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Open Venues

Royal St. George's


England's most prolific Open venue

Outside of Scotland, there is no course drenched in as much Open history as Royal St. George’s.

Founded in 1887 by Dr William Laidlaw Purves to be a rival to St Andrews in the south of England, the links course has hosted the battle for the Claret Jug on 14 occasions.

Not only that, it became the first venue outside of Scotland to hold The Open when John Henry Taylor was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year in 1894 on the Kent coastline.

While other courses outside of Scotland have since gone on to host the most prestigious major in golf, Royal St. George’s remains the most frequently visited of them all.

So, to mark St George’s Day, and ahead of The Open’s return to Sandwich in 2020 after a nine-year hiatus, here’s a look back at some of the venue’s most memorable Claret Jug moments.

Open rota debut as Taylor triumphs

Royal St. George’s made its Open bow just seven years after being founded by Dr Purves in 1887, having previously hosted The Amateur Championship two years earlier.

The R&A had been looking to expand the rota for The Open and, with reduced rail fares negotiated to encourage Scottish pros to make the journey, there was a record turnout in Sandwich.

Old Tom Morris was among those to make the journey – although he withdrew after scoring 100 in the third round – but it was J.H. Taylor who was the star of the show at The 34th Open.

Having been tenth on his debut a year before, he became the first English professional to win the Claret Jug following victories for amateurs John Ball in 1890 and Harold Hilton in 1892.

His victory proved to be the start of the Great Triumvirate dominating The Open, with Taylor, Harry Vardon – a two-time winner at St. George’s – and James Braid winning 16 times in two decades.

Legends maintain Claret Jug grip

Vardon claimed two of his record six Open titles in Sandwich in 1899 and 1911, but between his successes was a remarkable victory for Sunningdale professional Jack White in 1904.

It was White’s only major title and saw him finish one shot ahead of former Champion Golfers Braid and Taylor following a record-breaking final day of scoring.

Braid had become the first player to break 70 in The Open in his third round, before White matched his rival’s 69 in his final round to clinch the Claret Jug with a new 72-hole record of 296.

It was then the turn of another legend to dominate at Royal St George’s, as Walter Hagen claimed his first and third Open titles when The Open returned to the course in 1922 and 1928.

Hagen’s first Claret Jug success saw him become the Open’s first American-born winner, while two members of the Great Triumvirate – Taylor and Vardon – finished in the top-10 for the final time.

Breeding ground for first-timers

Like Taylor, White and Hagen before them, seven of the next eight Open winners at Royal St. George’s were crowned Champion Golfer of the Year for the first time in Sandwich.

Henry Cotton, a three-time holder of the Claret Jug, was another who claimed the famous trophy for the first time in Kent when he led wire-to-wire en route to a five-stroke victory in 1934.

Reg Whitcombe followed in Cotton’s footsteps four years later when The Open returned again to Royal St. George’s, prevailing by two shots over Jimmy Adams for his only major title.

It had been due to take place at nearby Royal Cinque Ports, but abnormally high tides caused severe flooding to the course and The Open was switched to St. George’s as a result.

A much longer 11-year wait followed before it returned in 1949 as Bobby Locke clinched the first of his four Open titles to become the first South African to win the Claret Jug.

Bill Rogers became the latest first-time Champion Golfer when St George’s next hosted The Open in 1981 as a new generation of golfers took on the Sandwich links for the first time.

History was then made again with Sandy Lyle’s victory in 1985 – making him the first British winner since Tony Jacklin in 1969, and the first Scottish major winner since Tommy Armour in 1931.

Shark success and Clarke breakthrough

It wasn’t until Greg Norman’s scintillating performance at The 122nd Open that the run of five consecutive first-time winners was broken as he won the Claret Jug for a second time.

Despite great rival Nick Faldo shooting the first ever 63 at Royal St. George’s, The Great White Shark closed with a 64 to set a new record as the lowest round to win The Open again.

After delivering a vintage Open in 1993, Sandwich followed it up with one of the great shocks in the major’s history as unknown American Ben Curtis – ranked 396th – emerged triumphant.

The local knowledge he garnered from the club professional proved invaluable on the sun-baked links in 2003 as he became the first debutant winner of the Open since Tom Watson in 1975.

But you would be hard-pushed to find a more popular Champion Golfer at St. George’s than Darren Clarke, who prevailed on his 20th Open appearance on the Claret Jug’s last visit to Kent.

The 42-year-old became the first winner from the UK since Paul Lawrie in 1999 in the process - and only the second Northern Irishman to win The Open after Fred Daly in 1947.

His emotional triumph, which came five years after his lost his wife Heather to breast cancer, also prompted one of the most vocal ovations in the major’s history as he walked the 18th.