The Open was founded by pioneering golfers who had one guiding principle - to crown the Champion Golfer of the Year.
Since 1860, The Open has been played over some of the world’s most cherished links courses and has produced a remarkable legacy of great champions. It is the oldest and most international championship in professional golf and the Claret Jug - first presented in 1873 - is one of the most iconic trophies in all of sport.
From earlier greats such as Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Henry Cotton and Walter Hagen through modern legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros to exceptional talents of today Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, the greatest players in the world have faced the unrelenting challenge of The Open for more than 150 years.
Explore the sections below to learn more about the history and heritage of The Open.
The One, The Open is a short film celebrating the heritage of The Open. The three minute film captures the essence of what makes golf’s oldest championship a unique event in world sport. Going beyond some of the great moments in Open history, the film conveys the drama and emotion of the players and the fans and their shared experience of the unrelenting challenge of links golf.
Produced by David White and written and voiced by, television commentator and former British & Irish Lions rugby player, Eddie Butler, the three-minute film evokes the special narrative of The Open’s150-year history with stirring images of the championship, the champions and the fans throughout golf’s illustrious history.
Please click below to view the short film.
On 17 October 1860, eight professionals assembled at Prestwick for a tournament to determine who would be the Champion golfer.
The winner was to receive the Challenge Belt, a prize crafted from red Moroccan leather and worth £25. The competitors played three rounds on the then 12-hole links, with Willie Park Sr beating Old Tom Morris by two shots. A year later, Prestwick announced that the tournament “shall be open to all the world.”
Three of the All Time Greats
The Open has a remarkable legacy of inspiring Champions. For more than 150 years, the world’s finest golfers have set out to become the “Champion Golfer of the Year” and lift the iconic Claret Jug.
Millions around the world have been united by shared memories of the unforgettable moments that unfold at The Open. Three of the greatest-ever champions, Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, all produced tremendous displays of passion and unmatched skill to capture the imagination of golf fans everywhere.
Click on the players for a short biography and to learn more about their success at The Open.
Exciting, flamboyant, wild, unpredictable – Seve Ballesteros ushered in a new era and made a new generation of fans fall in love with the game. He was runner-up as a 19-year-old in 1976 and three years later at the age of 22 became the youngest Champion of the 20th century.
In 1984 he birdied the 18th at St Andrews and celebrated his second Open victory joyously. At Lytham in 1988 he produced a wondrous closing round of 65, a win sealed with a fantastic chip at the final green.
Jack Nicklaus played his best golf for longer than anyone else – precise and conservative, hitting glorious long-iron shots and holing the putts that mattered. His first Open win came at Muirfield in 1966 and he triumphed twice at St Andrews, in 1970 and 1978.
Between 1963 and 1980 in The Open, Nicklaus won three times, was second seven times and third three times, and other than finishing 12th once, was never worse than sixth. An incomparable record.
Between 1975 and 1983, Tom Watson won five Opens in nine years, a better rate of conversion than anyone ever before. He won on his debut in 1975, in a play-off over Jack Newton, and two years later pipped Jack Nicklaus in the “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry.
Watson won his third Open at Muirfield in 1980, then again in 1982 at Royal Troon before securing his fifth title at Royal Birkdale a year later. In 2014, aged 64, he extended his record as the oldest known competitor to complete 72 holes at The Open.