One of the most famous courses in the world, and consistently ranked as not only one of the best, but also one of the hardest, Carnoustie is set to be a special venue as it hosts the AIG Women's Open for the second time in 2021.
Explore the course in detail below as we continue to count down to the championship, with input from Carnoustie's Superintendent Craig Boath. You can also find out plenty more about Carnoustie here ahead of the 45th playing of the championship.
Craig Boath, Carnoustie Superintendent:
"The thing about Carnoustie Golf Links, is that there’s no hole that goes the same direction. They all go in different directions. So the wind, sometimes it's helping you, sometimes it's not helping you. Sometimes it's coming off the side or off the other side, or you’re straight into the wind. So that can play tricks on you, the wind affects every hole in a different direction.
It all depends on the weather. We’ll provide the golf course that reflects the weather. From a greenkeeping point of things, we’re always on top of the golf courses, doing a lot of top dressing, doing a lot of maintenance. The course is normally very firm, the greens are very firm, so we’d expect a firm golf course, whether we get a 2018 (Open Championship) with really dry fairways all depends on the weather, but the course will reflect the weather.
The person that’ll win the AIG Women's Open will be a good ball-striker, who can keep their ball on the fairway and play consistently for four rounds. Somebody that can keep their concentration, because the last four or five holes can ruin you. If you can have that mentality of just keeping focused all the way through that, even if you get a birdie or two on the last five holes, that’s what makes you a champion here, just keeping that concentration going.
It’s more about control of the ball, and somebody who doesn’t get frustrated with themselves, you can’t overthink playing here. You’ve just got to concentrate on your own game and don’t overthink it."
The opening hole at Carnoustie, ‘Cup’, seems benign at first glance, but has much more to it. Add in any first-tee jitters, and the hole becomes a tricky one to make par on. Out of bounds and a burn lurk to the left-hand side of a fairway that cambers to the right, with a bunker placed in ideal tee-shot range. Find the first fairway on the left side and you’ll have earned a view of the green. If you err on the side of caution, however, a rare blind approach at Carnoustie awaits from the right half, and it’s important to avoid the small bunker hidden on the right side of the green. A par here is a solid opening score.
“The first green is in a dip, that’s how the hole is called ‘Cup’. We’ve got a tall flag there so you can just see the top of the flag, and if you’re on the left side of the fairway higher up you can get a better view of the pin for your approach shot. There’s not a lot of movement on the greens at Carnoustie, but there’s a bunker up to the right-hand side of the green just tucked in. It’s hidden so you can’t see it from the fairway, so you have to hit a good shot into the first.” craig Boath
The second hole at Carnoustie is a difficult challenge, stretching over 430 yards at full length and with a tricky crosswind commonly felt. Bunkers will find any errant tee shots, and a long green presents challenges of clubbing, in particular on a wet day. Make par here, and you’ll be happy heading to the third hole.
“The 2nd is a hard hole. It will play 430, 440 yards. The wind’s coming off the right-hand side and it’s a very long green, over 50 yards in length. And that in itself can make a big difference on that hole – that's four club lengths difference from a pin at the front to a pin at the back. So if you’re walking off with a birdie there it would be good. ” Craig boath
Jockie’s Burn is a short par-4 at just 325 yards, but requires good positional strategy as well as execution. Players have room to hit their tee shots, but must decide how aggressive they wish to be on this very slight dog-leg right. Fairway bunkers await loose shots to both sides and those who prove too bold could find the burn that cuts in from the end of the fairway. From a good position in the fairway, a short approach yields a good birdie opportunity, but any approach caught slightly heavy will find Jockie’s Burn, which guards the very front of the green.
Another slight dog-leg follows at the fourth, and players will be looking to pick up a further birdie here. Bunkers are in play with most clubs off the tee, but a good drive up the left will open up the only double green on the course, shared with 14. It’s crucial to again club correctly, and avoid an array of bunkers protecting any loose approach shots to the right or left. A good chance for birdie, however, as players look to find their way under par early on.
“You kind of want to make your birdies early on. They’re all tricky holes, but you need to get something out of the first 13 holes that can put you in a good stead for the last four or five holes. It’s the hardest finish in golf.” Craig boath
Characterised by a two-tiered green, pin placement on this hole can determine if Brae represents a great birdie chance or not. A top-tier pin position adds significant length to the hole, and with a tricky tee shot requiring successful navigation of two bunkers and a ditch at the end of the fairway, it is important to remain focused on the fifth.
