The History of the Open

The Open Championship is the oldest of the four Majors, dating back to October 17, 1860 when the Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland hosted the first event.

Since then the tournament has been held on one of nine links courses in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where this year’s 148th event will take place at Royal Portrush between July 18 and 21.

Among the most famous courses to have staged the Open in Scotland are the Old Course at St Andrews, with its wide double fairways and intimidating bunkers, and Carnoustie, where even the best golfer is tested to the full by the elements.

Other fabled Scottish courses include Muirfield, where Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus lifted the Claret Jug; Trump Turnberry Resort on the spectacular Ayrshire coastline; and Royal Troon, the setting for Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson’s epic duel in the 145th Open in 2016.

Next year’s host, Royal St George’s, formed the backdrop for Darren Clarke’s remarkable victory in 2011, while Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham & St Annes and Royal Liverpool have also been the scene of some memorable Open moments.

The Open returns to Royal Portrush for the first time in 68 years, where locals Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy will be battling it out with the likes of world No.1 Brooks Koepka, Tiger Woods and defending champion Francesco Molinari for the coveted title.

 Golf -tournament


All in a day’s work

The first Open was won by Willie Park Senior, who emerged victorious after three rounds of Prestwick’s 12-hole course over one day to lift the silver-buckled Challenge Belt.

The following year the tournament was opened to amateurs and prize money was introduced in 1863.

Tom Morris Junior set the record of four consecutive Open wins starting in 1868; a feat that has never been bettered, before the Challenge Belt was replaced by the Claret Jug in 1872.

Twenty years later the event was extended to 72 holes and in 1898 the cut was introduced after the first two rounds.

The last amateur to win the Open was Bobby Jones in 1929 on his way to a Grand Slam clean-sweep.

Among the most famous names on the Claret Jug in recent history are Arnold Palmer, who won in 1961 and 1962, and Tom Watson (1975, 1977, 1980, 1982 and 1983).

Other notables include Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Woods.

But Jersey’s Harry Vardon retains the record number of victories with six wins between 1896 and 1914, while record appearances goes to Player.


On the Tour

The Open only became part of the PGA Tour’s official schedule in 1995, when John Daly beat Costantino Rocca in a thrilling play-off.

One of the biggest shocks of the tournament came eight years later when Ben Curtis, ranked 396 and playing in his first Major, shot 69 on his last round to win by one stroke as previous leader Thomas Bjorn imploded.

Paul Lawrie, in 1999, also became the beneficiary of Jean Van de Velde’s triple-bogey disaster he after famously waded in the water at Carnoustie to try and take a shot, throwing away a three-shot lead on the final hole.

The world No.159 held his nerve on the final hole of a dramatic three-way play-off against Van de Velde and Justin Leonard to claim the title. 

The greatest moment undoubtedly, however, was the famous Duel in the Sun between Watson and Nicklaus where the two great rivals went toe-to-toe at Turnberry in 1977, Watson’s clinical putt on the final green sealing a one-shot victory.

And it's hard to beat the raw emotion of Woods' victory at Royal Liverpool in 2006.

Having played the perfect game, the three-time Open winner, whose father Earl had died only two months earlier, broke down in tears after sinking his final putt to win. 


The Open 2020

Now that the dust has settled on this year’s Open, demand for the 149th Open at Royal St George’s in Kent in 2020 is sure to be sky-high.

The Experience St Andrews is offering four programmes for the 149th Open at Royal St George’s: the 4-Night Spectator Programme, the 5-Night Spectator Programme, the 8-Night Programme including St Andrews, and the 8-Night Programme including Turnberry.


For more information or to book one of our programmes for The Open call +44 (0)1334 441350 for the U.K., or 914 481 8594 or toll free on 888 552 5632 for the U.S., or email