Treading on possibly the very origins of links golf
Summary: Cost £46. Par 68. Score 85. Value (out of 5) – 4.5.
The Burnside course, or more correctly the Carnoustie Burnside course, is eclipsed by its magnificent Championship course neighbour, but that’s only because the Championship course is one of the greatest courses in the world! Do not play the Championship course without also trying The Burnside, which is a great naturally laid out links course.
Golf on the “Barry Links” was recorded as early as 1527, nearly 50 years earlier than St Andrews, making this the area that “Links” golf was first played. The Scottish Golf History web site lays out a strong case that these first games of links golf were most likely played on the land between the Barry Burn (more of that later) and the railway line currently where holes 1 to 5 of the Burnside course are.
Therefore, arguably, “The Burner” is the most historical of all links golf courses! You are truly walking among the ghosts of golf’s distant past playing here.
Of course, there are more recent historical stories worth telling. It’s largely forgotten that when Ben Hogan famously won his 1953 Open at Carnoustie he qualified on The Burnside course. It was therefore very apt that I played The Burnside with my brother-in-law, Colin Macqueen, since his fascination with golf started during the same summer of 1953 when he and his elder brothers were mesmerised by the large crowds watching Ben Hogan outside the window of their home, “Lismore House”, which overlooks the Burnside’s 18th green.
Colin has dined in Australia, his home of 50 years now, on the true story of him falling out of the upper floor bay window nearly causing Ben to miss a crucial putt!
The Burnside was designed by James Braid and opened in 1934, not long after Braid had redesigned the Championship course in 1926. Although a relatively short golf course at just under 6000 yards, many of the holes would easily be at home on an Open venue. The 5th, 9th and 14th are par 3s of the highest calibre, each with a very different challenge.
The 5th is surrounded by the Barry Burn (that of Jean van de Velde fame) where it’s virtually impossible to get close to a right-hand pin. The large plateau green at the 9th makes it imperative to hit the green with the tee shot. The long 14th is stoke index 1 for a good reason, and is a magnificent test.
The 17th, a par 4 of about 450 yards, needs to be played with a 3-shot strategy for all bar the very long hitters. I could also get into details on many other holes, the course is that good. To cap it all, the greens have very subtle borrows, so putting needs extra concentration. It is one of the great small James Braid courses.
With the large green keeping staff at Carnoustie, it was no surprise that the course was in such fine condition. The tees, fairways, bunkers, rough and greens were all superb, and to have the sun shine made for a quite memorable round. I scored 85 for a net level par score off my new handicap of 17; this was enough to beat Colin 3 and 1, which at least meant he could focus on the 18th green photograph, close to the site of Hogan’s zenith and also Colin’s boyhood fall.
A quite magnificent days’ golf.
Course Type: Links
Par 68 (1 par 5, 12 par 4s, 5 par 3s)
Distance (blue): 5740
Moly’s Gross score: 85