
  • 1999 British Open: Paul Lawrie
  • 2007 British Open: Padraig Harrington
  • 2010 Senior British Open: Bernhard Langer
  • 2011 Women's British Open: Yani Tseng
  • 2012 British Ladies Amateur: Stephanie Meadow
  • 2015 British Amateur: Romain Langasque
  • 2016 Senior British Open: Paul Broadhurst
  • 2018 British Open: TBD

Names of the Holes at Carnoustie

A view of the 14th green at Carnoustie looking across the Spectacles bunkers.
The Spectacles bunkers in front of the 14th green at Carnoustie. David Cannon/Getty Images

Like many older golf courses in the UK, Carnoustie has names for each of its holes. Here are those hole names, plus explanations for the more unusual ones:

  • Hole 1 — Cup
  • Hole 2 — Gulley
  • Hole 3 — Jockie's Burn. That's the name of a waterway that crosses in front of the green.
  • Hole 4 — Hillocks
  • Hole 5 — Brae. A "brae" is a steep bank or hillside.
  • Hole 6 — Hogan's Alley. Named after Ben Hogan's performance at the 1953 Open Championship, when four days in a row he drove down the narrower and more dangerous side of this hole's split fairway.
  • Hole 7 — Plantation
  • Hole 8 — Short. It's the first par-3 hole but, counterintuitively, not the shortest.
  • Hole 9 — Railway
  • Hole 10 — South America. Named after a long-ago caddie who claimed he was moving to South America, but passed out drunk on this hole and went no further.
  • Hole 11 — John Philp. Formerly named Dyke, this hole was renamed to honor 26-year superintendent John Philp after his retirement in 2012.
  • Hole 12 — Southward Ho
  • Hole 13 — Whins. "Whin" is another name for gorse.
  • Hole 14 — Spectacles. The Spectacles bunkers, so-named because some say they resemble a pair of eyeglasses, are two round pot bunkers in front of the green.
  • Hole 15 — Lucky Slap. The drive is considered particularly tough, so  it takes a "lucky slap" to stay on the fairway.
  • Hole 16 — Barry Burn
  • Hole 17 — Island. The island here is the landing area in the fairway, rather than the green.
  • Hole 18 — Home. The "home hole" is a traditional name for the last hole on a golf course.

More Carnoustie Facts and Figures

View from behind No. 15 on the Carnoustie Golf Links.
Carnoustie from behind the 15th green. David Cannon/Getty Images
  • At the time of the 1953 Open Championship, Carnoustie measured 6,701 yards. It went over 7,000 yards for the 1968 Open, nearly reached 7,400 yards for the 1998 Open, and passed 7,400 yards for the 2018 Open.
  • Of all the courses in the Open rota, Carnoustie is considered the most difficult; hence, its nickname: "Carnasty."
  • The name "Carnoustie," according to the club's website, probably originates in the combination of two Scandinavian words meaning "rock bay." But there's also a legend involving a battle fought in 1010, Scottish King Malcolm II, Norse gods, a curse, and a whole bunch of crows. A nearby woodland became known as "Craw’s Nestie" (crow's nest), which was later corrupted into Carnoustie.
  • Stewart Maiden, the golf instructor of Bobby Jones, was a Carnoustie native who emigrated to America in the early 20th century. Other Carnoustie natives who became famous golfers include brothers Willie Smith and Alex Smith, winners of three early U.S. Opens; and third brother Macdonald Smith, winner of 24 PGA Tour titles.

Carnoustie Key Takeaways

  • Carnoustie Golf Links, located in Scotland, is periodically the host course for the British Open.
  • Golf has been played in Carnoustie since at least the 1500s. The golf course that exists there today traces back to the mid-1800s.
  • Tom Watson, Gary Player and Ben Hogan have all been crowned major championship winners at Carnoustie.