St Andrews hosts the 30th British Open on Thursday to celebrate the 150th Open Championship. The Old Course has hosted more Open Championships there than any other venue, which is hardly surprising. It considers itself the birthplace of golf and It is planned by the R&A, which oversees the Open, to host the event every five years.
Surprisingly, the second-placed course, Prestwick Golf Club, synonymous with star player Old Tom Morris and the advent of the Championship itself, has hosted 24 championships, but none since 1925.
Prestwick is not alone in falling off the rota, or schedule. Three other courses that hosted Opens appear to have been removed for good: Musselburgh Links, Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club and Prince’s Golf Club. And there is another, Turnberry Golf Club, which has famous duels for the trophy, the Claret Jug.
It is clear that a lot of attention is paid to rota courses. St Andrews, Royal Liverpool, Troon, Royal Portrush, Carnoustie and Muirfield have all hosted Commemorative Opens. Anyway, what happened to drop other, historical courses from the open rota?
Prestwick Golf Club
Prestwick, Scotland, is where the Open Championship began. Old Tom Morris, the first international golf star, created Prestwick. He sent out an original invitation to Britain’s best golfers to crown the Champion Golfer of the Year. He then went on to win four early Opens (though not the first that Willie Park claimed).
The club helped shape the early days of the Open Championship, and it pulled its weight with 24 Opens between 1860 and 1925. He also played a role in the creation of the Claret Jug, which the champion holds for one year. The one-year limitation was significant. After winning three consecutive Opens at Prestwick, young Tom Morris, son of old Tom, was entitled to keep the prize of the tournament: the red leather belt. Without a belt, organizers invented the claret jug in 1872.
But in 1925 Prestwick’s streak of Opens came to an end. It wasn’t dramatic; It was logistical. The famous club could not accommodate the growing number of fans who wanted to watch in person.
Although Jim Barnes, an Englishman living in the United States, won the Claret Jug, there was more to the question of who lost it – and how.
“It was terrible crowd control in 1925 that cost MacDonald Smith his chance to win,” said Stephen Proctor, golf historian and author of The Long Golden Afternoon: Golf’s Glory Age, 1864-1914.,” said of the Scottish footballer who was in the fray. “People loved him to death. They really wanted the Scotsman to win. The whole crowd followed him in the final round. The theory was that people just excited him. “
Space issues, crowds and growing interest in watching the Open were problems at a tight, small course like Prestwick. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, which organized the Open at the time, saw interest grow. (In 2004, the golf club formed a separate group, the R&A, to oversee its championships, including the Open.)
“The holes are packed closely together, so crowd movement between holes would have been impossible in the 1940s and beyond,” said Roger McStrwick, golf historian.
Despite its short length for the modern game – just 6,500 yards – and its undesirable location, Prestwick has its supporters.
“It’s a mistake that it hasn’t been mainstreamed since then,” said Ron Morissette, co-founder of the Golf Club Atlas, a forum for golf architecture. “It has the meatiest, biggest par 4s that stretch to 10 of the sixth holes. But architectural tastes change over time.”
Mike Woodcock, a spokesman for the R&A, said in explaining the rota that the Open “requires a large footprint to be able to stage it, as well as an outstanding links golf course that will test the world’s best golf and the necessary transport infrastructure. Allow tens of thousands of fans to come and go every day.
“It’s a high-threshold hit.”
Musselburgh, also a Scottish course, was a family of Park. Willie Park Sr., who won the first Open Championship in 1860, came from there. He won the Open three more times, most recently in 1875. His brother, Mango Park, won it in 1874. And his son Willie Park Jr. won the Open Championship in 1887 and 1889.
Willie Jr.’s victory proved significant: it was the last Open held in Musselburgh. The course had significant limitations even in the 19th century. It’s only nine holes and it was hard to get to. As the Open format expanded to 72 holes, it was too small.
It was also St Andrews and the R&A operating the new home of golf, which led to Musselburgh being removed from the original rota, which also included Preswick and St Andrews.
“In 1892 it was Musselbrew’s turn to host the Open,” said Mungo Park, an architect and Parks descendant. “But in 1891 the Honorable Company [of Edinburgh Golfers] bought Mirfield. They had the right to hold the Open Championship wherever they wanted and they took it to Muirfield.
“My uncle, who won the 1889 Open, was a man of some influence in the golf world,” Park added. “And he was not afraid to challenge the masters. He said this is not correct. You can’t take it from Musselburgh. But they probably had the right to take it with them, and they did. “
Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club and Prince’s Golf Club
Three open tournaments were held between them. Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club arrested two and Prince’s Golf Club one.
Royal Cinque Ports is in Dil, an English town with small, narrow streets. Modern Open is a big production. And there are other, more acceptable places in England. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful golf course,” said Morissette of Golf Club Atlas. The fact that it cannot host the Open Championship in no way detracts from the golf course’s merits.
In 1932, Princes Golf Club in England put on a show with its only Open: American great Gene Sarazen, who would go on to win all four majors in his career, won his only Open there. He defeated Smith, who had lost his last Open at Prestwick in 1925.
The case of Turnberry in Scotland is different. It is a rigorous test of golf that has hosted four championships. In 1977, Turnberry’s Duel in the Sun pitted Tom Watson against Jack Nicklaus, with Watson eventually winning. It last hosted the Open Championship in 2009.
But in 2014, Donald J. Trump bought Turnberry and named it Trump Turnberry. The place of the course was postponed to a rota.
“Turnbury will be missed because of its super TV optics and sea views,” said David Hamilton, author of Golf – Scotland’s Game.
While politics often play a role in where the Open goes, today it’s also about comfort and infrastructure. And this is what led to the cancellation of many other courses.
“The Open is getting bigger and bigger, which has eliminated courses over time,” McStravick said. “Some were very short. Some were unavailable. The fortunes of some clubs changed, so he moved to a neighboring course.
He added: “You like to play the heroes of the day on the same links that the legends played on. The magic of the Open is that it directly connects the old Tom Morris Bobby Jones Ben Hogan Jack Nicklaus to Seve. [Ballesteros] Rory McIlroy”.