Play Open Championship venues – past & present

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Join us for a whistlestop tour of The Open Championship venues that you can play on your next golf break.
Posted on
July 27, 2023
by
The Editorial Team in
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Since its inception in 1860, The Open has been held on some of the UK’s most lauded links courses. Whilst most of these venues have been mainstays of the rota, others have enjoyed a fleeting spell in the limelight.

Join us for a whistlestop tour of The Open Championship venues that you can play on your next golf break.

 

Royal Liverpool

With the 2023 Open being held over its iconic fairways, Royal Liverpool – or Hoylake as it’s more commonly known – is the perfect place to start. The course is a tale of two halves, with the holes nearest to the clubhouse being laid out over flat terrain that was previously used as a racecourse.

However, the routing takes you out towards the sea, and a more undulating layout around the turn allows for plenty of creativity as you use the natural landscape to encourage your ball towards the greens. The club had a 39-year hiatus from hosting The Open between 1967 and 2006 but came back with a bang when Tiger Woods bested a brightly dressed Sergio Garcia to win his 3rd Open. Notably, Bobby Jones also won his 3rd Open at Hoylake in 1930 – the year of his famed Grand Slam!

Play Open Championship venues – past & present - Royal Liverpol (Hoylake)

St Andrews

The undisputed Home of Golf. With several hundred years of history, it’s surprising that it took until the 13th playing of The Open for it to be played over the famed Old Course. However, since then it has more than made up for it, hosting The Open on 30 occasions – the most of any within the rota.

The bunkering at St Andrews is still incredibly relevant, despite being largely unmoved for centuries – but avoidance of these (and a lack of wind) can lead to a good score around here… that is if you can handle the nerves!

A pilgrimage to St Andrews is a must for any golfer, with the town having a magical (and golf-centric) vibe which flows through its streets. You’ll never forget your first tee shot on The Old Course, or that walk up the 18th fairway, back towards the heart of the Grey Auld Toon.

St Andrews Old Fife Scotland 17th

Carnoustie

Carnoustie – or CarNasty as it’s often known – is generally considered the toughest test on The Open rota. The course has been a regular host of the championship since 1931 and was the destination for Ben Hogan’s only Open appearance… which of course resulted in victory as part of his Triple Crown season in 1953.

Hogan famously drove the ball between the penal bunkers and the out-of-bounds all four days down the difficult 6th hole, creating the now famous ‘Hogan’s Alley’ – with the hole being renamed in his honour in 2003.

Carnoustie Golf Links is a course that requires an equal amount of brains and brawn, with several streams cutting across fairways and requiring strategic play throughout. It is no surprise then, that some of the game’s greatest tacticians, including Padraig Harrington, Tom Watson, and more recently Francesco Molinari, have all lifted the Claret Jug here.

Carnoustie - Championship Course 16th

Royal Portrush

A two-time host of The Open, and the only course outside of Scotland and England to have held the event, Royal Portrush was the setting to one of the most memorable victories of recent years – with Irishman Shane Lowry walking down the 72nd hole to a standing ovation that seemed to go on forever.

After some reworking to several of the holes in the years leading up to the 2019 Open, the tournament was thought to be an overwhelming success, due both to the quality of the layout and the support it fostered from the locals. As a result, The Open will return to Northern Ireland in 2025, and it’s worth the skip across the Irish Sea to experience this stunning course for yourself before then!

Royal Portrush Golf Club, 6th Hole, Harry Colts

Muirfield

Often cited by many of the players as their favourite Open layout, Muirfield Golf Club (or the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers), is a club steeped in history. First hosting The Open in 1892, all but one of its 16 champions have won more than one Major Championship – a nod to the level of play required to win here.

Famous names including Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Walter Hagen Harry Vardon, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, and most recently, Phil Mickelson, have all won The Open at Muirfield. It is perhaps the finest list of past champions of any venue on the rota.

The course itself is enjoyable from the start, with immaculate golfing turf an absolute pleasure to play from. We’d be remiss though, to not mention the hospitality within the clubhouse itself; boasting perhaps the finest post-round lunch you’re ever likely to enjoy! We’d highly recommend pairing Muirfield with a few of the other incredible courses in East Lothian to truly make the most of Scotland’s famous golf coast!

Muirfield 13th

Royal Birkdale

Just up the coastline from Hoylake, along the iconic Southport coastline, you’ll find the spectacular links at Royal Birkdale. Built on some of the finest golfing property in England, Royal Birkdale is flanked by the likes of Hillside Golf Club and Southport & Ainsdale, fabulous venues in their own right.

But a trip to this region must include a round at the 10-ten Open host, with a routing that finishes directly in front of the famous art-deco clubhouse. There’s been some hugely memorable moments here, from Justin Rose bursting onto the scene, to Padraig’s iconic 5-wood, and even Jordan Spieth playing from behind the tour trucks en-route to victory in 2017.

