Four of the 14 Open Championship venues have dropped off the hosting rota. Why?
The Forgotten Open Championship Venues
Prestwick Golf Club was the first of the 14 Open venues. This was because it organised (and so hosted) the first 11 Open Championships, starting in 1860.
Then the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers teamed up with Prestwick to organise the competition.
After a hiatus of a year – there was no Open in 1871 – the venue of The Open then rotated between the home courses of these three clubs until 1894 when The Open was taken to Royal St Georges.
The first Opens were played over Prestwick’s criss-crossing 3,799-yard 12-hole course which had been laid out by Old Tom Morris, the club’s first professional.
The club bought some more land and in 1892 the course was expanded to 18 holes and redesigned to avoid criss-crossing holes.
Six of the original greens remain, and three of the holes – the 2nd (Alps), 4th (Cardinal) and 5th (Sea Headrig), which now appear as holes 17, 3 and 13.
But the new Prestwick 18-hole course was still compact, and space for spectators was a problem as The Open became more popular and attracted larger galleries.
For this reason the 1925 Open was Prestwick’s last. Some shots that year had hit spectators and Bernard Darwin reported: “It was a thoroughly exciting championship but hardly a pleasant one, since there were altogether too many people. So many, indeed, that despite the unselfish and valiant efforts of the Prestwick stewards, I gravely doubt whether a championship should be played there again.”
It wasn’t. However the course has continued to host top events which attract smaller crowds, including the Amateur Championship 11 times.
This was the home course of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, and so hosted The Open every third year under the three clubs organising arrangement, from its first Open in 1874 to its sixth, and last, in 1899.
The club was one of several which shared the Musselburgh Links and so the club looked for a new home. It found one at Muirfield, where it built itself a course.
The Open followed the club in moving from Musselburgh Links to Muirfield when it became the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers turn to play host.
Royal Cinque Ports
Three courses in Kent have hosted The Open, but two of the have only had three Opens between them. Royal Cinque Posts was the venue of The Opens of 1909 and 1920.
It was due to host The Opens of 1938 and 1949, but on both occasions it could not as the course had been flooded. These tournaments were moved along the Kent coast to Royal St George’s.
With only a 50% success rate in actually being able to host The Opens that it had been awarded, the R&A seems to have decided Deal, as the course if often known, was not a safe bet and dropped it from its list of Open venues.
However with new sea defences in place, the course has again been awarded events by the R&A, including The Amateur Championship in 1982 and 2013. It also now a Open Championship Final Qualifying course when The Open Championship is at Royal St George’s.
Prince’s held The Open in 1932. This Open was made famous by Gene Sarazen wining with the use of a club he had designed himself to cope with this particular course – a sand iron.
In the Second World War the course was requisitioned by the military and used for target practice. This action was described by Lord Brabazon, Minister of Aircraft Production and a future Captain of the R&A, as akin to ‘throwing darts at a Rembrandt’.
The Open Championship course was, quite literally, blown to pieces.
The tentative plan was that the Royal Marines were going to retain use of the land after the war as a firing range. But in 1949 the course was derequisitioned and an Australian property developer set about turning the land back into golfing terrain.
The Open Championship course was no more, but 17 of the greens were resurrected and incorporated into a new design of three nine-hole courses. This new layout has hosted the Curtis Cup, the PGA Championship and the British Ladies Open.
But not The Open, although since 1981 it has hosted Local Final Qualifying for when The Open is at Royal St George’s.