History

The History of the Claret Jug

When the Open Championship was first played at Prestwick in 1860, the winner was presented with a wide belt of rich red morocco leather embellished with silver buckle and emblems. But the rules of the competition stated quite clearly that the belt "becomes the property of the winner by being won three years in succession". In 1870 Young Tom Morris completed a trio of victories - and left the championship without a trophy.

One of the key moments in Open history came not on the golf course but at a meeting of the Prestwick club in April 1871. Gilbert Mitchell Innes proposed that "in contemplation of St Andrews, Musselburgh and other clubs joining in the purchase of a belt to be played for over four or more greens, it is not expedient for the club to provide a belt to be played solely for at Prestwick".

The idea was that the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers should co-host the championship with Prestwick, all contributing to the costs of a new trophy and taking regular turns at staging the event. But there was such a lack of urgency about the matter that 1871 passed without the Open being staged.

In fact, the first mention of the Open did not appear in R&A minutes until May 1872, when a letter from Prestwick on the "desirability of reviving the Champion Belt competition" was discussed.

The three clubs finally agreed on September 11, 1872, to pay £10 each to provide a new trophy and to jointly host the Open Championship. But that was only two days before eight players contested the Open. There was obviously no time to commission a new trophy and the winner was presented with what appears to be a standard, shop-bought medal. It was the first time that a medal had been presented.

The famous claret jug trophy was made by Mackay Cunningham & Company of Edinburgh and is hallmarked 1873. It was presented to the winner that year and every year for almost half a century.

Yet three months after Bobby Jones won the championship at St Andrews in 1927, the Championship Committee of the R&A decided that "in future the original Open Championship Cup be retained in possession of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and that a duplicate be obtained for presentation to the winners". The cost of this duplicate was stated to be about �40.

The trophy is returned each year for presentation to the new champion, but many winners privately commission copies of the ancient jug for their personal collections.

The preceding was furnished by The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and OpenGolf.com

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