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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!”
Returned for another Monday at noon SGU tee time in October 2005. This time our four ball arrived early and had a brunch in the Cardinal Dining Room because we would not make lunch in the afternoon! The weather was so bad all around us but we managed to get away with only a few showers and complete our round in a touch under four hours.
All in the party were impressed and glad to have played on such an historic track.
Played the course at noon on a Monday in August 2003. The club offer the SGU a token tee time once a week at this time at a discounted rate for a fourball. A noon start time is convenient for Prestwick as it means visiting golfers have no chance of rubbing shoulders with members in their famed Cardinal dining room which closes at 4.00pm.
As for the course, it was simply magnificent!
If you like your golf old-fashioned (like the Machrie) then this is the place for you. Blind drives and approach shots over massive dunes to God knows what lies beyond and generally small and wildly undulating greens make this a course not suited to the faint hearted.
Too old-fashioned to ever be considered an Open venue again, it is a place to pay homage to the venue for those original Opens. Oh, and did I forget to mention the bunkers? Many feet taller or deeper than your height, depending on the lie of the land, these massive sleepered craters are a sight to behold and a hazard to be avoided.
Enjoy playing on the same holes of Open champions from over a hundred years ago -- I'm surprised the committee haven't stipulated the compulsary wearing of plus fours!