Few sporting events in the world are as grand as The Open Championship in Angus, Scotland, known as the oldest of four major championships for professional golf. With over 150 years of rich history – including all the biggest names and many of the greatest finishes in golf – The Open is a tradition like no other. Here we share the Ultimate Golfer’s Bucket List experience for the die hard fan.
Imagine if you could play all 14 golf venues to have hosted the greatest golfers in history including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Rory Mcllory and many other for this illustrious event. Carr Golf – Ireland and Scotland’s premier provider of unforgettable golf vacations – has put together an epic golf itinerary that makes this fantasy reality. This once-in-a-lifetime journey through Scotland, England and Northern Ireland is a golf lover’s dream come true!
The incredible odyssey begins in southern Scotland with a round at Turnberry’s Ailsa course. Home to four Open Championships – most recently in 2009 – Turnberry is perhaps best known as the site of 1977’s “Duel in the Sun.” Tied after two rounds, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson both carded 65s on the third day to remain tied heading into the final round. In dazzling sunlight, hence the nickname, Watson fired another 65 to edge out Nicklaus by a single stroke. This memorable tournament is commemorated at Turnberry’s 19th hole, “The Duel in the Sun” restaurant.
Following your round, settle in for the first of two nights at Trump Turnberry, the world’s first golf resort. Enjoy marvelous ocean views of the Ailsa Craig and beyond.
Head up the coast to Royal Troon Golf Club, long known for its deep rough and unpredictable winds. A nine-time Open host, Royal Troon is home to the notorious “Postage Stamp.” The par-3 8th features a tiny, narrow putting surface protected by a “coffin” bunker to the left of the green. According to Carr Golf Sales Manager, Mark Byrne, “The Postage Stamp at Troon is one of the most famous holes in golf and can often be a deciding hole in The Open.”
Make the quick morning journey up to Prestwick Golf Club for your final round on Scotland’s west coast. The birthplace of The Open, Prestwick dates back to 1851. The first Open was held at Prestwick – then just a 12-hole course – in 1860. It went on to host 24 Open Championships with the last being in 1925. Today, a simple collection of stones mark the place where the first Open tee shot was struck.
Next, move from Scotland’s west to the east coast for incredible accommodations at the Greywalls Hotel. This elegant Edwardian country house is conveniently situated on the edge of Muirfield Championship Golf Course, the next on your list of Open venues to play. Built in 1901, Greywalls still retains its original charm and features delightful walled gardens complete with a hard and grass tennis court, croquet lawn and putting green. The interior contains elegant drawing rooms and charming dining areas in addition to its 23 en suite bedrooms.
Make the short walk over to mighty Muirfield, home of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers since 1744. This iconic course has hosted 42 national and international competitions – including 16 Open Championships – averaging one approximately every three years. Like the Old Course – still to come on this ambitious itinerary – Muirfield is a true “must-play” at least once in a golfing life. Originally 16 holes, it expanded to 18 before hosting its first Open in 1892.
Renovated by Harry Colt in 1923, this Tom Morris design features two concentric rings comprised of the challenging front and back nines. The front runs clockwise along the outer ring of the dramatic topography, while the back nine runs counterclockwise ending at the stately clubhouse. This unique feature ensures a wide variety of wind conditions.
After another night at the Greywalls Hotel, it’s time to play Musselburgh Links, the world’s oldest golf course. The final of this layout’s nine holes was added in 1870 in preparation for hosting its first Open Championship. An original Open venue, Musselburgh hosted the competition six times between 1874 and 1889. Fun Fact: You can rent hickory clubs for the full historic experience.
Speaking of historic experiences, now it’s time to visit the place that needs no introduction: St Andrews. You’ll be spending three nights at the Old Course Hotel, situated right on the 17th fairway of the famous “Road Hole” on St Andrews. The five-star hotel offers luxurious accommodations and breathtaking views of St Andrews courses, West Sands Beach and the scenic Scottish coastline.
After a relaxing evening surrounded by Scottish golf history, look to the future by visiting the site of the 2018 Open: Carnoustie Golf Links. In 2007, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington captured his first of back-to-back Open titles here. The Championship Course is generally regarded as one of the toughest and fairest Open venues.
Next, it’s time for a round at the “Home of Golf,” St Andrews. Carr Golf has a special connection with St Andrews as its founder, J.B. Carr, was the first Irishman to captain the R&A. St. Andrews has hosted The Open 29 times dating back to 1873.
