The game of golf has been played in Carnoustie for well over four centuries. The first indication that the game was being played in the Angus town can be found in the Parish Records of 1560 when the game of “gowff” was mentioned and there is every indication that the game has played an important part in the town’s life ever since. Carnoustie is certainly one of the best golf courses in Scotland.
Carnoustie’s first golfer might well have been a gentleman named Sir Robert Maule (1497-1560), a local landowner who was described as “a gentleman of comlie behaviour, of hie stature, sanguine in colour both of hyd and haire,” and who was “given to leicherie” and other sports such as “hawking, hunting and the gawf.”
Unfortunately, nobody knows how proficient Maule was at “gawf” or, for that matter, “leicherie”. As with so many of the older Scottish golf towns, the history of Carnoustie is not well recorded. We do not know the exact site where Maule and his colleagues “exercisit the gowf” in the 15th century but we do know that by 1839 the Carnoustie Golf Club had been formed, making it the oldest artisan club in the world.
Around that time, the Carnoustie course consisted of 10 holes, laid out by Allan Robertson, the greatest golfer of his time and the man generally acknowledged to be the first golf professional. Later, in 1867, Tom Morris Snr extended the course to 18 holes but it was not until 1926, when the great James Braid was brought in to oversee sweeping changes, that the course became ready to receive the Open Championship.
Since then, Carnoustie’s Championship course has become regarded as one of Britain’s finest, and most challenging, tests of golf. Occasionally, from time to time, the course was allowed to deteriorate but, under the watchful eye of now retired links Superintendent, John Philp, it has been restored and is now, not just a formidable challenge, but also one of the best-conditioned courses in the country as well.
Today, Carnoustie is visited by countless thousands of tourists, both from home and abroad. What they find is a course that is demanding but still eminently playable, provided the golfer hits the right shots at the right time. It is, in short, a wonderful test of golf, and one that compares with anything found elsewhere in the world.