The 147th Open Championship will return to Carnoustie Golf Links on Scotland’s east coast this July.
2018 will see the championship take place at Carnoustie for the eighth time, the last time being in 2007 when Pádraig Harrington won the first of his two consecutive Open titles.
In late 2016, golf course architects Mackenzie and Ebert were brought in to help with preparations for the championship. The firm has provided its services to Carnoustie Golf Links since 2011, when it was hired to design two and a half new holes on the Buddon course. These holes opened in 2014.
As the club prepared to host The Open once more, architect Martin Ebert made a number of subtle changes to the Championship course, Buddon course and the practice facilities at Carnoustie Golf Links.
Sandy Reid, the links superintendent at Carnoustie Golf Links, spoke to GCA about these changes, how preparations for this summer’s championship were going, and reported that Mackenzie & Ebert’s work has been well received.
“Martin oversaw the widening of the third fairway and repositioning of two fairway bunkers on the Championship course to give more options from the tee on this short, yet tricky par four,” Reid explained. “The third fairway had been altered a few times since 1997, but every change had still resulted in restricted options from the tee, which in turn made the back left of the green almost inaccessible for approach shots for everyday golfers and did nothing to ease the divot problem on the fairway.”
Reid said that he and Craig Boath – the head greenkeeper at Carnoustie Golf Links – had always intended to do this work at some point, but making such a change required the blessing of the R&A.
“That’s why Martin Ebert got commissioned to look at this hole,” Reid said. “Martin’s knowledge of contours and playing lines definitely ensured that the finished article very much has a ‘Carnoustie’ look and feel to it. Craig and I are very pleased with it, while every golfer I have spoken to thinks it’s a definite improvement to how it looked and played before. Whether the change effects how the professionals play the hole is still to be seen, as even if they lay up short of the bunkers, they will probably only be hitting nine iron at worst. But if they do take on the new right side of the fairway, it will certainly make access to that back left pin position that bit easier.”
The championship tee on the Championship course’s second hole was also moved, while Ebert also oversaw the construction of a new practice tee, the re-contouring and bunkering of the short game green and the reconstruction of the eighteenth green on the Buddon course. This green will act as the short game green for competitors during The Open.
Other changes to the Buddon course included the flattening and adjustments to the surrounds on the first green, and the moving of the forward tee on the eighteenth hole.
“The work was carried out by SOL Golf, with some assistance from ourselves,” Reid said. “We as a venue are delighted with the results.”
Reid said that he and the team at Carnoustie Golf Links have been extremely busy over the course of this winter as they prepare to once again welcome the Open Championship.
“80 of our 111 bunkers were revetted, and new spectator mounding has been added between the eighth and twelfth holes and alongside the fourteenth tee,” Reid said. “This was all carried out in-house. Approximately 1,700 square metres of turf was required for areas where we had removed gorse to improve spectator movement during The Open. The Championship ninth tee was extended forward 10 yards and re-turfed. We continue to have contractors onsite installing ducting for fibre optics, water and waste pipes, while we have also had a couple of new access roads and developed a 17,000 square metre compound for the Open contractors, who commence their build on 19 March.”
Turf for the project was provided by long-standing Carnoustie supplier Inturf, who are based in York, England.
Reid says The Open is not only vital to Carnoustie Golf Links, but to the wider economy of Scotland’s Angus region.
“We are fortunate to have hosted many large tournaments here, but as a greenkeeper there is no bigger tournament you will ever prepare your course for than The Open,” Reid added. “We maintain the course at a high level all the time anyway, so preparing it for The Open doesn’t require a massive amount of extra work. But we will have fairway protection measures in place from the end of May and, like all greenkeepers, hope that Mother Nature takes time to read our e-mails asking her for kind weather before and during the event!”
The 2018 Open Championship takes place from 19–22 July.
“As a venue we are proud to be able to host one of the world’s most iconic sporting events and the opportunity it gives us to show how great a test the Championship Course is,” he added. “We are proud of how challenging it is, but also of how fair it is and we believe the term ‘Car-Nasty’ is extremely unfair!”