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From St. Andrews on down: Rating each single Open venue

6:09 AM ET

  • Bob HarigESPN Senior Author


    • Senior golf author for ESPN.com
    • Lined golf for greater than 20 years
    • Earned Evans Scholarship to attend Indiana College

SANDWICH, England — Jack Nicklaus by no means obtained to play an Open at Royal St. George’s throughout his prime. That, maybe, is without doubt one of the causes a quote attributed to him — he’s coy about whether or not he truly actually mentioned it — make some sense. And why when an Open comes round on the southeastern England venue, because it does this week, the quote resurfaces.

“The Open venues worsen the farther south you go,” Nicklaus as soon as allegedly mentioned.

This remark or varied iterations have been linked to Nicklaus, though pinning down its origin is problematic. Nicklaus through the years has denied saying it, laughed when it’s introduced up, admits he might need mentioned it, then goes right into a extra diplomatic response.

“I appreciated the Scottish venues higher than the English venues,” mentioned Nicklaus, who gained all three of his Opens — Muirfield and twice at St. Andrews — in Scotland. “I believe the kind of golf in Scotland is a little bit totally different than the kind of golf in England, and the farther south you went the extra you noticed kind of a hummocks and bee hills and stuff that was totally different.”

Nicklaus isn’t essentially alone. Royal St. George’s, which hosts this week after The Open was canceled a 12 months in the past due to COVID-19, doesn’t at all times get the best opinions.

Sandy Lyle, who gained at Royal St. George’s in 1985, referred to as it “a beast.” Nonetheless, it’s going to host the championship for the fifteenth time this week, making it the fourth-most used venue within the rotation.

Three years in the past, in 2018, we supplied up our first rating of Open venues. Since then, Royal Portrush in Northern Eire made a grand return to the rotation. In 2019, it hosted the occasion to rave opinions; it had hosted simply as soon as earlier than — in 1951.

So right here is our newest crack on the record. The primary 10 are these which are nonetheless a part of the rotation and the final 4 — sure, there have been simply 14 complete venues in Open historical past relationship to 1860 — observe.

1. St. Andrews (The Outdated Course)

St. Andrews, Scotland

Hosted 29 Opens; first in 1873, the final: 2015. Subsequent scheduled: 2022.

This tops the record for apparent causes. St. Andrews is taken into account the house of golf, the Outdated Course its jewel. Not everybody likes the structure, however its uniqueness makes it particular and it has remained just about the identical since Outdated Tom Morris took care of the place within the nineteenth century. Subsequent 12 months, the a hundred and fiftieth enjoying of The Open will happen at St. Andrews. The course has produced a number of the greatest winners of their respective generations. Tiger Woods gained there twice. So did Jack Nicklaus. Seve Ballesteros gained at St. Andrews. And but, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson didn’t.

St. Andrews tidbit: The R&A Clubhouse, which sits behind the primary tee and 18th inexperienced, was in-built 1854 and have become house to golf’s governing physique (exterior of the U.S.) in 1897.

2. Muirfield

Gullane, Scotland

Hosted 16 Opens; the primary in 1892, the final in 2013. Subsequent: but to be scheduled.

Identified extra formally because the Honourable Firm of Edinburgh Golfers, Muirfield is without doubt one of the oldest golf equipment on this planet and sometimes cited because the fairest of the Open venues. The course was opened in 1891 and have become a frequent web site of The Open, changing close by Musselburgh, which was a nine-hole structure. The record of winners at Muirfield can also be spectacular: Harry Vardon, Walter Hagen, Gary Participant, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson all gained right here.

Muirfield tidbit: Muirfield was briefly taken out of the working for future Opens as a result of it didn’t have any girls members. The course voted to alter that in 2017. Nonetheless, it has but to be awarded one other Open since Mickelson’s win in 2013.

3. Royal Birkdale

Southport, England

Hosted 10 Opens; the primary in 1954, the final in 2017. Subsequent: not but scheduled.

Jordan Spieth captured his third main title in beautiful trend when he gained The Open at Birkdale in 2017 with a wild again 9 that noticed him give floor to Matt Kuchar after which overtake him for the victory. That was the 12 months Spieth recovered from the driving vary after a wayward drive on the thirteenth. In the identical 12 months, Branden Grace shot a third-round 62, the bottom spherical ever in a serious championship. Positioned alongside northwest England’s best stretch of hyperlinks golf, Royal Birkdale is a relative newcomer to the Open rota and is now among the many hottest locales. It did not host its first Open till 1954, when Peter Thomson gained the primary of three straight.

