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History of The Open

Royal Liverpool


The history behind Hoylake

Rory McIlroy pumps his fist on the way to victory at Hoylake in 2014
Hoylake will witness another slice of Open history in 2022 when the renowned Royal Liverpool course once again plays host to the quest to become Champion Golfer of the Year.

The Claret Jug last made the journey to the Wirral back in 2014 when Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy claimed his maiden Open title with a two-shot victory after going wire-to-wire.

But the most prestigious prize in golf is set to return to Royal Liverpool when the course’s eight-year hiatus from The Open rota ends in 2022, after it was confirmed as the venue for the most prestigious major in golf.

Considered one of the most demanding links in the world, legendary golf writer Bernard Darwin once described it as: “Hoylake, blown upon by mighty winds, breeder of mighty champions.”

One look at the previous winners confirms that only the best triumph at Hoylake and to celebrate its return for The 151st Open, we’ve delved deep into the history of the famous course.

A proud originator

As the second-oldest links in England, Royal Liverpool has a long and distinguished history of being an originator over the last 150 years since it was established in 1869.

It has racked up a countless number of golfing firsts, including hosting the inaugural men’s amateur championship in 1885, which ultimately became The Amateur Championship.

Hoylake continued to break new ground in the years that followed, holding the first international match between England and Scotland – known later as the Home Internationals – in 1902.

The first international match between Great Britain and the United States of America was also contested at Royal Liverpool in 1921 before it became The Walker Cup.


In fact, Royal Liverpool is one of the most important clubs in the history of the amateur game, with its substantial contribution setting it apart from all other clubs in the country.

While the Royal Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews took on the role of the governing body in golf in the 19th century, it was at Hoylake that the rules of the amateur game were laid down.  

Amateur Championship link

Having given birth to the very first Amateur Championship in 1885, Hoylake has since held the event on a further 17 occasions – more times than any other course.

And two of the club’s most famous sons – Harold Hilton and John Ball – both won the event multiple times as they dominated the amateur game of their era.

Ball has won it more than any other golfer, clinching the title on eight occasions, including a hat-trick of victories at his home course in 1890, 1894 and 1910.

Hilton was not able to triumph at Royal Liverpool, but he nevertheless won the Amateur Championship four times, starting with back-to-back wins in 1900 and 1901.

The two amateur legends also provide a further link between Hoylake and The Open – they were both crowned Champion Golfers of the Year during their illustrious careers.

Ball became the first Englishman and the first amateur to lift the Claret Jug at Prestwick in 1890, completing the rare feat of winning it in the same year as the Amateur.

First Open and legacy

Hilton took on the mantle of Champion Golfer from Ball two years later at Muirfield, where he edged out his Royal Liverpool clubmate to win the first of his two Open titles.

Five years later, both Hilton and Ball were strong favourites to contend for the Claret Jug once again when The Open was played at Royal Liverpool for the first time.


And, against a field that included The Great Triumvirate of Harry Vardon, James Braid and JH Taylor, Hilton held his nerve to claim his second Open title after it came down to the final hole.

Ball and Hilton would not be the only amateurs to be crowned Champion Golfer, though, with Bobby Jones the last player to win the Claret Jug without professional status.

The legendary American played in The Open on four occasions and won it three times, with his greatest Open victory coming at none other than Royal Liverpool in 1930.

His hat-trick of Champion Golfer crowns completed the second leg of his remarkable Grand Slam – also winning the Amateur Championships of Britain and America as well as claiming a fourth US Open.

Welcome return to rota

Royal Liverpool continued to host the Open throughout the 20th century, with many of the biggest names in the game bringing their best to the Wirral.

Between Hilton and Jones’ successes, Sandy Herd, Arnaud Massy, JH Taylor and Walter Hagen all triumphed on the demanding links at Hoylake to lift the treasured Claret Jug.

Five-time Champion Golfer Peter Thomson would also win his third Open at the course but Hoylake had to wait 39 years before it next hosted after Roberto De Vincenzo’s 1967 victory.

Its return to the rota in 2006 became memorable for several reasons as Tiger Woods claimed his second consecutive Open title and his third overall in emotional scenes.

His victory came shortly after the death of his father in May, with Woods producing a vintage performance – using his driver once all week – en route to a two-shot victory.

Woods missed just one green in regulation in the final round, taking advantage of the fast-running links following a summer heatwave as Hoylake’s fabled winds failed to blow.

And following the success of 2006, which saw more than 230,000 fans turn out to watch – the second-highest ever – The Open returned to Royal Liverpool eight years later.

This time, McIlroy emerged triumphant to become only the third golfer from Northern Ireland to win, holding off Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia to lift the Claret Jug.