Meet Golfweek’s Top Course Evaluators: Linda Carrier


In this first in a series of articles featuring profiles of some of the men and women serving as course assessors for Golfweek’s Best, Golf week Auburn architecture panelist, author and professor Jim Hansen speaks with Linda Carrier of Pinehurst, North Carolina.

At 56 and Type 1 diabetic with an insulin pump, she recently finished fifth in the grueling World Marathon Challenge, a 183-mile race involving the incredible running of seven marathons in seven days across seven continents. The retired vice president of infrastructure and operations for a large Blue Cross Blue Shield plan on the West Coast, Carrier has evaluated 139 courses.

Golfweek’s Best uses over 800 reviewers to develop its course rankings. Frequently scoring courses alone and sometimes at established events on courses around the world, these players share their thoughts on 10 scoring categories ranging from memorizing par 3s to shaping features built into the ground. They then compile an overall score on a scale of 1 to 10 points for each course. The diversity of the reviewer network ensures that the rankings of Golfweek’s top courses do not become one-dimensional, but rather respond to a wide variety of thoughts and skill levels.

Linda Carrier, Golfweek’s top course reviewer, right, on a tee at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort with colleague Sue Hennessy (courtesy Linda Carrier)

Jim Hansen: Linda, when and how did you become an appraiser for Golf week?

Linda Carrier: With my husband, Eric, I became an evaluator in 2018 after meeting and playing with another evaluator, David Madison. We had known David for many years and after moving from Seattle to North Carolina we had many more opportunities to play golf with David and his wife, Carol. During these rounds we were discussing course design, what we liked and disliked and which architect courses we enjoyed playing the most.

Hansen: Where did you grow up and what were the first courses you played?

Carrier: I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, but I never really played growing up. Several times I watched my dad and grandfather load their clubs in the trunk of the car and head for the golf course, but never followed or played. It was when Eric and I moved to Seattle that I first started playing. I am a runner and would run with work friends every morning. One of these friends was also a golfer and we were discussing the game on our trails. One day she told me that our company was having a golf tournament and asked me if I would like to play. I had thrown a lot of softball and baseball bats in my day, but never a golf club, but I said “of course”. Eric came over, as I was using his clubs, and helped me decide which club to strike. On a par 3 hole, closest to the pin, I hit a blow and although it bounced off a tree, it came to rest very close to the pin and I won a small trophy . I was addicted! I played my first round of golf at the age of 36.

Hansen: How would you describe your game and your skill level?

Carrier: I consider myself to be an average or bogey golfer. One of the reasons golf is so fun is that with every game I try to improve something, whether it’s my putting or my chipping. The other reason is the social aspect: you meet so many great people on a golf course. My one and only strength is the ability to hit very straight records 90 percent of the time. Eric says I’m a dowser in a 4-man race!

Hansen: What has been your greatest achievement as a golfer?

Carrier: We travel to Scotland, Ireland and England every year except during the pandemic. My husband and I really enjoy the links golf, the history of the game, the beautiful areas where some of these golf courses are built, and we believe there is no better place than the UK. Some of my biggest accomplishments include almost hitting the ninth hole at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, becoming a Golf week reviewer and become a member of North Berwick West Links, one of my absolute favorite courses in the world.

Hansen: Clearly you are very passionate about golf.

Carrier: There are so many reasons why you can be passionate about golf, but for me I only have a few. It is a game that can be played individually or as a team. The more games I play, in all parts of the world, designed by different architects, built with different herbs and approaches to golf course maintenance, makes it very interesting and challenging. For example, I love tie courses because I’m a big fan of the bump and run approach to the greens. The challenges you face with the weather on the links courses require you to change the way you play.

Hansen: Even more than with golf, it seems, your heart, soul and self-esteem have been in your race. I read that you started running to stay healthy, didn’t you? You have had type 1 diabetes since the age of 14.

Carrier: That’s right. I’m someone who likes to challenge myself and see what I can do.

Hansen: Your career as a long-distance runner is simply breathtaking.

Carrier: I have completed 66 marathons and 55 half marathons so far. One of my goals is to run a marathon in all 50 states. I made 29 states. I have also completed the “Majors” World Marathon, where you have to run the Boston, Chicago, New York, London, Berlin and Tokyo marathons. Finishing the Majors is difficult, because you have to qualify – run fast! – and / or be drawn in the lottery. I finished them in 2015.

Hansen: As incredible as it may be, your fight against the World Marathon Challenge, not just once but twice, once in 2019 and the other in 2020, amazes me. How could you handle this?

Carrier: This is a race where you run seven marathons across seven continents in seven days. In 2019 we started in Antarctica, then we ran in Cape Town, South Africa, followed by Perth, Australia, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Madrid, Spain, Santiago, Chile and finishing at Miami. In 2020 the weather was so bad in Antarctica, we had to start in Cape Town and then go to Antarctica and Perth and so on. Instead of Santiago, Chile, we ran in Fortaleza, Brazil, and finished again in Miami. Santiago was in trouble and the race organizer felt it was dangerous to run here.

Hansen: How do you go from one continent to another so fast that you can run again the next day?

Carrier: In short, you board a charter plane and as soon as you land, you run the marathon. As soon as the last person is done, you get back on the plane and fly to the next continent. We ate, slept and lay on the plane. We were about 36 mad runners to participate in this event. There is no doubt that it is very difficult to run consecutive marathons, but then add to that crossing multiple time zones and running in extreme heat and cold conditions.

Golfweek’s top course reviewer Linda Carrier takes a break next to a ghost tree at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s new Sheep Ranch. (Courtesy of Linda Carrier)

Hansen: Play golf for three or four consecutive days in a Golf week the event should be a breeze for you. For many of us, we find it quite difficult to accomplish this physically and emotionally.

Carrier: Being an appraiser has been a blessing. I have been one since 2018 and have evaluated 139 courses so far. Usually I travel and golf with my husband and often with another couple of reviewers. What I find very valuable is that as a woman I see things a little differently. I am an average golfer and have played courses where there were many holes that had very long ranges. I don’t mind one or two, but if you have 50 percent where most women wouldn’t be able to clean up the rough, that doesn’t make a fun day.

I also see how some classes don’t devote a lot of time or thought to women playing their class. Starting boxes are hard to find or not mowed, or starting markers point to trees, or tree management has been overlooked from the front starts. Also, as a woman I’m not a longball hitter so my landing zones are different than the men.

Hansen: I often ask reviewers to identify their weaknesses as reviewers. What might be some of your own weaknesses?

Carrier: One of my weaknesses is not understanding the overall design of a course, maintaining it, keeping costs manageable and being able to adjust the course to changing customers over time. time. By the way, I just took a part time job at the Country Club of North Carolina as a golf course “maintenance technician”. I want to better understand what it takes to keep a golf course well maintained and beautiful.

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