The Open Rota

As I have declared on this website numerous times before, I love the majors. I believe that this is in part because of the great golf courses where these four annual events are staged. In some instances the only chance we will ever get to catch a glimpse of a course is on television during a major championship. This week is the British Open and I’m particularly fond of this not only for the opportunity to see links golf on television, but also because it makes working on Thursday and Friday a little more enjoyable with some golf to watch.

Officially known as The Open Championship and commonly referred to as the British Open here in America this tournament is the oldest major in championship golf. First contested in 1860 the The Open Championship is administered by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club which is the governing body for golf outside of the U.S. and Mexico. Over its 150+ year history the Open Championship has been staged on just 14 different golf courses. Between 1952 and today The Open Championship has rotated between nine golf courses that are commonly referred to as the “Open rota”. There is no rhyme or reason as to when the tournament goes to each course with the exception of The Old Course at St. Andrews. Beginning in 1990 The Old Course at St. Andrews hosts The Open every five years. Unfortunately I haven’t played any golf overseas yet, but I thought a little background on the courses that host The Open each year might be of interest. Below are some details on the courses of The Open Championship.

The Old Course at St. Andrews / Scotland – Home of the esteemed Royal & Ancient Golf Club. With Open Championship history dating back to 1873 The Old Course at St. Andrews has been an active part of The Open rota longer than any other course.
Muirfield / Scotland – This course was introduced to the Open rota in 1892 and has remained an active part ever since. Muirfield has been home to the prestigious club The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers since they left Musselburgh and opened this course in 1891. Next year the 2013 Open Championship will be staged at Muirfield.
Royal St. George’s Golf Club / England- This course first showed up on The Open rota in 1894 as St. George’s Golf Club. In 1902 King Edward VII granted the “Royal” designation to the club and it has been a part of the Open rota ever since. St. George’s Golf Club was the first course outside of Scotland to host The Open Championship.
Royal Liverpool Golf Club / England – This course was introduced to the Open rota in 1897 but has tournament history that goes back even further. In 1885 Royal Liverpool hosted the inaugural British Amateur Championship and has been a part of that rota for even longer than the Open rota.
Royal Troon Golf Club / Scotland – Although it hosted its first Open Championship in 1923 Troon Golf Club was not bestowed Royal status until 1978. There are 36 holes at Royal Troon and The Open is staged on The Old Course which features the shortest hole in major championship golf, Postage Stamp, measuring a scant 123 yards.
Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club / England – This course was the original location for the British Women’s Amateur Championship in 1893, but did not enter The Open rota until 1926. This course features over 200 bunkers and is the only course in The Open rota that begins with a par 3. Royal Lytham and St. Annes is also part of the women’s Open Rota.
Carnoustie Golf Links / Scotland – The Championship Course at Carnoustie first hosted The Open in 1931. Many consider this to be the toughest course on the Open rota and in 1999 Sergio Garcia would have agreed. Having shot 89 and 83 in the first two rounds Garcia literally finished his second round and ran to his mother crying. Two days later Jean van de Velde ultimately lost The Open in a playoff after an epic meltdown where he carded a triple bogey 7 on the 18th hole. The commonly accepted nickname for this course is Car-nasty. The women’s Open was held here for the first time in 2011.
Royal Birkdale / England – In 1954, just three years after earning Royal status, Royal Birkdale hosted The Open Championship for the first time. Royal Birkdale is one of the clubs that is in The Open Championship rota for both men and women.
Turnberry / Scotland – The most recent addition to The Open rota, Turnberry hosted its first championship in 1977. There are 45 holes at the resort and The Open is held on the Alisa course. This was the stage for the epic “Duel in the Sun” between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in 1977.
Prestwick Golf Club / Scotland – The original Open Championship course. The Open was exclusively contested here from 1860-1870. The course remained an active part of the rota up until World War I. After WWI The Open was only played here one final time in 1925.
Musselburgh Links / Scotland – With documented evidence that golf was played here in 1672 Musselburgh Links is considered the oldest golf course in the world. Between the years of 1874 and 1889 Musselburgh was part of a three course Open rota that also included Prestwick and The Old Course at St. Andrews. This course was the original home of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers before they built their own course.
Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club / England – 1909 and 1920 were the only two years that The Open came to this course. Two Opens were scheduled to be played here (1938 and 1948) but both had to be moved to a new location because of extraordinarily high tides washing the course out. Ultimately this led to the course being dropped from the Open rota.
Prince’s Golf Club / England – An Open Championship “one hit wonder”. 1932 was the one and only time that the Open came to Prince’s Golf Club and it was won by Gene Sarazen. This course is located directly next to Royal St. George’s Golf Club which has been on the Open rota since 1894.
Royal Portrush Golf Club / Northern Ireland – Another Open Championship “one hit wonder”. Not only did The Open Championship only visit Royal Portrush one time, but it only visited Ireland one time. Royal Portrush Golf Club has 36 holes and The Open in 1951 was staged on their Dunluce Course.

  • You haven’t played overseas yet!!!

    When are we goin’?

    • The Itinerant Golfer

      I hope to get over there sooner rather than later. Hopefully sometime in 2013!!!!!!

  • Cali Golfer

    I enjoy reading your site. I am curious as to how a course becomes “Royal?”

    • The Itinerant Golfer

      Royal courses have had the designation bestowed upon them by the Royal court. Royal warrants of appointment have been issued for hundred of years to those who provide goods/services to the Royal court or members of the Royal family. As you can imagine, it is a highly prized designation in the U.K. A Royal warrant holder could be anything from a bespoke clothier or shoemaker to a saddlemaker and even a golf course. My hunch is that the golf courses that have been designated “Royal” have had some sort of relationship a member of the Royal family over the years. Maybe a Duke, Prince or even King played at the course and as a result they designated it “Royal”. Hope that helps and makes sense.

  • Aussiegolfquest

    Keep up the great work with your site, but definitely try and get a game in overseas at some stage. I haven’t played in Europe as yet but have enjoyed some great courses in Asia and the US. We have a great mixture of courses in Australia too, well worth the trip.

    I enjoy a well designed links course, but don’t enjoy playing out of those pot bunkers. Watching the Open certainly is inspiring me to go out to the nearest links for a game.

    I’m planning another trip to the US next year, hoping to play Bethpage and TPC Sawgrass. I’ve now realised that Sawgrass will be closed preparing for the Players Championship. What course would you recommend to play around the Florida area instead?

    • The Itinerant Golfer

      I would give a real serious look at Streamsong. Its a new resort near Orlando and Tampa that is going to have 2 courses. 1 is a Tom Doak and 1 is a Coore & Crenshaw. The photos looks spectacular and I think its well worth checking out.