“The reason why Birkdale and all those wonderful courses along the Lancashire coast grew up is simply because the cotton barons of Manchester had weekend houses out in those parts of the world,” said John Hopkins, the British golf journalist and author. “And to get there they could go by train, and when they got there what they wanted to do was play golf. So the courses were built.”
In Carnoustie, which lies on the Angus Coast between Dundee and Aberdeen, there was at first a 10-hole course, which opened in 1842. But the development of a new coastal railway led to greater numbers of visitors, and the course was soon redesigned and expanded to 18 holes under the direction of Old Tom Morris.
Other famous Scottish courses have lost their train connections. The railway sheds on the 17th hole at St. Andrews, known as the Road Hole, are only replicas now, and the closest train station is in Leuchars, around six miles from the town center.
But tracks still run straight through the heart of Carnoustie, where there are three stations in a town of just over 11,000 inhabitants.
One of the stops is at Golf Street, which is not a marketing concept but an actual street name. On Friday, after the rain had cleared and the sun had returned, the view from the station’s pedestrian bridge was lovely, with the 17th and 18th fairways laid out below and the Barry Burn, Carnoustie’s infamous water-filled trench, serpentining through the scenery and the big galleries.
“Go back in time,” Hadwin said, “and it makes total sense that they would build these courses here.”
The question going forward is whether it will make sense to keep bringing the Open to towns as small as this one. Bill Thompson, captain of the Carnoustie Golf Club, told the BBC this week that it was time for more discussion and that the effect on the town, which last hosted the Open in 2007, was increasing.