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History of The Open

Changing times


What the world looked like when The 1st Open was played

The Claret Jug and Challenge Belt at Prestwick, the venue for The 1st Open

October 17th, 2020 marks the 160th anniversary of The 1st Open, a Championship that took place in a very different world to the one we live in today.

In an attempt to emphasise just how much has changed since The 1st Open, which was played at Prestwick and won by Willie Park Snr, we pored through the archives to reveal some facts about the year 1860.

- Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States of America, making him the first Republican to hold the office.

- In 1860, there were only 33 American states, as opposed to the 50 that exist now, while the population of the USA was approximately 31 million. Today, the US population is over ten times as great, at 330 million.

- Queen Victoria was just over 23 years into her reign as Queen of the United Kingdom. She would remain on the throne until 1901, when she was succeeded by Edward VII.

- Anton Chekhov, the Russian playwright regarded as one of the greatest writers of short stories in history, was born in the Russian port city of Taganrog.

- Life expectancy in the United Kingdom was approximately 40 years, roughly half of what it is today.

- The invention of the first automobile was still more than a quarter of a century away, as trains and horse-drawn omnibuses were the most common means of transportation in the United Kingdom. The first underground railway was subsequently created in London in 1863.

- Only two courses from the modern-day Open rota - the Old Course at St Andrews and Carnoustie - were established when The 1st Open was played at Prestwick. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, now based at Muirfield, had been long established, but Musselburgh was the home of the club in 1860.

- The serialisation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations began, prior to the novel being published in three volumes in 1861.

- Neither Italy nor Germany were nation states when the first Open took place. Italian unification came in 1861, while Germany became a nation state 10 years later.

- Based on an average annual inflation rate of 3.1% in the UK, goods worth £1 when The Open was first played in 1860 would be worth £122.51 when the most recent Championship took place at Royal Portrush last year.