The Open Championship is the oldest major golf championship in the world, dating back to 1860. Initially held at Prestwick Golf Club in Prestwick, Scotland, the tournament soon branched out into other courses in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. The Open Championship remains a true test of golf in its purest form, with courses all favoring the early Scottish links-style layout involving numerous bunkers, sandy wastes and tall grass, and are typically built near the coastline to bring seaside winds into play. Today, there are 10 courses that share hosting duties of the prestigious tournament.
Carnoustie Golf Links
The 2018 Open Championship host Carnoustie Golf Links has roots dating back to the 16th century, with the course eventually coming into the public’s hands in the 1800s. The modern course was first conceived as a 10-hole course designed by Allan Robertson with help from legendary golfer “Old” Tom Morris. This layout has been maintained with minor tweaks, and is widely considered the most difficult course in rotation. Carnoustie has hosted the Open Championship 8 times and has seen wins from the legendary Ben Hogan and the first of Tom Watson’s 5 titles.
Old Course at St Andrews
Largely considered to be the oldest golf course in the world, St Andrews is the spiritual home of golf. Golf has been played in this area of Scotland since the early 15th century, and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews remains the most prestigious golf club in the world. Shortened to the R&A, it governs golf in tandem with the USGA to codify and revise the official rules of golf. It is also the course that set the standard for 18-hole courses, as prior to the late 1800s course could have anywhere from 12-22 holes. St Andrews has hosted the Open Championship a record 29 times, first in 1873 and as recently as 2015. It is also scheduled to host the 2021 Open Championship. Notable winners at St Andrews include Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead and Bobby Jones.
Muirfield is home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, founded in 1744. This Golf Club originally played on a public course but decided to build the private Muirfield in 1891. The course was designed by “Old” Tom Morris and is unusual in its layout, featuring each half of the course designed as a loop. Until this point, links courses had traditionally been played in a linear out and back fashion, with a front 9 heading one direction and the back 9 returning in the opposite direction. The course has hosted the Open Championship 16 times between 1892 and 2013. Notable Muirfield winners include Phil Mickelson, Lee Trevino and Harry Vardon.
Royal St George’s Golf Club
The Royal St. George’s Golf Club, located in Sandwich, England, became the first non-Scottish course to host the Open Championship in 1894. The club was founded in 1887 and its course is notable for having the deepest bunker in championship golf at more than 40 feet. Royal St George’s has hosted the Open Championship 14 times since 1894, and is slated to host again in 2020. It has been the site of 2 of Harry Vardon’s Open Championship victories as well as wins by Walter Hagen and Ben Curtis.
Royal Liverpool Golf Club
The 2nd English course to host the Open Championship, the Royal Liverpool Golf Club traces its history back to 1869. The course was first built on a racetrack and later received a facelift from early 20th century course architect Harry Colt. The course hosted the inaugural Amateur Championship and was the site of the first international contest between the US and the UK & Ireland, a match that would evolve into the Walker Cup. The course has hosted 12 Open Championships from 1897-2014, and winners include Bobby Jones, Roberto de Vicenzo and Rory McIlroy.
Royal Troon Golf Club
Troon, Scotland’s Royal Troon Golf Club was initially a 5-hole course built in 1878, but was expanded to 18-holes by 1888. The course was lengthened and partially redesigned again in 1923 by 5-time Open Championship winner James Braid in preparation for Troon hosting its first Open Championship. The course is notable for having both the longest and shortest holes to be played at an Open Championship. In total, the course has hosted the Open Championship 9 times, most recently in 2016 when Swede Henrik Stenson was crowned champion.
Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club
Established in 1886, the Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club remains one of England’s premier golf courses. It has hosted Open Championships, the Ryder Cup, the Women’s Open Championship and the Senior Open Championship. It is known for its particularly difficult bunkering and the punitive nature of the course. The course has hosted 11 Open Championships from 1926-2012. Notable winners at Royal Lytham & ST Annes include Seve Ballesteros, Gary Player and Ernie Els.
Royal Portrush Golf Club
Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush Golf Club became the first non-British course to host the Open Championship in 1951. However, the course dates back to 1888 and features a more undulating course than many other links courses. Currently, Royal Portrush Golf Club has only hosted the 1951 tournament, won by Englishman Max Faulkner. The course will host its 2nd Open Championship next year in 2019.
Royal Birkdale Golf Club
The Royal Birkdale Golf Club is located north of Liverpool in Southport, England. The course was built in 1894 and has hosted many high profile tournaments, including both the Ryder Cup and Walker Cup. The course first hosted an Open Championship in 1954 and has now hosted 10 times, most recently seeing Jordan Spieth take his third major in 2017. Other notable champions include Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Padraig Harrington. It is also the sight of Brandon Grace’s third round score of 62, the lowest score ever recorded in a single round at a major championship.
Turnberry is the most recently added course to the Open Championship rotation, having hosted its first tournament in 1971. Turnberry is located in South Ayrshire, Scotland and was built in 1902, only to be repurposed as an airbase during both World War I and II. The Alisa Course was fully restored in the 1950s and quickly earned a stellar reputation. Turnberry would go on to host the Amateur Championship, Women’s Open Championship and Walker Cup. It has hosted the Open Championship 4 times and has witnessed wins from Nick Price, Greg Norman and Tom Watson.
There are four ther courses that have hosted the Open Championship throughout its 147 year history. Those courses are Prince’s Golf Club, Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club, Musselburgh Links and original host Prestwick Golf Club.