It might miss the famous skyline of St Andrews – but Carnoustie links wins hands-down when it comes to the “phenomenon, disaster, brilliance and tragedy” of golf.
That’s the view of former Hearts and Scotland footballer turned photographer and author Donald Ford who has written several books about Carnoustie golf, and who says the return of the 147th Open Championship to the Angus town is, to many of the local population, a “perfect example of the curate’s egg”.
“For the golfers, it is, of course, both exciting and frustrating,” said Donald, 73, who scored 188 goals for Hearts during the 1960s and 1970s, and now lives near the links.
“The excitement over the prospect of the greatest names in world golf coming to take on ‘their’ beloved course has been building for weeks, as the legendary links takes on the look of a massive construction site.
“Quite apart from the erection of more seats than ever before – in stands for the anticipated 180,000 spectators – the ‘tented village’ could probably provide bed and breakfast for thousands if the R & A was of such a mind!”
Nevertheless, Donald says not everyone in Carnoustie is looking forward with anticipation.
For example, local golfers have faced disruption and there has been disappointment that local clubs will not enjoy similar ‘off course’ benefits which have, to date, been a feature of the town’s seven previous Open Championships.
That said, it is the magnificent Championship Course which will, without doubt, magnetise the crowds, as well as test the skills and shot construction abilities of the Open contestants.
Donald said: “It does have the greatest five-hole finish of any of the Open venues.
“It does have the greatest subtleties of borrow on at least 10 of the 18, perfectly constructed greens and – perhaps the greatest test of all – it does demand the relentless, essential requirement (from tee to green) of the next shot revealing the same level of skill in technique and execution as the last one did.
“For these reasons, it is, without question, ‘the hardest links in Open golf’.
“Aside from these demands, shot selection by the best golfers on the planet will be crucial – from the first ball struck on Thursday July 19 to the final putt on Sunday, July 22.
“The extraordinary level of concentration which is demanded of them as they take on, arguably, the most exhilarating, testing and potentially thrilling Open Championship golf course, is now accepted by the vast majority who have been to Carnoustie and attempted to defeat it.
“Of course, four calm days might just result in Tommy Fleetwood’s course record 63 at the 2017 Dunhill being relegated to just another number in the sequence.
“Should Carnoustie Links enjoy four ‘breathless’ days, however, something akin to a miracle must take place.
“It won’t happen, of course, and the tremendous skills of those descending on Carnoustie in July must include the aforesaid shot making – at the highest level in all conditions.
“Once again, therefore, this little Angus town is about to reinforce its totally unique position in world golf with an enormous number of people across the universe.
“Let us never forget, however, that how it does so is due to the quite extraordinary skills of Robertson, Morris, Simpson, the Smiths, Maiden, Braid, Wright, Philp, Calder – and Reid – to list but a few of the great names who have helped to create these wonderful links.
“The story of it all is now, without a doubt, legendary.
“Let’s hope that ‘The Carnoustie Story’ will have reached out even further by July 22…”