HomeSportsSome classic golf courses have dropped from open hours

Some classic golf courses have dropped from open hours


St. Andrews is hosting its 30th British Open starting Thursday, in celebration of the 150th Open Championship. The Old Course has hosted more open championships than anywhere else, which isn’t too surprising. It bills itself as the birthplace of golf and it is scheduled by the R&A, which oversees the Open, to host the event every five years.

What is surprising is that the course in second place, Prestwick Golf Club, synonymous with star player Old Tom Morris and the advent of the championship itself, has hosted 24 championships but hasn’t had one since 1925.

Prestwick isn’t alone in being cut from the rotation or the schedule. Three other courses that have hosted Opens appear to have been permanently removed: Musselburgh Links, Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club Y prince golf club. And there’s one more Turnberry Golf Clubwhich has staged famous duels for the trophy, the jar of claret.

Understandably, there is a lot of focus on the courses in the rotation. St. Andrews, Royal Liverpool, Troon, Royal Portrush, Carnoustie and Muirfield have hosted memorable Opens. Still, what happened to remove those other historical fields from the open rotation?

Prestwick, in Scotland, is where the Open began. Old Tom Morris, the first international golf star, designed Prestwick. He sent the original invitation to Britain’s best golfers to crown the golfer of the year champion. And then he won four early Opens there (though not the first, which Willie Park Sr. claimed).

The club helped lead the early formation of the Open, and went to great lengths with 24 Opens between 1860 and 1925. It also played a role in the creation of the claret jug, which the champion takes possession of for a year. Limiting it to one year was important. Young Tom Morris, son of Old Tom, after winning three Opens in a row at Prestwick, was entitled to the prize of the tournament: a red leather belt. Without a belt, the organizers came up with the claret jug in 1872.

But in 1925, Prestwick’s Opens run came to an end. It wasn’t dramatic; it was logistical. The historic club was unable to accommodate the growing number of fans who wanted to see it in person.

While Jim Barnes, an Englishman living in the United States, won the jar of claret, it was more about who lost it and how.

“In 1925, it was horrible crowd control that cost Macdonald Smith his chance to win.” Stephen Proctor, golf historian and author of “The Long Golden Afternoon: Golf’s Age of Glory, 1864-1914,” Said of the Scottish player who was in the running. “He was loved to death by the crowd. They really wanted a Scotsman to win. The entire crowd followed him for the final round. The theory was that the crowd just stirred it up.”

The problem of space, the crowds and the growing interest in watching the Open was an issue on a small, cramped course like Prestwick. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which was organizing the Open at the time, saw interest grow. (In 2004 the golf club created a separate group, the R&A, to oversee its championships, including the Open.)

“The holes are close together, so crowd movement between holes would have been impossible in the 1940s and onward,” said golf historian Roger McStravick.

Despite its short length for the modern game (just under 6,500 yards) and secluded location, Prestwick has its patrons.

“It’s a mistake that it hasn’t hosted a major since then,” said Ran Morrissett, co-founder of atlas Of Golf Clubs, a golf architecture forum. “It has some of the meatiest and biggest par 4s in that stretch from holes 6 to 10. But tastes in architecture change over time.”

Mike Woodcock, spokesman for the R&A, said in explaining the rotation that the Open “requires a large area to organize it, as well as an exceptional links golf course, which will put the best golfers in the world to the test, and the transport infrastructure necessary to allow tens of thousands of fans to come and go each day.”

“That’s a high bar to reach.”

Musselburgh, also a Scottish countryside, was home to the Park family. Willie Park Sr., who won the first Open in 1860, hailed from there. He won the Open three more times, the last in 1875. His brother Mungo Park won it in 1874. And his son Willie Park Jr. won the Open in 1887 and 1889.

Willie Jr.’s victory was significant: it was in the last Open held in Musselburgh. The course had significant limitations, even in the 19th century. There were only nine holes and it was difficult to get there. As the Open format expanded to 72 holes, it became too small.

It was also St. Andrews and the R&A serving as the new home of golf that led to Musselburgh being dropped from the original list, which also included Prestwick and St Andrews.

“In 1892 it was Musselbrugh’s turn to host the Open,” said Mungo Park, an architect and Parks descendant. “But in 1891 the Honorable Company [of Edinburgh Golfers] had bought Muirfield. They had the right to run the Open wherever they wanted and they took it to Muirfield.”

“My uncle, having won the 1889 Open, was a man of some influence in the world of golf,” Park added. “And he wasn’t afraid to challenge the knights. He said this is not right. You can’t take it from Musselburgh. But arguably they had the right to take it with them and they did.”

Between them, they organized three Opens. Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club caught two and Prince’s Golf Club one.

Royal Cinque Ports is in Deal, an English town with small, narrow streets. The modern Open is a great production. And there are other more accessible places in England. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful golf course,” said Morrissett of Golf Club Atlas. “The fact that it cannot host an Open in any way detracts from the merits of the golf course.”

In 1932, England’s Prince’s Golf Club put on a show with its only Open: American great Gene Sarazen, who would go on to win all four majors of his career, won his only Open there. He beat Smith, who had lost the last Open at Prestwick in 1925.

The case of Turnberry in Scotland is different. It is a tough test of golf that has hosted four championships. In 1977, the “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry pitted Tom Watson against Jack Nicklaus, with Watson ultimately prevailing. The last time he hosted an Open was in 2009.

But in 2014, Donald J. Trump bought Turnberry and renamed it Trump Turnberry. The course’s place in the rotation was left in abeyance.

“Turnberry will be missed because of the excellent TV optics and sea views,” said David Hamilton, author of “Golf — Scotland’s Game.”

While politics has often played a role in the direction of the Open, today it’s also about convenience and infrastructure. And that’s what caused a lot of the other courses to drop out.

“The Open has gotten bigger and bigger, which has ruled out courses over time,” McStravik said. “Some were too short. Some were inaccessible. The luck of some clubs changed, so he went to a neighboring field.

He added: “You like to see the heroes of the day play on the same fields that the legends played on. The magic of the Open is that it directly connects Old Tom Morris with Bobby Jones with Ben Hogan with Jack Nicklaus with Seve [Ballesteros] to Rory McIlroy.



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