Thoughts regarding the Impact Zone from the 2010 British Senior Open
Carnoustie is the oldest club in the world, founded in 1839, though then it was only 10 holes. Tom Morris later redesigned the course and made it 18 holes in 1870. Known as the most difficult of all the Scottish Courses on the Open rotation (averaging 1.33 strokes higher than the next toughest Royal Lytham), Carnoustie’s fairways are as tight to drive as they are tight lied. The fairways are mowed with greens mowers at less than a ¼ inch. The old grass has roots that seemingly dig down through the loaming, sandy links soil so deep as to have no end. Little water is needed to keep them alive. Big divots just don’t happen here.
Hitting off such short, tight grass posses a challenge for golfers of all skill levels, even the pro’s. Watching average golfers really struggling with their irons here is an everyday occurrence. Swing bottoms that are not 4 inches in front of the ball, don’t stand a chance here. The resulting fat and thin shots will send your scores sky-rocketing. Even the pro’s, with their 4 inch in front swing bottoms, still struggle to make solid contact. The ball is sitting so low on the grass, that even a perfect swing will result in a shot hit a groove or two lower than normal on the clubface. If you strike a wedge, for example, one inch behind the ball, the ball may only fly ½ the normal distance.
I had finished my final round, shooting an even par 71, and was behind the 18th green watching as the groups behind me were finishing. Tom Watson had hit a proliflic drive on the downwind 18th and had a sand wedge from the fairway for his second shot. His wedge struck the ground about an inch fat, behind the ball, sending the ball looking like a wounded duck right into the barry burn, some 50 yards short of the hole. It was the type of shot you’re used to seeing high handicaps hit, but not a 5 time British Open Champion. Had Watson made the same swing and strike on the ball at his home course in Kansas City, the ball probably would have wound up 30 feet or so short of the pin, but not 50 yards short. That’s the difference of playing on fairways like those at Carnoustie.
I recommend bringing all your hybrids when you play golf in Scotland. They are more forgiving and have a lower center of gravity. The sole is designed to ride across the ground, not dig like an iron. If you hit behind the ball with a hybrid in Scotland, you’ll still get adequate results. If the strike is low on the face, you’ll still hit a decent shot. This was my thinking and the reason why I put two hybrids in my bag for the first time ever (3 and 4 hybrids).
And by the way, when you go to Scotland, stay at the Craigsanquhar. They have a beautiful restored mansion and now some gorgeous 3 bedroom cottages. And Billy is some kind of chef! And when you go, tell them Bobby sent you.