Birkdale tidbit: The course was the positioning of the well-known concession by Jack Nicklaus to Tony Jacklin on the ultimate inexperienced of the 1969 Ryder Cup, which resulted in a 16-16 tie.

4. Royal Portrush

Portrush, Northern Eire

Hosted two Opens; the primary in 1951, the final in 2019. Subsequent: not but scheduled.

Solely two Opens have been performed exterior of Nice Britain. The latest was so profitable the venue shall be rewarded with no less than yet one more, maybe comparatively quickly. Logistical considerations had been the primary purpose for such an absence, definitely not the golf course, which is thought for its beautiful magnificence and immense issue when the wind howls. The city of Portrush can also be house to Open champion Darren Clarke. Fellow main winners Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell additionally hail from Northern Eire. And it definitely helped that an Irishman, Shane Lowry, gained the championship in 2019.

Portrush tidbit: There’s a good likelihood the R&A returns to Royal Portrush for the 2025 Open, the following out there open date.

5. Carnoustie Golf Membership

Carnoustie, Scotland

Hosted eight Opens; the primary in 1931, the final in 2018. Subsequent: not but scheduled.

The course has earned a popularity for being one of many hardest hyperlinks layouts on this planet. It’s the place Ben Hogan gained his one and solely Open in 1953, the place Tom Watson gained his first of 5 in 1975, the place Jean Van de Velde grew to become notorious in 1999, the place Padraig Harrington in 2007 averted the identical destiny by defeating Sergio Garcia in a memorable playoff, and the place in 2018 Tiger Woods made a spirited run on the Claret Jug earlier than Italy’s Francesco Molinari prevailed.

Carnoustie tidbit: When Hogan gained the title in 1953, 36 holes had been performed on the ultimate day. He birdied the par-5 sixth twice on the way in which to a 4-shot victory and the outlet is known as “Hogan’s Alley.”

6. Royal Troon

Troon, Scotland

Hosted 9 Opens; the primary in 1923, the final in 2016. Subsequent: scheduled for 2024.

Troon is a next-door neighbor to Prestwick, which hosted the primary Open in 1860. The 2 golf equipment have an annual event wherein they begin at one course and play via onto the holes of the opposite and again once more. Troon has an out-and-back configuration much like the Outdated Course and was higher outfitted to deal with the calls for of a giant event, therefore it changed Prestwick within the rotation. The well-known “postage stamp” eighth gap is the place Gene Sarazen made an ace at age 71 in 1973.

Troon tidbit: Each Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson shot then record-tying 63s in 2016 at Troon. Mickelson’s got here within the first spherical and Stenson’s capped his final-round victory.

7. Royal Liverpool

Hoylake, England

Hosted 12 Opens; the primary in 1897, the final in 2014. Subsequent: scheduled for 2023.

The primary membership in northwest England to host an Open, Hoylake, as it’s referred to as, is the second-oldest seaside hyperlinks in England and residential to some good historical past. It was the venue for the primary (British) Newbie Championship in 1895. Two of the three amateurs who gained The Open, Harold Hilton and John Ball, had been Hoylake members. It’s also the place one other newbie, Bobby Jones, gained the second leg of the Grand Slam in 1930. Hoylake went 39 years between Opens earlier than Tiger Woods gained in The Open’s return to the venue in 2006. Rory McIlroy added his lone Open title in 2014.

Liverpool tidbit: With the course baked out by scorching, dry circumstances in 2006, Woods famously hit only one driver all week — it was through the first spherical — and strategically performed the course by hitting irons off the tees to keep away from bunkers. He completed at 18 below and gained by 2 strokes.

8. Royal St. George’s

Sandwich, England

Hosted 14 Opens; the primary in 1894, the final in 2011. Subsequent: this week.

The primary course in England to host the championship, St. George’s has additionally been the positioning of extra Opens than another membership south of the Scottish border. It has hosted the fourth-most instances of any venue. It’s within the tiny city of Sandwich, which has lower than 5,000 individuals. Walter Hagen gained two of his 4 Opens at Royal St. George’s, which went 32 years between internet hosting from 1949 till 1981. Positioned close to the Kent coast, on a transparent day you may see France from the encompassing space.

St. George’s tidbit: Creator Ian Fleming used Royal St. George’s in his 1959 novel “Goldfinger” however referred to as it “Royal St. Mark’s.”

9. Turnberry (Ailsa Course)

Turnberry, Scotland

Hosted 4 Opens; the primary in 1977, the final in 2009. Subsequent: not but scheduled.

