Carnoustie Golf Links – Scotland

On Sunday night we went to a pot luck dinner at David & Audrey’s place. We met their daughter Alison and her boyfriend Mark as well as a few of their friends. It was a great night with lots of chatter, laughs and red wine! Two of their friend’s, Mary & Graham are members at Carnoustie and invited us to play there with them if it worked out with tee times etc… Their daughter, Elsa was also at the get together – she plays off plus 2 and is off to play in the British Amateur Stroke play next week in Wales.

We worked out that Thursday would be the ideal day – unfortunately Mary was working but Graham was free. Steve was trying to convince David to make up the four but David didn’t think he could have two four day weeks – he had taken the prior Thursday off to play golf with us at Panmure. Anyway arrangements were made during the week and Thursday it was. David had also been convinced to join us – I told him that he better watch out – nine month holidays start with four day weeks!

We felt very lucky to be playing at Carnoustie which is another Open Championship Course having held it last in 2007. It is scheduled to hold it again in 2018.

Steve being Mr Competitive decided that it would be NZ versus Scotland. The Scots started well – both Graham and David hit the ball so well. Stevie wasn’t on his A game and I was a bit erratic off the tee although I did manage to redeem myself down the fairway.

We had lots of laughs and Graham was happy to impart his local knowledge with us on where best to hit the ball – just like at St Andrews this was in vain generally as my ball still had a mind of it’s own. Graham told us that the golf course had been owned by the Council and poorly managed and maintained until the mid 1980’s when they employed John Philp as Course Superintendent. He turned the course around and got it back on the Open Championship rota. We also learnt a new saying from Graham – he hit a great drive down fourteen and said “that was a peachy, peachy drive”

Fourteen was my favourite hole – it is called Spectacles because of the two large bunkers that sit about 100 metres from the front of the green. As you are approaching the green they look at you like spectacles. As you look down the fairway from the ladies tee, the left side is lined with these large bunkers and the right with a hill. It is quite picturesque.

We were three down at the fourteenth but with my shot a hole that they were giving me I managed to win the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth hole. Yes people you are reading that right – I won the holes – Stevie was nowhere to be seen! I am probably being a bit unfair and normally it is Steve that is carrying me!

Anyway we were all square going into the seventeenth and I needed the putt to take us into the lead but it wasn’t to be and we halved. All square still going into the eighteenth.

The eighteenth hole at Carnoustie was made famous by John Van de Velde – see below.

Again Graham hit a peachy, peachy drive. David went well right as did Steve – David found his ball but Steve did not. He did manage to find the ball he had lost on the sixteenth though – it was sitting nicely in the Barry Burn! I also went right but took a nice ricochet off the wall of the burn to be back on the fairway. I laid up nicely but then pulled my approach shot left – again a lucky break – the ball stayed in bounds by about two feet. I chipped on and two putted for a six. Meanwhile Graham’s second shot found the bunker – he got up and down for a four and a victory to the Scots! To be fair it was a deserved victory given that both Graham and David played great golf for most of the round while Steve & I had had better days : )

We had a great day and were very privileged to play this iconic golf course in great company. How very lucky are we : )

Golf is recorded as having been played at Carnoustie in the early 16th century. In 1890, the 14th Earl of Dalhousie, who owned the land, sold the links to the local authority. It had no funds to acquire the property, and public fundraising was undertaken and donated to the council. The original course was of ten holes, crossing and recrossing the Barry Burn; it was designed by Allan Robertson, assisted by Old Tom Morris, and opened in 1842. The opening of the coastal railway from Dundee to Arbroath in 1838 brought an influx of golfers from as far afield as Edinburgh, anxious to tackle the ancient links. This led to a complete restructuring of the course, extended in 1867 by Old Tom Morris to the 18 holes which had meanwhile become standardized. Two additional courses have since been added: the Burnside Course and the shorter though equally testing Buddon Links.

In North America, the course is infamously nicknamed “Car-nasty,” due to its famous difficulty, especially under adverse weather conditions. Carnoustie is considered by many to be the most difficult course in the Open rota, and one of the toughest courses in the world.

The term Carnoustie effect dates from the 1999 Open, when the world’s best players, many of whom were reared on manicured and relatively windless courses, were frustrated by the unexpected difficulties of the Carnoustie links, which was compounded by the weather. One much-fancied young favourite, a 19-year-old Sergio García of Spain, went straight from the course to his mother’s arms crying after shooting 89 and 83 in the first two rounds. The Carnoustie effect is defined as “that degree of mental and psychic shock experienced on collision with reality by those whose expectations are founded on false assumptions.” This being a psychological term, it can of course apply to disillusionment in any area of activity, not just in golf.

We were lucky enough to experience the course off forward tees and with very little wind but after our experience on the Old Course can only imagine what it must be like wen the wind does blow.

1999 Open Championship – Carnoustie
Paul Lawrie won his only major championship in a playoff over Jean van de Velde and Justin Leonard. Lawrie, down by ten strokes at the start of the fourth round,completed the biggest comeback in major championship history, headlined by van de Velde’s triple-bogey at the last hole.

Van de Velde, who was in control through the latter half of the championship, held a seemingly insurmountable three-stroke lead going into the 72nd hole. He teed off with a driver, which was heavily criticized by the ABC broadcast team, and pushed his shot into the right rough of the 17th hole. He later claimed that he thought the lead was only two strokes, which is why he chose not to go with a safe club, such as an iron. His second shot landed in an area of knee-deep rough after his ball bounced backward 50 yards off the grandstand and off of a rock in the Barry Burn. Had the ball stayed in the grandstand he would have been able to drop without penalty. Then the thick Carnoustie grass stifled him again, as his third shot went into the burn in front of the green. Van de Velde took his shoes and socks off and entered the burn, considering an attempt to play the ball from the water. He decided against it and instead took a drop (fourth stroke), at which point he hit his fifth shot into one of the deep greenside bunkers. He pitched out safely and buried an eight footer on his seventh shot for a triple-bogey. This forced the three-man playoff, which he eventually lost.

Due to the three-stroke lead van de Velde had going into the final hole, his name had already been engraved into the Claret Jug. Following his collapse, the engraver had to scratch through van de Velde’s name and then engrave Paul Lawrie’s name into it. Beginning with the 2000 Open, the winning golfer’s name is no longer engraved into the Claret Jug until after his scorecard is verified by tournament officials and signed by said winning golfer. Van de Velde’s play on this hole is still widely considered to be the worst “choke” in golfing history, and some have even used the term “pulling a van de Velde” to describe similar events.

Neither van de Velde nor Lawrie has been in contention during the final round of a major since.

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This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
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