One of the most famous holes at Carnoustie, the sixth can be a brutal hole, particularly as it is usually played straight into the prevailing wind. Out of bounds runs all the way down the left, and two bunkers sit in the middle of the fairway. Players can either attempt to go down ‘Hogan’s Alley’, a narrow strip of fairway to the left of the bunkers and tight to the out of bounds, that Ben Hogan famously hit all four days on his way to winning The Open in 1953, or they can bail out to the right-hand side. Choosing the latter option, however, brings more bunkers and rough into the equation, and the lay-up area becomes just as intimidating at times as going for the green. Mercifully a fairly innocuous surface, the green will be out of reach in two for the majority of players on most days. On a still day, the sixth is a good birdie chance, but on a windy day, a par here will likely pick up shots on the field.
“As a par 5, you’re kind of looking to get a birdie there, but you’re playing into the wind as well. It all depends on the pin position, but you’ve got the tight out of bounds left so that puts a bit of fear into some people. ” Craig boath
Out of bounds continues to run down the left-hand side of Plantation. Longer hitters posses a distinct advantage on this hole, with the ability to potentially carry two dangerous bunkers that await tee shots bailed out to the right. For shorter hitters, a very accurate drive will be required, or a positional play short of the bunkers on the right. If the fairway is found with the tee shot, which is no mean feat, the seventh then becomes an excellent birdie chance.
The first par 3 on the Carnoustie Championship Course is aptly named, but don’t be fooled into thinking 'Short' is easy. Out of bounds is incredibly tight on the left side of the green, and any player who sends the ball slightly left will be praying one of the two greenside bunkers prevents a third shot from the tee. A further bunker awaits short right, as the green sits above the player. A common crosswind adds to the difficulty, and presents a challenge to even the best of ball-strikers.
Like Plantation, Railway has a well-protected fairway with bunkers on both sides. Long hitters may attempt to carry the bunkers and find the fairway beyond, but many players will lay back of the bunker 240 yards down the left-hand side. From there, a lengthy approach awaits, and a back-left pin is highly inaccessible. A front pin represents the best chance to make a birdie on this tricky hole.
Over 420 yards long, South America provides a difficult start to one of the toughest nines in championship golf. Bunkers guard the right side of the fairway very well, and the safe shot, depending on the wind, is a long iron or wood towards the distant bunker. Bolder tee shots will flirt with the right-hand-side bunkers, but will be rewarded with a shorter approach, which is especially valuable on the 10th. The Barry Burn intersects 30 yards or so short of the green, and a tree overhanging down the right side is visually intimidating. Two front-left bunkers make the entrance to this small green very tight, and a regulation par would be a very good result for the players in August.
The par-4 11th provides some respite after the difficult 10th, with two options for players off the tee. Depending on the wind and tee placement, John Philp can be drivable, and with a fairly large green straddled by small bunkers on either side, the substantial risk of going for the green can pay off with an eagle. If the tee is back or the wind into, however, players can lay up short of four fairway bunkers and still have a short approach to the green, which slopes from back to front. Approach shots stop fairly quickly, but players will want to leave their ball under the hole for the easiest birdie chance.
After hopefully picking up a birdie on the 11th, players now move into a three-hole scoring stretch with two par-5s. The first of these is Southward Ho, a hole that stretches over 500 yards at full length, and depending on the wind can offer a straightforward birdie chance or a tricky test to make par. With little wind, players will be able to leave themselves just over 200 yards without bringing any fairway bunkers into play. From there, a wonderful design at the mouth of the green awaits. A narrow ‘T’ shape entrance, with bunkers on both sides, must be accessed to hit the green beyond. The longest hitters will be able to carry onto the green directly. If unable to reach in two, however, players will be able to find a fairly generous layup area and try to make their birdie with a wedge in hand.
Carnoustie’s shortest hole is Whins, a tricky hole whenever the wind gusts. With firm conditions and a helping breeze, accessing any front flag will prove highly difficult, but with a 43-yard long green in an hourglass shape, pin position again will dictate the shot that players will attempt. A devilish front bunker lurks for poorly struck shots, while run off areas to the right and left also possess magnetic bunkers for off-line shots. With a friendly wind and pin, though, players will be looking to make a two on this wonderful Championship hole.
