With its unrivalled history, there are few places like it in the world of golf.
Prestwick Golf Club
The history of Prestwick Golf Club stretches back over 160 years to a time when golf was in its infancy. In 1851, a group of 57 enthusiastic members, who met regularly at the Red Lion Inn, made the momentous decision to form a golf club purchasing two cottages opposite the tavern.
The first cottage would become the members’ clubhouse whilst the other was gifted to the club’s Keeper of the Green, ball and clubmaker – Old Tom Morris. Together with a gold medal presented by the club’s first captain (the Earl of Eglinton) for an annual competition still played for today, the legend of Prestwick was born.
Old Tom had uprooted his wife Agnes and young son Tommy from St Andrews to layout the 12-hole course over the links. His unique design proved popular, and the club enjoyed a meteoric rise hosting the first Open Championship within 10 years of its formation in 1860. The last and 24th Open Championship at Prestwick was held 65 years later in 1925.
In 1864, Old Tom returned to St Andrews. His house was auctioned with the proceeds used to part-fund the construction of a new clubhouse on the present site in 1868. It cost £758.
With its unrivalled history, charismatic course and warm welcome, there are few places like it in the world of golf.
A simple stone cairn to the west of Prestwick’s clubhouse marks the spot where the first Open Championship tee shot was struck in 1860. It identifies the opening hole of the original 12-hole course and the place where modern golfing history began.
The tournament had been arranged following the death of Alan Robertson of St Andrews in 1859. Robertson was one of the first golf professionals to make a living from playing for bets, caddying, ball and club making and instruction, and was considered the best golfer at the time. In fact, he was so good that tradition has it he never lost when playing for money.
Following his death, the members of Prestwick Golf Club agreed a competition should be held to see who would follow Robertson as the Champion Golfer. In due course, the first Open Championship was held at Prestwick on October 17, 1860 and played according to the Rules of Prestwick Golf Club.
Eight professional players competed for the prize of a red Morocco leather belt with silver clasps and an ornamental silver buckle. The impressive girdle cost £25 and was paid for by the club’s members. It eventually rested on the hips of Willie Park of Musselburgh who recorded a score of 174 for 36 holes (three rounds of 12 holes) bettering Old Tom’s tally, who represented Prestwick, by two strokes.
Old Tom would have his day and went on to win the championship four times, as did his son Tommy who secured three consecutive wins and ownership of the leather belt. He went on to record the Championship’s first hole in one and a modern-day albatross on Prestwick’s 578-yard opening hole. The original scorecards on which these achievements are noted are among the most treasured items in Prestwick’s archive collection.
Prestwick presided over the first 12 Open Championships, which was then held jointly with The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. Prestwick went on to host 24 Open Championships with the last being held in 1925 when Jim Barnes from the US secured the first prize of £75. Only the Old Course at St Andrews has hosted more Open Championships than Prestwick.
Prestwick has been the setting for a host of exciting and dramatic tournaments including eleven Amateur Championships between 1888 and 2001. The most recent Amateur Championship at Prestwick was staged as part of the club’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2001.
More recently, Prestwick has hosted a number of important amateur tournaments including the British Ladies’ Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship, the Scottish Ladies’ Amateur Championship and the British Boys’ Amateur Championship.
Prestwick will stage the Scottish Amateur Championship for the ninth time in 2017 and can boast three champions as members – JM (Morty) Dykes in 1951, WD Smith in 1958 and KW Macintosh in 1979.