Category - Major Events

Four Things to Know About The Claret Jug, Golf's Most Historic Trophy

By Adam Stanley
Published on
(Liam Allan/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

(Liam Allan/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

The funny thing about golf is that while the Wanamaker Trophy is one of the game’s most iconic trophies with its robust stature and storied history, one of the game’s most treasured trophies isn’t even a trophy at all – it’s a sport coat – while the oldest prize in the sport started as a belt.
At The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool once again the Claret Jug will be awarded to the winner of the final men’s major of the year. The Open Championship, the game’s oldest – first played in 1860 – has a unique history.
But along with the championship’s history is the history of the prize bestowed on the winner – officially known as The Golf Champion Trophy.
The winner of the very first Open Championship didn’t receive any money for his win as the prestige of being crowned the “Champion Golfer of the Year” was considered a big enough reward, according to The R&A. But, Willie Park, who won the first Open in 1860 at Prestwick, did receive a wide, red leather belt as a prize which was “lavishly adorned” with silver decorations.
The Claret Jug itself would come along as a prize not long after, however, and it is now one of the most iconic symbols of victory in all of sport.
As another Open Championship comes to a close at Royal Liverpool, here are four things to know about the Claret Jug that'll be awarded to the 60th different player in championship history.
When Young Tom Morris won The Open Championship for the fourth time he was given a medal decorated with crossed golf clubs, a shield, and ironically enough, the words, “Golf Championship Trophy.”
But, Prestwick (the first host venue), The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (Muirfield) and The Royal & Ancient Golf Club (St Andrews) all agreed to replace the original belt with a trophy – and each contributed £10 for its creation.
Mackay Cunningham & Company, a silversmith, were commissioned to produce a slim and elegant silver Claret Jug with the words “Golf Champion Trophy” included.
Young Tom Morris with the Challenge Belt before the Claret Jug was awarded in 1873. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images).
Young Tom Morris with the Challenge Belt before the Claret Jug was awarded in 1873. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images).
The first Champion Golfer of the Year to receive the trophy was Tom Kidd in 1873, but it was Young Tom Morris’ name that was first engraved on it as the 1872 winner – as the trophy was not yet ready before Morris’ win.
Following the 1927 Open Championship (won at St Andrews by Bobby Jones), the championship committee at that storied club decided to retain the Claret Jug in future years and present the winner with just a replica of the real thing.
The original Claret Jug has been on display at St Andrews since 1928, while the current Claret Jug was first won by Walter Hagen that same year.
(Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
(Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Now Champion Golfers of the Year may keep the original Claret Jug for one year following their triumph but must return it during the week of their title defense. They receive a replica to keep permanently.
The new Claret Jug stands just about 21 inches tall, measures 5.5 inches in diameter, and weighs just over five pounds. It is made of 92.5 percent sterling silver.
Cameron Smith, who won at St Andrews in 2022, was the new Claret Jug’s 59th different winner, while Brian Harman is the 60th after his win July 23 at Royal Liverpool.
One of the most iconic visuals from The Open Championship each year is that of the engraver beginning work on the Claret Jug with the name of the winner.
Despite some close calls, they have never engraved an incorrect name in case of a last-second collapse. Mark Calcavecchia famously quipped, “How’s my name going to fit on that thing?” after he won in 1991.
Garry Harvey, who played in The Open Championship in 1979, is the official engraver. It takes him about eight seconds per letter.
Harvey engraving the Claret Jug during the 2023 Open Championship. (NBC Sports)
Harvey engraving the Claret Jug during the 2023 Open Championship. (NBC Sports)
Harvey’s father, Alex, did it previously. Golfers were responsible for their own engraving until Roberto De Vicenzo – who won at Royal Liverpool – in 1967 forgot, so the R&A took over.
“When I get nervous, I remember what my father looked like and taught me,” Harvey told The New York Times last year. “When I’m under pressure, I think about the old man, and then I just do it.”
What is “claret” anyway?
The prize for The Open Championship winner was actually built in the style of 19th century jugs that served claret – the British term for red Bordeaux wine. It’s an unofficial title for Bordeaux (an iconic French wine blend, usually of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) as “Bordeaux” is a protected name under European Union laws.
Plenty of winners continue to have celebratory drinks out of the Claret Jug, with last year’s winner, Smith, saying it holds two beers – but not just that.
“I’ve drank espresso from it some mornings and espresso martinis some nights,” Smith told Golf Digest.
 (Liam Allan/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)
(Liam Allan/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)