The Old Course at St. Andrews is unrivaled for its history and affection among both players and fans. (Cannon/Getty Images)
Ranking of Open Championship venues through the years
The small group of courses to have hosted the Open Championship is as eclectic as it is exclusive. From the glorious St. Andrews to the obscure Royal Cinque Ports, here is how they stack up.
By Craig Dolch, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
Part of the Open Championship’s lore is how the tournament is moved around to a rotation -- or rota, as they like to say across the pond -- of courses in Scotland and England. Fourteen layouts have hosted the British Open, but the current rota includes nine courses that for a week get to test the world’s best golfers.
Here’s a look at our ranking of the 14 courses that have hosted Opens (currently in the Open rota):
1. Old Course at St. Andrews; St. Andrews, Scotland. How can anyone argue against the “home of golf,” especially since the R&A sees fits to host an Open on this course every five years? Jack Nicklaus picked St. Andrews as the place to enter his final major championship.
2. Royal Birkdale Golf Club; Southport, England. If a course can be judged by its winners, Royal Birkdale deserves to rank among the world’s finest. Among those who lifted the Claret Jug here: Peter Thomson (twice), Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Mark O’Meara.
3. Muirfield; Muifield, Scotland. This private course has been hosting the Open since 1892, just nine months after it had opened for play. Nicklaus loved this course so much, he named Muirfield Village -- which hosts his Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio -- after the Scottish course.
4. The Turnberry Resort’s Ailsa Course; Turnberry, Scotland: The Open has been played here just three times before this week, but look at the winners it has produced: Tom Watson (1977), Greg Norman (1986) and Nick Price (1994). Each was considered the top player in the game when he won at Turnberry.
5. Carnoustie Golf Links, Carnoustie, Scotland. The course has often been called Car-Nasty because it can be a beast, especially when the R&A went overboard with the course setup in 1999 (Paul Lawrie won at 6-over-par 290). It went 68 years before hosting an Open (1931 to 1999).
6. Royal Liverpool Golf Club; Hoylake, England. The course us usually referred to simply as “Hoylake” in reference to the town. After a 39-year absence. Hoylake returned to the rotation in 2006 when Tiger Woods by hitting irons off most tees.
7. Royal Troon Golf Club; Troon, South Ayrshire, Scotland. Royal Troon is home to both the longest and shortest holes in Open history. The par-3 eighth hole ("Postage Stamp") measures 123 yards, while the par-5 sixth is 601 yards.
8. Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club; Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, England. The course first hosted the Open in 1926, and entered the rotation in 1952. It features 198 bunkers and is the only course in the rota that starts with a par 3.
9. Royal St. George’s Golf Club; Sandwich, England. In 1894, this became the first Open venue outside Scotland. The course features a lot of blind or semi-blind shots, which often brings the element of luck into play. The course was used in the James Bond movie "Goldfinger."
(No longer in British Open rota):
10. Prestwick Golf Club; Prestwick, Scotland. Prestwick hosted the first 12 Opens, with 11 of them won by the trio of Tom Morris Sr. (four), Tom Morris Jr. (four) and Willie Park (three). It hosted 24 in all before it was dropped from the rotation in 1925.
11. Prince’s Golf Club; Sandwich, Kent, England. The course hosted just one Open, in 1932, but it was won by a future Hall of Famer (Gene Sarazen).
12. Musselburgh Links; Musselburgh, Scotland. The public course hosted six Opens from 1874-89, but was dropped from the rotation when the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers built Muirfield nearby.
13. Royal Portrush; Portrush, Northern Ireland. The highly regarded course hosted just one British Open, in 1951, that was won by Max Faulkner. It was the only Open not contested in Scotland or England.
14. Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club; Cinque Ports, England. The club hosted two Opens (1909 and 1920), but that’s the closest it has come since is its location adjacent to Royal St. George’s.