On the Course: Carnasty West
August 2, 2006
Carnoustie Golf Course, the stage for next year’s British Open, has the reputation of being the hardest golf course in the world. (Its nickname is “Carnasty.”) I have played the course many times, often with visiting American golfers. These visitors often amuse me with their cockiness. Around hole 14, I invariably hear comments like “this course isn’t so bad” and “what’s all the fuss about?”But the Scots who created the game hundreds of years ago understood that a game of golf, like life, can only be judged at its completion. Potential means nothing. Results are everything. So the last four holes at Carnoustie offer what locals call “a sting in the tail” – four brutally difficult closing holes that either cement reputations or break hearts. French golfer Jean Van De Velde lost the Open at Carnoustie in 1999 after taking seven shots on the final hole when 6 would have won.Don’t laugh, but I see a lot of similarities between Carnoustie and River Valley Ranch Golf Course in Carbondale. Unlike its upvalley neighbor, Aspen Golf Course, which places a premium on cagey, strategic golf, River Valley Ranch encourages a relaxed, free-swinging approach – at least until the last four holes.Having widened the fairways and trimmed the rough, RVR’s current custodians have strived to make Carbondale’s playing experience as pleasant as possible.When I played there last week I was virtually on cruise control at even par through the first two thirds of the round. On the tee at 15, however, everything changed.A long par-4, on which missing the fairway guarantees bogey, is followed by a 225-yard par-3, a 600-yard par-5 (Out of bounds both left and right) and a tricky par-4 that requires a shaped, right-to-left tee shot over a ravine.Holing out my final putt for a 76, I let slip a wry smile and a small chuckle. Never take anything in life – especially not golf – for granted.