An iconic moment in Open history occurred on the Old Course’s par-3 11th over 90 years ago. “The 11th on the Old Course at St Andrews is unofficially named after Bobby Jones,” says Carr Golf’s Peter Keighery. “The first time he played it in 1921 in the Open Championship, he went into a bunker, took four swipes and, when he couldn’t get out of the bunker, walked off the course. He came back six years later and won The Open!”
The win secured Jones’ place in history as the first amateur to win back-to-back Open Championships as he had won the previous year at Royal Lytham & St Annes. He went on to win one more Open in 1930 at Royal Liverpool.
Close out the Scottish part of your journey with one final night at the Old Course Hotel before journeying south to England.
Kick off the English leg of the trip with a round at 11-time Open host Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Founded in 1886, this challenging design houses 206 bunkers making both a solid strategy and accurate shots essential. Although this renowned layout isn’t on the water, the sea breeze can still affect your game.
Following your round, settle in for the first of two nights at the opulent Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa. Highlights include the newly refurbished swimming pool, steam room and Himalayan salt sauna.
Test your abilities at Royal Liverpool. A 12-time Open venue, most recently in 2014, Royal Liverpool’s Hoylake is the second oldest English seaside course. Built on a racecourse of the Liverpool Hunt Club, the golf course doubled as a horserace track in its earliest years. Only six holes are nestled amongst the dunes making wind a key factor. Fun Fact: J.B. Carr won his first British Amateur Open at Royal Liverpool in 1953.
Conquer the most recent Open venue, Royal Birkdale. This stunning seaside layout has hosted the Open 10 times dating back to 1954. Keep an eye out for the plaque on the 16th hole commemorating Arnold Palmer’s iconic shot from thick rough amongst the blackberry bushes in 1961. He went on to win the tournament – his first Open victory – by a single stroke. Don’t let the unexpectedly flat fairways lull you into a false sense of security as their narrowness places a premium on accuracy. Pot bunkers sprinkled throughout the course further demand precision.
After your round, venture to England’s southeast coast for the first of four nights at The Lodge at Prince’s. This area is a hotbed for spectacular English golf with three Open venues – Princes, Royal Cinque and Royal St Georges, the next three courses on your itinerary – all within a five-mile radius.
Situated on the Bay of Sandwich, The Lodge is located at the entrance of Prince’s Golf Club. Each room has a unique format, but all feature club storage and tea-making essentials. On-site facilities include a restaurant, lounge bar, sun terrace, fully equipped gym, conference suite and snooker room.
Play 18 of Prince’s Golf Club’s 27 holes. Each of the three nine-hole layouts – Shore, Dunes and Himalayas – have wonderful history and provide a stern test. The present-day layout Prince’s has hosted the Open just once back in 1932. Fun Fact: American Gene Sarazen debuted his new club, the sand wedge, at the 1932 Open and went on to win.
Explore Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club, home of the 1909 and 1920 Opens. Regarded as one of the finest links challenges in England, it was one of four Final Open Qualifying venues from 2014 – 2017. Royal Cinque Ports has hosted the largest amateur tournament in the world – the Halford Hewitt Public Schools Championship – every year since 1924.
Experience 14-time Open host Royal St. George’s Golf Club. One of England’s finest links courses, it will host the Open again in 2020. Its undulating fairways and fast, true greens challenge amateur and professional golfers alike.
Close out your epic golf itinerary with a visit to Northern Ireland’s only course in the Open rota, Royal Portrush. Those who’d like to spend more time in Northern Ireland would do well to wait until 2019, when the Open makes its historic return to Royal Portrush after nearly 70 years. The 148th Open marks just the second time golf’s oldest and most international championship will be staged outside of Scotland and England.
Dunluce Links – one of Royal Portrush’s two layouts – is a “must-play” for lovers of golf course architecture. The championship layout consistently ranks among the world’s greatest courses and is widely noted as one of the game’s sternest tests. Playing through rugged terrain and featuring dramatic elevation changes, Dunluce captivates even the most accomplished golfers. Vivid views of the North Atlantic and 13th Century Dunluce Castle enhance its timeless charm.
Spend the evening at The Bushmills Inn – one of Northern Ireland’s most well-known luxury hotels. Roaring peat fires and nooks and crannies throughout the property – including a secret library – evoke the spirit and charm of a bygone era. The boutique cinema provides an ideal place to relax and watch golf and reflect on your trip.
What better way to celebrate the magic of The Open than experiencing our Ultimate Golfer’s Bucket List and all 14 venues for yourself?