The History Behind the British Open

Jul 16, 2021

Golf is a game of tradition. As a landmark South Florida country club, we are aficionados of golf history. We believe that we should pass on our knowledge of golf traditions and tournament traditions to the next generation. The British Open, also known simply as the Open, has a long and storied past. As the 2021 Open winds down, we thought it would be interesting to look at the history behind the British Open.

 

When Did the First British Open Take Place?

The 2021 British Open marks its 149th edition of the tournament. As a result, you may think that because 2021 minus 149 is 1872, that would mean that the first British Open took place in 1872; however, this is not the case. The first Open was played on October 17, 1860. While the tournament is a yearly occurrence, complications in history have caused the competition not to be played in some years. Understandably, coronavirus caused the cancelation of the 2020 Open, but this was not the only cancelation of the event. 

The first cancelation of the tournament occurred in 1871. A golfer named Tom Morris won the three previous Opens, and as a result, was given the ceremonial trophy at the time, the Challenge Belt. Until Tom Morris’ third victory, the belt was returned by the previous victor, to be competed for again. In 1870, they decided to award Tom Morris full possession of the belt, meaning there was no trophy to compete for in 1871. 

Other cancellations were more obvious, with the tournament not being held from 1915-1919 and 1940-1945 due to World War I and World War II. 

 

The History of the Claret Jug

As the Challenge Belt became the personable property of Tom Morris, the tournament needed a new prize. The Claret Jug, or the winner’s trophy, was created in 1872; however, this award was not finished by the end of the 1872 Open, which Tom Morris also won. As a result, Morris was instead presented with an engraved medal. This new tradition of a medal was adopted and has been used since the 1872 tournament. Like the Challenge Belt, the Claret Jug must be returned by the winner and competed for at the next tournament. 

 

When Was the First Claret Jug Awarded?

The first Claret Jug was awarded in 1873 to then-winner Tom Kidd. The original Claret Jug was retired and placed in a museum. 

 

The History of the Current Claret Jug

The current Claret Jug was first awarded and presented at the 1928 Open to Walter Hagen. The trophy is still returned by the winner, who receives an engraved medal and replica to keep. 

 

Today’s British Open

As the tournament comes to a close, we welcome the sight of a new custodian of the Claret Jug. The tournament concludes tomorrow July 18, 2021, at Royal Saint George’s Golf Course, where a new champion will most likely be crowned. 

While we’re not fortunate or talented enough to play the British Open, we do have the luck to play at our esteemed South Florida Golf Course regularly. Contact us today to play at our beautiful course, or view our membership page for more information. 

 

Related Readings:

History of Golf in South Florida

20 Surprising Facts About Golf