Course management has been identified as the key attribute players need to the Open at Carnoustie, according to the course’s head greenkeeper.
Craig Boath, pictured right with Paul Lawrie, has worked at the Angus links for 23 years and, in that time, has worked at two Opens, from being an apprentice greenkeeper for Lawrie’s victory in 1999 to deputy head greenkeeper for Padraig Harrington’s win in ‘07.
As well as Lawrie and Harrington, Carnoustie’s list of Open champions includes legends of the game Tom Watson, Gary Player and Ben Hogan – with Boath of the belief that another stellar name will join the roll of honour this summer due to the challenge provided.
“The guy who’ll win is the person who thinks their way around the course the best,” he told UK Club Golfer. “It’s absolutely vital that you do that well at Carnoustie. It’s not just a case of hitting driver off every par-4 and par-5 – there has to be thought going into every single shot and that’s where the importance of the caddie’s role comes in, too.
“Among the other challenges are that the course is well bunkered, so avoiding sand is a must, and the ability to perform in varying weather conditions, as you never know what can be thrown at you from day-to-day. No two holes are routed in the same direction so the wind can be very difficult to adjust to.”
Those conditions, in addition to the general difficulty of the course, has led the venue to develop the reputation of being the rota’s toughest.
Boath acknowledges that but reckons the nicknames Carnoustie gets aren’t a true reflection of the course, choosing instead to focus on the layout’s longevity, given that minimal design changes have been required over the years despite advances in golf club and ball technology.
“It’s a tag that has just stuck with us,” he said. “Ok, we are one of the toughest venues out there but we don’t want it to be called what we get called – we’d like it to come across a bit nicer than that.
“The course set-up will just be the same as what it has been at any other tournament – it’s the weather that plays its part here. You’re always playing against the weather here too.
“Carnoustie has stayed more or less the same length since James Braid redesigned the course way back in the day. It’s stood the test of time. If anything, the course will play fractionally shorter than it did in 2007.”