Carnoustie, Panmure, and More

Hearts have been broken by the Barry Burn on the 18th hole on the Carnoustie Links Championship Course
Hearts have been broken by the Barry Burn on the 18th hole on the Carnoustie Links Championship Course

It’s one word, Carnoustie, and it evokes images of nasty Open Championship moments where a single golf course got the best of some of the world’s finest golfers.

But, as we discovered last night and today, Carnoustie and the surrounding area is defined by more than just a single golf course.

In this seaside time in the Historic Heartland of Scotland, golf is an integral part of life whether it be playing at the three public courses within the Carnoustie Links, the two layouts at the public Montifieth Golf Links or at the nearby Panmure Golf Club, which is privately owned but accepts outside play.

At the centre of all this is the Carnoustie Golf Hotel.  Opened in 1999 this magnificent property overlooks the Carnoustie Links Championship Course, providing unrivaled views of the 1st tee and 18th greens.  I was fortunate to lay my head in the Jean Van De Velde suite last night, and will do so again tonight.  I am proud to say it did not have an adverse effect on my golf game today and certainly served up a stunning morning view of the final test at Carnoustie Championship as I looked out from my balcony.

As the Championship Course is currently closed for regular maintenance (except on weekends) we were left to seek golf elsewhere today and Panmure was the chosen locale to fit the bill.  And did it ever.

Largely unknown to many people, Panmure Golf Club is acclaimed as the 16th oldest in the world having been established in 1845.  With such a pedigree (and for a number of other reasons that I will get to) we looked forward to making it our first full round of our Ultimate Golf Road Trip.  Just 1.9 miles from the Carnoustie Golf Hotel in the village of Barry, the jaunt over was a quick one.

The most significant thing I can convey about Panmure (at least at this time – I’ll save more for our full story) is that Ben Hogan practiced for a time at Panmure prior to the 1953 Open Championship, making it just one of two courses he would ever play in Scotland.  There is good reason why.

As a final qualifying course for the Open Championship when held at Carnoustie, Panmure is stern in the test it puts forward.  It can say that it might be the hardest golf course under 6600 yards I have ever seen.  When a 165 year old golf club has a course record just a few strokes under par and has been played by the best in the world, you get a feel for what I am saying.

It has a simple layout, but one that sports 85 deep bunkers and high waving rough and oodles of thick gorse bushes that line narrow fairways.  It’s a stunner.

The Panmure Golf Club (est. 1845) Clubhouse
The Panmure Golf Club (est. 1845) Clubhouse

After the game in which we both fared well (and enjoyed the ambience of trains rushing by regularly on the parallel rail line) we were pleased to have lunch and then have some time with the Club Secretary, Charles Philip.  His knowledge of golf in the region was impeccable and his pride in the club was both evident and justified.

Panmure is not to be dismissed by those who visit this region.

After lunch we made our way back to Carnoustie and gave Colin McLeod, Manager of Golf Services of the Carnoustie Golf Links, a ring.  At his offices he explained the structure of golf at Carnoustie.  Six clubs play out of the three courses at the links with his operation running the courses themselves.  All those who join the clubs are simply members of those clubs and then must purchase some form of a seasonal ticket for play on the links.  This offering is only available to those who live locally.   Others can be members at the clubs but must pay the regular “outsider” fees.

What is interesting is that demand is so high for season tickets that those eligible to purchase them must start with a ticket to the par 66 Buddon Course (scheduled for renovation and strengthening in the next 2-4 years), progress to the Burnside Course (usually waiting 5 years for that privilege) and after 12 years, get access to the full bore ticket for all three courses.  (Which only costs 360 pounds if you need to know)

It was a fascinating insight to one of the world’s most notorious and well-known courses.

We capped the day with a rainy walk through the town of Carnoustie.  Sleepy, historic, and charming, we counted at least 3 golf shops, several inns with golf themes, and numerous other references of the sport, be it in signs or road names.

Jeff and I both have a new perspective on Carnoustie, and when the 2011 Ricoh Women’s British Open is played here next summer, we’ll look at it with a more rounded knowledge.

To plan your own Ultimate Golf Road Trip to Scotland check out Ultimate Golf Vacations and Visit Scotland.

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