Another famous par-5 on the Carnoustie Championship layout, the 14th hole can represent a great birdie chance. But, as with every hole at Carnoustie, players must be on their guard. A drive down the right half, avoiding a lone bunker expertly placed on that side, will leave the players with a good angle to the long double green shared with the fourth. However, players will need to avoid the Spectacles, two giant cross bunkers guarding the green. A ball landing in these turns a potential eagle chance into a damage limitation exercise. If a player can’t carry the Spectacles, then a relatively easy layup is an option should they wish to avoid disaster. A brilliant Championship hole that offers the last clear birdie chance at Carnoustie, with quite possibly the toughest closing four holes in golf lying ahead.
“You probably want to be trying to pick up shots in the first 13 holes that you play, because when you come to the 14th that’s when the course starts to get a little bit tougher. The 14th is a par 5, it’s a chance to get maybe an eagle there if you’re lucky. A birdie is good as well but if you get an eagle it puts you up the leaderboard in contention before you go into the hard holes. 15, 16, 17 and 18, it’s the hardest finish in golf.” Craig boath
Lucky Slap is a brutal hole, and two strokes true to the hole's name may be required to find this putting surface. Often played into the wind and with a narrow drive in prospect, the tee shot may look benign to the untrained eye, but mounds to the left on the seemingly safe side can create irregular stances and make swinging difficult for a highly testing, long approach. Two bunkers and gorse to the right-hand side will gobble up loosely played strokes. If the fairway is successfully found, the player’s job doesn’t become any easier, with a miniscule window needing to be found with a long approach shot. Players who have the luxury to carry two cross bunkers just short of the green still face issues finding the putting surface, with further traps protecting both sides of the green. Par here, and players will have gained on the field.
“The prevailing wind is off your left shoulder and it’s a narrow fairway. You’ve got bunkers on the right-hand side, the fairway is sloping from left to right, but when you get down onto the fairway and play your second shot into the green, you know you’ve got to thread it between four bunkers. And it’s down to a dip in the green, you can go through the back. It’s just a really tricky hole at 440 yards.” Craig boath
At 220 yards, Barry Burn is one of the toughest par-3s the competitors at the AIG Women's Open will play all year long, particularly with any kind of wind into, which is commonly the direction of the gale on this daunting hole. A short left bunker is perfectly placed to catch running shots, with a trio of sand traps guarding the right-hand side. A long, thin green awaits, and a shot over the bunker to the left of the surface certainly gives players missing the green the best chance to salvage a score. As is the case on the previous hole and the following two, a par is an excellent score.
“Tom Watson described it as the hardest par-3 in golf. If you walk off 16 with a par you would take it in an instant at 220 yards. It’s kind of a plateau green, up onto the second tier you can fall off the green to the left-hand side if you’re not careful with your shot. Same with the right-hand side, it’s guarded by bunkers at the front.” Craig Boath
The first of two iconic parallel holes, Island is a visually wonderful hole from the tee. For players yet to experience the hole, picking a line can prove tricky in what seems more like an archipelago than a single island which the Barry Burn intersects. The cut-off point from the Burn ensures players will likely be unable to hit driver, despite the significant length of the hole. The best of tee shots down the right will leave a more manageable, if not short, approach, while a stroke down the left, although much riskier and leaving a longer approach, will open up the green. The approach shot is tricky regardless of wind direction, with bunkers seemingly dotted around the entire front section of the green. Finding this putting surface and making a par would again be an excellent effort.
One of golf’s most well-known closing tests, very few holes in the history of the game have provided more drama. The champion of the 2021 AIG Women’s Open will know that no lead is safe until the 72nd hole is completed. Out of bounds, water and bunkers are all abundant on this hole, and many have fallen foul of all three. From the tee, a driver is likely required to take the Barry Burn out of play short, right and left, but use of that club will bring in three bunkers to the right-hand side and gnarly mounded rough to the left further up. An incredibly narrow gap must be found, and anything less than driver will leave a lengthy approach. Bunkers surround the green, but are in fact a good result for many players, with out of bounds running perilously tight down the left, and the Barry Burn famously short of the green. The player who navigates the closing four holes at Carnoustie best, including the treacherous 18th, will more than likely be the Champion come Sunday night.
“Everybody knows the 18th. You’ve got the burn on the left-hand side, three bunkers on the right-hand side, and for your second shot you’ve got to carry the burn again. There’s also two bunkers up at the green, but out of bounds is on the left-hand side and it’s quite tight. If you pull it just a little bit, there’s more than a chance that your ball could run off the green and fall out of bounds. There’s a lot of drama at the 18th.” Craig Boath