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Prestwick Golf Club hosted its 24th and last Open Championship in 1925. Only St Andrews has hosted more Open Championships than Prestwick.
In 1851, a 12-hole course was founded at Prestwick Golf Club with Old Tom Morris as “Keeper of the Green”. Nine years later in 1860, the British Open Championship was born and didn’t move away from Prestwick until it went to St Andrews in 1873. The Open has been hosted here no fewer than 24 times, although the most recent championship was held in 1925. St Andrews is the only venue to have hosted more Opens than Prestwick and obviously the Old Course is still on the Open circuit.
The first eleven Opens were contested for a red Moroccan belt, which was won outright by Young Tom Morris after he successfully won three consecutive titles between 1868 and 1870. There was no Open Championship in 1871 because there was no trophy to play for until the Claret Jug was purchased for £30 and offered for annual competition in 1872. Ironically Young Tom Morris was the first winner of the Claret Jug. Six more holes were added to Prestwick’s original 12-hole layout in 1883.
The course is a traditional monument, an authentic affair with a layout of holes that snake to and fro through rugged dunes and rippled fairways. There are numerous blind holes and cavernous sleepered bunkers with wooden steps to take you down to the bottom. The greens are notoriously firm and fast – some are hidden in hollows whilst others are perched on raised plateaux. The majority are quite small and all of them have wicked borrows to negotiate.
One of Prestwick’s great strengths is the quality and variety of the holes. The 1st is one of the most intimidating holes in golf, a par four called “Railway”. The railway tracks run all the way down the right-hand side of the hole, waiting to gobble up a right-hander’s slice. The 3rd is a short par five (stroke index 1) called “Cardinal” and is famous for its deep, deep bunker, propped up by railway sleepers. The 5th is a blind par three called “Himalayas” – your tee shot must carry over a huge sand dune.
Perhaps Prestwick's most famous hole, which C.B. Macdonald replicated at the National Golf Links of America, is the 17th, Alps, which Darwin described as; "The most spectacular blind hole in all the world."
There are so many great things to say about Prestwick. The best thing to do is to play the course and judge it for yourself. Every student of golf course architecture simply has to tick this one off their list.
Bernard Darwin brought Prestwick to a close much better than we ever could in his book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles: “So ends Prestwick, and what a jolly course it is, to be sure!”
Being the "Birthplace of The Open Championship" certainly helped. Especially when The Open this year is in nearby Muirfield. We went to a practice round at Muirfield during our visit. Muirfield is certainly similar to Prestwick in that it rewards very well thought out shots and penalizes those that are not. Prestwick certainly tests shot making skills and has for a very long time.
Everyone we met at the course and clubhouse were great and the clubhouse oozes with history. Could picture the battles between Old and Young Tom in the early days of Prestwick as well as between the greatest golfers of the day in the Open Championship. Eating in the informal Cardinal Room after the round was a special experience. The members were also very welcoming and took a true interest in ensuring we enjoyed our stay.
The starter was great and gave us several tips on playing the course and ensured we could find our way around the course. The experience in the pro shop was also exceptional . Certainly everything about Prestwick makes me want to visit again for the challenge and experience.
The overall condition of the course was the best of all we played. The fairways were firm and in perfect condition. The greens and tees were also in pristine condition and the bunkers were numerous and could be very penal. The rough outside the first cut was very difficult and hitting the fairways with the correct distances was definitely essential.
All the holes are individually great golfing experiences and each standout on their own. The blind tee shot on the par 3 fifth (Himalayas) was great and I could envision players trying to hit over the hill in the early days. The blind 2nd shot on the par 4 17th (Alps) with the Sahara Bunker lurking short of the green was certainly a unique challenge. The (Railway) first is a great little hole that shows accuracy and precision are essential and does not need to be long to be a great. The finishing (Clock) 18th is a short hole where eagles are possible but over the green is OB and the rough on an errant shot is very difficult especially if a birdie is needed. The short par 4 15th (Narrows) lives up to its name on the tee shot with the green sloping away from you on the 2nd shot. The broadly sloping green on the par 4 13th (Sea Heading) was a pleasure to putt on.
I could go on and on about every hole but would highly recommend Prestwick for any golfer that enjoys a challenge and unique experience at the "Birthplace of The Open Championship". Click here to see a You Tube slideshow of some pictures I took during my visit. Jim Brady