“What we do in life, echoes in eternity”. That quote is always on my mind when watching the Open Championship. Maybe it’s the fact that this is one of the oldest sporting events in the world. Aside from the sailing match race America’s Cup (1851), the Claret Jug (1873) has been a prized trophy for international golfers for a very very long time. A question often asked by people outside the golf world is, “where the heck is the Open Championship played?” Well I’m here to inform you that just like in Formula 1, the playing field changes in golf!
Hopefully, I won’t be called a “cheeky fellow” by the members of courses that are not on the list. Hey, at least I know to call it the Open Championship and not the “British Open” like some Americans. Trust me, all of these courses are wonderful but the ones on the list stand out to me.
There are currently 10 Open Championship venues on the current rotation (2020). It’s important to remember that four courses are no longer on the rotation for various reasons (making a total of 14). Below are my top Open Championship courses for both playing and spectating!
The Old Course St Andrews, Scotland (1552)
If you’re waiting for me to write some corny lines from the classic film Chariots of Fire, it’s not gonna happen. St Andrews is known for its golf history but it’s also home to the third oldest university in the English speaking world! Not only is this amazing little town considered the Home of Golf, it also hosts the Open Championship every few years. In fact, more championships have been played here than at any other course on the rotation. It truly is one of the world’s greatest sporting venues. From the first tee shot played from the middle of town (literally) to the 17th hole neighboring the famous Old Course Hotel, this golf course is simply fantastic. Believe it or not, locals are allowed to use it as a park on Sundays to walk their dogs and throw frisbees, which I think brings incredible charm to this grand stadium of sport. I wonder what Augusta National would think about that!
Muirfield Golf Club, Scotland (1744)
This hollowed ground is home to the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. I’m not sure what you have to do to become a member, but the name sure sounds cool. I know many Americans dream of becoming a Lord or want to get knighted. Not sure if this is the same thing, but I have no doubt it must be pretty close. Everything and I mean everything is first class when watching or playing golf at Muirfield. It is a must visit if you’re a traveling golfer, however it’s a private club so get permission before you go!
Carnoustie Golf Links, Scotland (1842)
Often called “Carnasty” by it’s critics and players who blew Open Championships on the final holes of the golf course. Carnoustie is known to be the “hardest” golf course in the world. That may be a subjective statement but there’s no doubt this venue has destroyed some of the world’s great golfers like Jean Van De Velde and Sergio Garcia in the past. Personally, I love Carnoustie and think it’s one of the best golf courses in the world. It has a unique design with burns (little water creeks) throughout and every golf hole seems to be different.
Turnberry Ailsa Course, Scotland (1906)
This is by far the most picturesque of all the Open venues. It’s simply stunning, with a white lighthouse and the magnificent Turnberry Hotel in the background. It’s home to the great “Duel in the Sun” between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson in 1977 Open Championship. It’s at the top of the list for playing links golf and attending the tournament.
Royal Lytham & St Annes, England (1886)
Definitely at the top of the list for most iconic clubhouse and amazing design, RL&SA is a prime example of English perfection. Hopefully, this venue will be on the list for many years to come because it may just be one of the best links courses in the world. Who doesn’t like drivable par 4’s? It’s an epic track that test’s the greatest professional’s every year it hosts the Open.
Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland (1888)
Last but not least, Royal Portrush is the most recent course to be added back on to the rota! They hosted the 2019 Open Championship in which Shane Lowery, an Irishman hoisted the Claret Jug. This is the same area Game of Thrones is filmed. Needless to say in reality there are no red dragons flying around, but there is a world glass golf course. I have no doubt we will see many more Open’s at Portrush in the future.