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Some Classic Golf Courses Have Fallen Off the Open Schedule


St. Andrews is hosting its thirtieth British Open starting on Thursday, in celebration of the one hundred and fiftieth Open Championship. The Old Course there has hosted more Open Championships than some other venue, which isn’t too surprising. It bills itself because the birthplace of golf and is scheduled by the R&A, which oversees the Open, to host the event every five years.

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

Prestwick just isn’t alone in having been dropped from the rota, or schedule. Three other courses which have hosted Opens appear to be permanently removed: Musselburgh Links, Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club and Prince’s Golf Club. And there’s another, Turnberry Golf Club, which has featured famous duels for the trophy, the claret jug.

There’s understandably loads of concentrate on the courses within the rota. St. Andrews, Royal Liverpool, Troon, Royal Portrush, Carnoustie and Muirfield have all hosted memorable Opens. Still, what happened to knock those other, historic courses off the Open rota?

Prestwick, in Scotland, is where the Open began. Old Tom Morris, the primary international golf star, designed Prestwick. He sent the unique invitation to one of the best golfers in Britain to crown the champion golfer of the yr. After which he won 4 early Opens there (though not the primary one, which Willie Park Sr. claimed).

The club helped steer the early formation of the Open, and it greater than pulled its weight with 24 Opens from 1860 and 1925. It also played a job in creating the claret jug, which the champion takes possession of for one yr. Limiting it to a yr was essential. Young Tom Morris, Old Tom’s son, after winning three Opens in a row at Prestwick, was entitled to maintain the tournament’s prize: a red leather belt. Beltless, the organizers got here up with the claret jug in 1872.

But in 1925, Prestwick’s run of Opens got here to an end. It wasn’t dramatic; it was logistical. The storied club couldn’t accommodate the growing variety of fans who wanted to observe in person.

While Jim Barnes, an Englishman who lived in the USA, won the claret jug, it was more about who lost it — and the way.

“In 1925 it was horrible crowd control that cost Macdonald Smith a likelihood to win,” Stephen Proctor, a golf historian and writer 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 gang. They really wanted a Scotsman to win. The entire crowd followed him for the ultimate round. The speculation was the gang just agitated him.”

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

“The holes are tightly packed together, so movement of the crowds between holes would have been unattainable within the Nineteen Forties and onwards,” said Roger McStravick, a golf historian.

Despite its short length for the fashionable game — just below about 6,500 yards — and its out-of-the-way location, Prestwick has its backers.

“It’s a mistake that it hasn’t hosted a significant since then,” said Ran Morrissett, co-founder of Golf Club Atlas, a golf architecture forum. “It has among the meatiest, biggest par 4s in that stretch from holes six to 10. But tastes in architecture change with time.”

Mike Woodcock, a spokesman for the R&A, said in explaining the rota that the Open “requires a big footprint to give you the option to stage it in addition to an excellent links golf course, which is able to test the world’s best golfers and the essential transport infrastructure to permit tens of hundreds of fans out and in every day.”

“That’s a high bar to hit.”

Musselburgh, also a Scottish course, was home to the Park family. Willie Park Sr., who won the primary Open in 1860, hailed from there. He won the Open three more times, along with his 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 win proved significant: It was on the last Open held at Musselburgh. The course had significant limitations, even within the nineteenth century. It was only nine holes, and it was tough to get to. Because the format of the Open expanded to 72 holes, it was just too small.

It was also St. Andrews and the R&A exerting itself as the brand new home of golf that led to Musselburgh being faraway from the unique rota, which also included Prestwick and St Andrews.

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

“My uncle, having won the 1889 Open, was a person of some influence within the golfing world,” Park added. “And he wasn’t afraid to challenge the gentlemen. He said this isn’t right. You may’t take it from Musselburgh. But they arguably had the rights to take it with them they usually did.”

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

Royal Cinque Ports is in Deal, an English town with small, narrow roads. The fashionable Open is a big production. And there are other, more amenable venues in England. “It’s a beautiful, wonderful, wonderful golf course,” Morrissett of Golf Club Atlas said. “The incontrovertible fact that it might probably’t host an Open on no account detracts from the merits of the golf course.”

In 1932, Prince’s Golf Club in England placed on a show with its one and only Open: The good American player Gene Sarazen, who would win all 4 majors in his profession, 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 4 championships. In 1977, the “Duel within the Sun” at Turnberry pitted Tom Watson against Jack Nicklaus, with Watson eventually prevailing. It last hosted an Open in 2009.

But in 2014, Donald J. Trump bought Turnberry and renamed it Trump Turnberry. The course’s place on the rota was placed on hold.

“Turnberry might be missed due to the super television optics and sea views,” said David Hamilton, writer of “Golf — Scotland’s Game.”

While politics have often played an element in where the Open goes, today it’s also about convenience and infrastructure. And that’s what caused most of the other courses to be dropped.

“The Open has got greater and greater, which ruled out courses over time,” McStravik said. “Some were too short. Some were inaccessible. Some clubs’ fortunes modified, so it went to a neighboring course.”

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

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