Carnoustie's No. 18 gave Jean Van de Velde, and many others, fits. Carnoustie in Scotland ready for 2007 British Open, but open for the public

It's already been eight years since Jean Van de Velde's infamous collapse in the 1999 British Open in Carnoustie, Scotland. And while Van de Velde won't be there, the course will be the same one as where he pulled defeat from the jaws of victory, as the best golfers in the world descend on Carnoustie Championship Links for the 2007 British Open that gets underway this week.

Of course, while Van De Velde's final-hole meltdown has become legend at Carnoustie, there is plenty more history at this great golf course, and quite a bit more history yet to be written as Tiger Woods will attempt to defend one of the world's most important golf titles. Here's a look a Carnoustie.

Carnoustie Championship Links

The first thing to realize about Carnoustie is that you can play there. Yes, you. Want to take your shot at the 18th, where Van de Velde's triple-bogey lives in infamy? It's just a golf trip to Scotland away.

But playing Carnoustie is much more than the 18th and the dreaded memories of a Frenchman. And traveling golfers will soon discover what the pros already know - this is a golf course that can quickly jump up and bite you.

Carnoustie starts putting pressure on players once they hit No.5, a par 5 that demands a laser-accurate tee shot to hit the fairway and avoid a sandy grave. But No. 5 is just a taste of what players will get on the back nine of this historic run.

Hole no. 10 starts your dangerous journey home, as you'll be faced with a well-protected, 440-yard par 4. And then you'll work your way to the final four holes, which are as tough a quartet as you'll ever play.

"Avoiding a big number on the entire back nine, considered by some as the toughest stretch in golf, could be one of the greatest feats you experience in the game," wrote Brandon Tucker for "Scoring a seven or higher on any of the final stretch of long par 4s is a very real possibility. Mentally, the round can be draining, with large, contoured greens and bunkers everywhere."

Carnoustie changes

Since the British Open was last held at Carnoustie, some changes have been made to keep up with the times in this golf-technology boom era we live.

The par-4 third hole has had some difficulty added to it, as new patches of rough were added to make players think twice about attacking the green fearlessly.

No. 6 has received a new bunker, while No. 17 has been recontoured to make bailing out to the right a less attractive option. But while changes have been made, the course still plays as it always has - if you're looking for birdies, you better put them in the bank early.

"Try and get out of the gate well — the front nine is significantly easier than the backside. But you need to hit precise shots and get a little lucky to score well here, and just about every shot faces potential for disaster, a la Van de Velde," wrote Tucker.

Stay and play

The Carnoustie Hotel & Spa opened in 1999 to coincide with the last time it held the British Open. If you're looking for the perfect home base, this could be it. It includes the Club Carnoustie spa, which features a pool, steam room, sauna, hot tub and the full spa treatment.

Of course, during the British Open, the hotel is commandeered by the R&A for three weeks, so look elsewhere if you're coming to town to see the big tourney. Nearby St. Andrews is always a draw, both for the golf and for the Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, which overlooks the 18th green of the Old Course.

July 16, 2007

William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.

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