That is essentially the most picturesque of Open venues. The R&A, although, introduced earlier this 12 months that it has no plans to carry the event again “within the foreseeable future” resulting from former U.S. president Donald Trump’s possession. Turnberry has hosted the championship simply 4 instances. Its distant location can also be a monetary hardship for the R&A. The final to affix the rotation in 1977, Turnberry has but to disappoint, with Tom Watson’s “Duel within the Solar” with Jack Nicklaus that first 12 months, adopted by Greg Norman’s first main title in 1986, a memorable end for Nick Worth in 1994 and Watson’s exceptional run at turning into the oldest main champion at age 59 that ended with a playoff defeat to Stewart Cink.

Turnberry tidbit: Paired with Nicklaus for all 4 rounds in 1977, Watson shot 66-65 on the weekend to edge Nicklaus’ 66-66. No person else was nearer than 10 strokes.

10. Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s

Lytham St. Anne’s, England

Hosted 11 Opens; the primary in 1926, the final in 2012. Subsequent: not but scheduled.

It begins with a par-3 and isn’t overly lengthy at 7,100 yards, however with some 200 bunkers, Lytham will be very exacting, particularly when the wind blows. Bobby Jones gained the primary Open at Lytham in 1926. It took till 1996 for one more American, Tom Lehman, to win on the course on England’s northwest coast. It’s also the place England’s Tony Jacklin grew to become the occasion’s first homegrown winner in 1969. Very like Turnberry, Lytham has fallen out of favor with the R&A, due not a lot to the course however to its footprint and the struggles to host such a big enterprise. It has not been talked about in any future Open plans.

Lytham tidbit: When Lytham hosted The Open in 2012, it was the primary time in Open historical past that the championship was performed in England in consecutive years, having been performed at Royal St. George’s in 2011.

Different venues now not in use

Prestwick Golf Membership

Prestwick, Scotland

Hosted 24 Opens; the primary in 1860, the final in 1925.

The unique house to the Open Championship, Prestwick nonetheless charges due to its spectacular historical past, regardless that it’s now not suited to host the championship. The primary 12 Opens had been performed at Prestwick, and 15 of its 24 had been performed on a 12-hole structure that was not revamped till the late Eighteen Eighties. Immediately solely 4 of the unique holes stay, however the quirky structure is stuffed with historical past.

Prestwick tidbit: In 1870, Tom Morris Jr. gained for the third straight time and began the event with a 3 on what was then a 578-yard opening gap that performed as a par-6.

Royal Cinque Ports

Deal, England

Hosted two Opens; the primary in 1909, the final in 1920.

Positioned a couple of miles from Royal St. George’s, Deal, as it’s generally referred to as, would have hosted the championship way more usually had been it not for world circumstances. It misplaced out resulting from wars in 1915 and once more in 1938. The 1949 Open scheduled for Cinque Ports was moved to Royal St. George’s resulting from flooding. An attention-grabbing second in golf historical past occurred at Deal in 1920, when Walter Hagen defied orders to alter within the professional store — as required of all professionals on the time. Professionals had been barred from the clubhouse, however Hagen had his limo driver park on the flagpole, the place he would change his sneakers every day. Hagen would win The Open 4 instances.

Cinque Ports tidbit: The venue is greater than able to internet hosting The Open, it merely lacks the area and infrastructure to have the ability to stage the event, therefore Royal St. George’s emergence.


Sandwich, England

Hosted one Open, in 1932.

Positioned adjoining to Royal St. George’s, the course made for 3 Open venues inside a couple of miles of one another. It obtained its one and solely Open in 1932, when Gene Sarazen set a scoring file that stood for 18 years. A lot of the course was destroyed throughout World Warfare II because the Royal Air Pressure used it for bombing goal apply. Though the greens had been left principally intact, The Open would by no means return.

Prince’s tidbit: Sarazen led the one Open at Prince’s after each spherical and defeated Macdonald Smith by 5 strokes.


Musselburgh, Scotland

Hosted six Opens; the primary in 1874, the final in 1889.

Final however definitely not least, Musselburgh goes to the tip of the record just because someone needed to and it’s the course furthest faraway from internet hosting the championship. The nine-hole course is a loop that’s principally contained inside an current horse racetrack. It performed a giant half within the early days of the championship; for a time The Open rotated between Musselburgh, St. Andrews and Prestwick.

Musselburgh tidbit: The course is formally acknowledged by the Guinness E book of World Information because the oldest surviving golf course.

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