Golf courses

Some classic golf courses have disappeared from the open calendar

St. Andrews hosts its 30th British Open from Thursday, to celebrate the 150th Open Championship. The Old Course has hosted more Open Championships here than any other venue, which isn’t too surprising. It presents itself as the cradle of golf and is planned by the R&A, which oversees the Open, to host the event every five years.

What is surprising is that the second-placed course, Prestwick Golf Club, synonymous with star player Old Tom Morris and the rise of the Championship itself, hosted 24 championships, but has had none since. 1925.

Prestwick isn’t the only one who has been dropped from the rotation or the schedule. Three other courses that have hosted Opens seem to be permanently deleted: Musselburgh links, Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club and Prince Golf Club. And there’s one more, Turnberry Golf Clubwhich featured famous duels for the trophy, the burgundy jug.

It is understandable that the focus is on rotation courses. St. Andrews, Royal Liverpool, Troon, Royal Portrush, Carnoustie and Muirfield have all staged memorable Opens. Yet what happened to eliminate these other historic courses from the Open rotation?

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

The club helped lead the initial Open lineup, and it more than pulled its weight with 24 Opens from 1860 to 1925. It was also instrumental in the creation of the Bordeaux pitcher, which the champion takes possession of for one year. Limiting it to one year was important. Young Tom Morris, the son of Old Tom, after winning three Opens in a row at Prestwick, was entitled to keep the prize of the tournament: a red leather belt. Without a belt, organizers invented the burgundy jug in 1872.

But in 1925, the series of Prestwick Opens came to an end. It wasn’t dramatic; it was logistical. The legendary club couldn’t accommodate the growing number of fans who wanted to watch in person.

While Jim Barnes, an Englishman who lived in the United States, won the jug of Bordeaux, it was more about who lost it – and how.

“In 1925 it was horrible crowd control that cost Macdonald Smith a chance to win,” said 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 contention. “He was loved to death by the crowd. They really wanted a Scotsman to win. The whole crowd followed him for the final round. The theory was that the crowd was just waving it.

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

“The holes are very close together so the movement of crowds between holes would have been impossible in the 1940s and beyond,” said Roger McStravick, a golf historian.

Despite its short length for the modern game – just under around 6,500 yards – and its secluded location, Prestwick has its backers.

“It’s a mistake that it hasn’t hosted a major since then,” said Ran Morrissett, co-founder of Golf Club Atlas, a golf architecture forum. “It has some of the meatiest and largest par 4s from hole 6 through 10. But tastes in architecture change over time.”

Mike Woodcock, a spokesman for the R&A, said in explaining the rotation that the Open “requires a large footprint to be able to stage it as well as an exceptional golf course, which will test the best golfers in the world and the infrastructure transportation needed to get tens of thousands of fans in and out each day.

“It’s a high bar to reach.”

Musselburgh, also a Scottish course, was home to the Park family. Willie Park Sr., who won the first Open in 1860, hails from there. He won the Open three more times, the last of which was 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 proved to be significant: it was at 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 to. As the Open format expanded to 72 holes, it was simply too small.

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

“In 1892, it was Musselbrugh’s turn to host the Open,” says Mungo Park, architect and descendant of the Parks. “But in 1891, the Honorable Company [of Edinburgh Golfers] had bought Muirfield. They had the right to hold 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 gentlemen. He said it was wrong. You can’t take it from Musselburgh. But they probably had the right to take it with them and they did.

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

Royal Cinque Ports is in Deal, an English town with small, narrow roads. The Modern Open is a great production. And there are other more welcoming 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 does not detract from the merits of the golf course.”

In 1932, the Prince’s Golf Club in England put on a show with its one and only Open: the great American player Gene Sarazen, who would win the four major tournaments 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’s a stern 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 winning. It last hosted an Open in 2009.

But in 2014, Donald J. Trump purchased Turnberry and renamed it Trump Turnberry. The place for the course on rotation has been put on hold.

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

While politics has often played a role in the destination of the Open, today it’s also a matter of convenience and infrastructure. And that’s what caused many 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 fortunes of some clubs have changed, so it’s off to a neighboring course.

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