Carnoustie Travel Guide

By Ryan Watson

Carnoustie is notoriously considered one of Britain's most difficult courses. Located in Scotland, it is perhaps this reputation that keep it from enjoying the same stature as some of the other Open Championship hosts. However, travelers to the region know the charm of this small town course and the amazing history that surrounds golfers.

Carnoustie Golf Links

The history of golf at Carnoustie is documented back to the 16th century, however, the current Carnoustie Golf links dates back to 1842. It was built on land owned by the Earl of Dalhousie and was designed by Allan Robertson and “Old” Tom Morris. The course predates the standardization of 18 hole courses, being originally only 10 holes, until Old Tom Morris extended it to the now-standard 18 holes in 1867. The course was purchased by the local government in 1890 and has remained open to the public ever since. Carnoustie links would receive a facelift in 1926 and 1999, but has retained its infamous difficulty.

Carnoustie Golf Links is the longest course to host the Open Championship at 7,400 yards and is an absolute nightmare to play when the winds come whipping from the coast. In fact, the psychological term describing a reality that drastically fails to meet high expectations is known as the “Carnoustie effect”. This phrase is derived from the shock many professionals had playing the difficult course during the 1999 Open Championship where even the winner Paul Lawrie scored +6. However, if you’re willing to face the challenge Carnoustie Golf Links are available for play to the golfing public.

Visitors Guide

The town of Carnoustie contains around 12,000 people and is located near the Scottish city of Dundee. In addition to Carnoustie Golf Links, there are numerous other historic courses dotting the area. The town of Carnoustie contains around 12,000 people and is located near the Scottish city of Dundee. As a result, Carnoustie remains a popular place to enjoy the centuries-old golfing traditions, charming pubs and delicious food. The area has many attractions outside of golf that are also worth visiting during your stay, including the famous Arbroath Abbey. The preserved ruins of the monastery founded by King of the Scots William the Lion in 1178 offers living history. The abbey was also the site of the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320 which declared the independence of Scotland from England. For more modern history, visit the RRS Discovery at Discovery Point. This ship and its crew set sail from Dundee in 1901 and spent two years exploring Antarctica during the golden age of Antarctic explorations. Or visitors can spend time in nature hiking the trails of the Corrie Fee National Nature Reserve to catch stunning views of the glens and surrounding highlands.

After exploring the area, try some of the local fare that make Angus a foodie destination. Angus beef is king here, and a hearty beef sandwich known as a “Dundee Peh on a Roll” offers a savory and vinegary take on the hot beef sandwich, and can be found at most lunch counters in Dundee. Another local food is the “Arbroath Smokie”, a salted and smoked haddock that harkens back to past Scandinavian settlers. For dessert, have a piece of Dundee Cake, a light and moist citrus cake. After eating your fill, head to Carnoustie’s own Shed 35 Brewery for locally made craft beer. Or for a taste of scotch, try local distillers Angus Dundee Distillers or Glencadam Whisky for a tipple of Scotland’s national spirit.

Other Courses to Play

If you're looking to make the most of your visit, consider using Carnoustie as your home base while you explore the region's many courses. The following are five beautiful and historic courses all within a 40 mile radius of Carnoustie Golf Links.

Panmure Golf Club

Panmure Golf Club is a classic links course located in the village of Barry. Founded in 1845, it is one of the oldest golf clubs in the world. The course in unique in that it is a links course that isn’t located on the coastline. The odd tree gives it a different feel, though the layout is textbook links course complete with dunes. Golfers should expect tight fairways surrounded by “barry rough”, a particularly difficult rough notorious for sinking scores.

Monifieth Medal

Monifieth Medal has roots dating all the way back to the mid-17th century and has both links and parkland holes. There are many undulating fairways snaking through the old dune ridges and smart bunkering throughout. The course requires accuracy over power, and the few tree-lined holes help make this course stand out. Founded in 1845, Monifieth Medal serves as a qualifying course for the Open Championship.

Montrose Medal

Golf has been played at Montrose since at least 1562 making it one of the oldest courses in the world. The Medal course features 14 of the holes played by the shoreline and is another classic links course. Deep bunkers along with tall rough mean that accuracy is a must. The course is noted for its variety of holes but sadly is currently threatened by shoreline erosion. That is one more reason this course is a must-play during your visit.

Ballumbie Castle

Ballumbie Castle Golf Club provides a parkland option to golfers experiencing links overload. This course challenges golfers by forcing them to use every club in their bag. The course puts an emphasis on approach shots as the wider fairways allow for more leeway off the tee than many of the area’s links courses. The most difficult stretch is holes 10-12 which play next to water and is known as Ballumbie’s Amen Corner.

St. Andrews

Last and certainly not least, the Old Course at St. Andrews is the stuff of golf legends and only 35 miles away from Carnoustie. The oldest 18 hole course in the world, St. Andrews is the spiritual home of golf and responsible for codifying the rules of golf. Golfers can feel the importance of the links and the 600 years of history that permeates the course. Early Open Championship winner (and Carnoustie architect) "Old" Tom Morris was the principal designer of the 18 hole course, introducing the concepts of the double green in the 1860s. The course remains a public course, but golfers must have a handicap of 24 or lower for men and 36 or lower for women to be able to play the Old Course. Golfers are well advised to book far in advance to play such hallowed grounds.

About the Author

Ryan Watson is a freelance sportswriter and history professor. He has been an avid fan of golf since his father signed him up for golf camp as a young child. Ryan enjoys following the professional game and learning about new equipment and gadgets.