The Open Championship at Carnoustie: Recollections and Predictions from Ken Martin

The Open Championship at Carnoustie: Recollections and Predictions
By Ken Martin, PGA Professional Certified in Instruction and General Management
Golf Program Instructor
Keiser University College of Golf

When I was teaching golf in Germany during the late 1990s, a good friend and I had the opportunity to travel and play Loch Lomond, St. Andrews, and Carnoustie Links. While the experiences at each will always bring fond memories, those at Carnoustie stand out as the most challenging relative to scoring. The weather was a mix of sun, light rain, and a variable breeze from 5 to 15 mph. Precise power is what best describes the requirements to navigate this historic links course. Three standout examples come to mind; holes 6, 16, and 18.

Number 6 is officially named “Hogan’s Alley,” done so by 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie to commemorate Ben Hogan’s victory there in 1953 after winning both the Masters and U.S. Open the same year. The hole is a 578-yard par 5 that typically plays into the prevailing wind, with out of bounds left, two pot bunkers in the middle to thwart the tee shot, and heavy rough and a water hazard to the right. While the width between the white stakes and the middle pot is only 20 yards, the undauntable Mr. Hogan took that route successfully for all for four rounds of the event.

Number 16 is a 235-yard par 3 that played straight into the wind the day I was there. I recall looking at my buddy, shaking my head and saying “really”? He nodded as we both reached for our drivers, which left us wedge shot seconds, and happy to finish with bogey 4s.

Number 18 is a 500-yard par 4 that vexes most challengers and is infamous for the van de Velde debacle in 1999. Again, this hole played into the wind, with our friendly match on the line. After my tee shot, I was left with 240 yards to carry the fateful burn, necessitating a layup. After a cautious approach to the center of the green and two putts to half the match, we retired to the 19th hole agreeing that we were no match for Car-nasty.

As for this year’s Open Champion, my money is on Dustin Johnson, a proven major champion with both power and precision. My guess is that he too will dare the left side of number 6!

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