The Open was founded by pioneering golfers who had one guiding principle - to crown the Champion Golfer of the Year.
Since 1860, The Open has been played over some of the world’s most cherished links courses and has produced a remarkable legacy of great champions. It is the oldest and most international championship in professional golf and the Claret Jug - first presented in 1873 - is one of the most iconic trophies in all of sport.
PARK SR, Willie
1st Open (1860)
Willie Park SR was the very first Champion Golfer of the Year
He received the Challenge Belt, made of red Morocco leather, after winning the inaugural Open at Prestwick in 1860 and beating the home club’s professional, Old Tom Morris, into second place.
Young Tom was the greatest golfer of his generation and perhaps the first to inspire a frenzied mania in the viewing public.
He had a thrilling, full, slashing action and attacked the course at full throttle. He grew up at Prestwick, where his father was the greenkeeper and home of the first Opens, although they had moved back to St Andrews by the time he started winning – a so far unmatched four in a row. In 1868 he defeated his father, who had just won four Opens in seven years, with a course record 49 in the final round to become the youngest ever winner aged just 17 years and 156 days. The next year he had the first ever hole-in-one, at the eighth hole in the first round, and went on to win by 11 strokes.
The next year he claimed the first ever 3 at the 578-yard opening hole, holing a 200-yard approach, lowered his course record to 47 and set a total of 149 which was never bettered while The Open was contested over 36 holes. He won by 12 strokes. As per the rules, he was allowed to keep the Challenge Belt – “without rivalry and yet without envy,” a tribute said – but it took until 1872 for The Open to be staged again.
One day in 1877, the citizens of the Royal Burgh of Dornoch met together and formed the Dornoch Golf Club. The two gentlemen responsible for the foundation being Mr. Alexander McHardy, 'the pioneer of golf in the North of Scotland', and Dr. Hugh Gunn, a native of the town, who was educated at St. Andrews and there learned the game which was destined to bring the sleepy capital of Sutherland so prominently into the world of sport. The course was then only 9 holes long.
In 1883 the annual subscription to the club was 2/6 and the annual income was £9.00.
In 1886, the Club invited the veteran champion golfer, Old Tom Morris, to visit Dornoch, make a survey of the links and lay out a more fully planned golf course. The basic purpose of these 'founding fathers' of Dornoch golf more than one century ago was to have a golf course of first class quality in keeping with the abundant natural resources already provided in the famed Dornoch Links.
Donald Ross born in 1872, left Dornoch in 1899. Learn more at