The club has also played host to The Ryder Cup in the past, with Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin’s ‘Concession’ moment taking place here in 1969.

Play Open Championship venues – past & present - Royal Birkdale 18th

Royal Troon

Next up, Royal Troon has held the unusual distinction of having both the longest and shortest holes on the recent Open Rota. The longest – the Par 5 6th – measures in at over 600 yards, which is in stark contrast to the world-renowned ‘Postage Stamp’ that comes in at just 123 yards a couple of holes later!

The course also boasts one of the toughest holes in golf, the 11th. A brute of a Par 4, with a blind tee shot and out-of-bounds down the right (not helped by a regular wind from the left!), bogey is almost always a good score here.

Colin Montgomerie has long been associated with the club, having grown up across the road, and was given the honour of the opening tee shot in the 2016 Open Championship – an event which concluded in an epic duel between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, with the latter finishing in second place… a mere 11 shots clear of third!

Play Open Championship venues – past & present - Royal Troon 8th

Turnberry

Home to Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson’s iconic ‘Duel in the Sun’, it’s hard to believe that Turnberry has only hosted The Open on four occasions. After getting the better of the Golden Bear in 1977, Watson almost repeated the feat in spectacular fashion at age 59 in 2009, before losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink.

This was the most recent hosting of The Open at Turnberry, however, the course has by no means been resting on its laurels. A full renovation was undertaken in recent years, with architects making the most of the stunning holes around the unmistakable lighthouse – which itself has been transformed into the finest halfway-hut in golf.

Ailsa Course Trump Turnberry

Prestwick

Second only to St Andrews in terms of Opens held, Prestwick unbelievably last hosted the tournament in 1925! The main reason for this is the lack of space for the modern infrastructure required on-site, as well as a rather rowdy crowd in its final Open which ended up interfering with play!

However, the course is still a fantastic test and has continued its association with high-profile events, notable as an 11-time host of The Amateur Championship. The history alone should make a trip to Prestwick worthwhile, particularly when you pair it with Turnberry and Troon along the iconic Ayrshire coastline.

Prestwick GC

Royal Cinque Ports

Moving down towards Kent’s south coast and the brilliant course at Deal, known as Royal Cinque Ports. Like Prestwick, the course may struggle to host an Open in the modern era, due to the infrastructure needed – however, it has also held national and international tournaments, most recently The Amateur, and British Boys Championships.

The course is a traditional out-and-back routing with unpredictable weather caused by the coastline that can create entirely different conditions across the course. One of Royal Cinque Ports’ most enduring features is the crumpled fairways, often presenting the golfer with an undulating lie as they attempt to find the sloped playing surfaces.

All told, a day at Royal Cinque Ports is one of the most enjoyable imaginable – even if it only hosted The Open on two occasions.

Play Open Championship venues - Royal Cinque Ports, 4th

Royal St George’s

Considered alongside Birkdale as one of England’s leading courses, Royal St George’s Golf Club is a 15-time host to The Open. Its Open tenure began in 1894 when the great J.H. Taylor edged out Andrew Kirkaldy by one. Since then, winners have included Harry Vardon (x2), Henry Cotton, Sandy Lyle, and most recently Colin Morikawa in 2021 when he took home his second major championship of that year.

The course itself is an absolute dream. The elements play a huge factor here, like any respectable links, with natural, towering dunes, deep bunkering, and thick rough throughout. If you’re fortunate enough to play it, be sure to photograph the famous 4th hole, which features the UK’s tallest bunker!

Royal St. George's

Prince’s

Minutes from Royal St George’s and Royal Cinque Ports, you’ll also find the three 9-hole loops which make up Prince’s Golf Club. A recent full restoration of the Himalayas loop has made this one of the best links courses in England, with rumours of the club hoping to host the biggest tournament in golf again in the future.

If this were to be the case, one imagines it’ll likely be done over the more traditional Dunes and Shore loops – but it would be fantastic to see some of the world’s best take on the quirks presented to them by the hills on the aptly-named Himalayas!

An ideal setting for a Kent golf trip, the venue boasts on-site accommodation at their Lodges, as well as a lively bar, reportedly enjoyed by several of the players during the recent Open Championship held at nearby Royal St Georges …

Play Open Championship venues - Princes Golf Club, Himalayas #2

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About The Editorial Team

The editorial team at Golf Today strives to provide readers with captivating content that celebrates the rich heritage and exciting developments in the world of golf. Their collective expertise and dedication ensure that Golf Today remains a premier destination for golf enthusiasts seeking the latest news, insightful analysis, and engaging stories from the world of golf.

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