Carnoustie Golf Links: The Old Tom Trails

Though most people know Carnoustie Golf Links for the fearsome test posed by its Championship Course, it’s a place steeped in history.

The earliest records indicate that golf has been played at Carnoustie for almost five hundred years. But, more significantly, this small coastal town provided many of golf’s earliest ambassadors, responsible for travelling the globe and spreading the golfing gospel.

The influence of the so-called “Carnoustie 300” was particularly strong in the United States. Stewart Maiden succeeded his brother, Jimmy, as the professional at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and served as a mentor to the great Bobby Jones. The Smith brothers—Willie, Alex, and Macdonald—won three U.S. Opens and countless other titles among them, having first learned the game at Carnoustie from the respected professional and clubmaker Robert Simpson.

The course itself is a stern but fair test, having been refined by many different hands since the late 19th century, with each building on their predecessor’s work. In 1842, Allan Robertson laid out a 10-hole course with the help of Old Tom Morris; Tom returned to Carnoustie in 1867 to extend the layout to 18 holes. In 1926, James Braid introduced substantial changes to the routing in preparation for the course to host the Open Championship.

Ultimately, it’s the final three holes which will make or break a round. The 16th is a 250-yard par three featuring slopes which make it notoriously difficult to hold the green. The 17th demands a precise tee shot to find the “island”’ fairway, and then another long iron from around 200 yards to a well bunkered green. And the 18th tee shot is quite simply one of the toughest you will encounter anywhere in the world—anything significantly left or right of center is destined to find the Barry Burn, and anyone bailing out to the right will likely find one of the deep pot bunkers, ending any hopes of finding the green in two strokes.

Cookie Jar Golf visited the links earlier this year and brought some of this history to life with this beautiful short film, as part of their eight-part series on Old Tom Morris courses.

Have you played Carnoustie Golf Links?

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