There are two outstanding features of the history of the Prestwick golf course. First, it was responsible for establishing and developing the first major golf championship in the World.
Secondly, although it was founded about 300 years after St Andrews Old Course, it can compete with the Old Course when representing a quirky, unique, and original historical layout that delights visiting golfers.
The club and its history have been written about extensively. Below we record eight memorable golf holes and the 12 winners of the 24 Open’s played at Prestwick.
345 yards, par 4, index 11
From the first tee, there is an out-of-bounds wall running down the right-hand side from tee to green separating the course from the railway. A slice would be a dreadful start. The fairway looks impossibly narrow and a bail-out left seems suicidal due to thick heather.
A tee shot of about 200 yards will set up a short iron approach to the green. Chose the right side of the fairway for a simpler second shot.
533 yards, par 5, index 3
This was the fourth hole on the original twelve-hole course. It bends around to the right following the line of the Pow Burn. The prudent play is to lay up short of the devilish, huge, sleeper-faced Cardinal bunker.
The right side of the fairway will reduce the angle and shorten the hole. Long hitters taking on the green can hit over the vast and deep bunker to leave around 100 yards to the green.
The Pow burn is out of bounds its entire length. The final approach is over some of the humpiest turf in Scotland with all sorts of approach shot options.
417 yards, par 4, index 13
A great risk and reward hole which requires strategic play. Your tee shot is best right and it is critical to avoid the fairway bunkers. The fairway bends around towards the Pow burn, which is out of bounds. The green is tilted towards the water and is protected by a well-placed greenside bunker.
231 yards, par 3, index 5
The hole is totally blind over a large sandhill. It is vital to aim at the marker matching the color of the tee you are playing from. It is a challenging tee shot as the habitual winds can force you in the direction of five bunkers on the left side of the green.
The green slopes back to front. The tee box will show where the hole is cut. Ring the bell to let those behind know it’s safe to tee off.
458 yards, par 4, index 2
This hole was initially the fifth on the twelve-hole course. The undulating fairway can leave you with an irregular stance and the green unaltered from its earlier role slants away as you play your approach.
Precision is required if you are to overcome this hole and avoid Willie Campbell’s Grave; a hidden bunker on the left side of the fairway.
353 yards, par 4, index 10
This hole heads into a narrow and heavily bunkered valley and then demands an impossibly delicate pitch across a crest to a green falling sharply away from the play. It is a most demanding tee shot down a very slim fairway. The ideal line is to carry 210 yards down the left side of the path.
A miss-hit could find the bunker hidden over the brow of the hill. You are faced with a blind approach. The green slopes severely from front left to back right meaning two putts will be well earned.
280 yards, par 4, index 18
Long hitters could try driving this green but it can be risky. The vast Cardinal bunker will collect anything short and right. From the left side, you can leave a short approach to a two-tiered green sloping front to back.
However, Willie Campbell’s Grave splits the fairways and requires a carry of 225 yards. There are two pot bunkers behind the green to gather anything long.
394 yards, par 4, index 6
This is unlike any hole in the world. It’s the original second hole and the oldest existing in championship golf. The narrow fairway needs a precise tee shot to set up an approach that will clear the enormous dune ahead. The blind second shot must not be short or could find the infamous Sahara bunker which is in a blind bowl.
The tee box will indicate pin positions that you can then correspond to the markers on top of the Alps. Ring the bell to tell the players behind when it is safe to play.
The Open Championship was contested at Prestwick on 24 occasions between 1860 and 1925. Played over the unique Prestwick links layout, each tournament of golf’s oldest major added to the magic of the event. There were twelve different winners in this period.
Of the twenty-four wins, fourteen went to golfers originally from St Andrews including two from Earlsferry nearby, five were from Musselburgh, three from Jersey, and two from England, although one had emigrated to America. The Jersey and English players were coming to prominence late in the event from 1890 winning five of the last six contests.
The Championship had been arranged and played mainly by Scottish professionals and was spreading through the UK and the 1925 winner Jim Barnes, formerly English was now an American citizen.
He was the first great player who started from caddying rather than club and ball making. He was known for long driving. When the first Open Championships were played they had less impact than challenge matches which were much more keenly followed.
The first Open began in 1860 soon after Alan Robertson's death. Park won by 2 strokes from Tom Morris. Only eight players contested for the title. He won again in 1863, 1866, and 1875. Willie had learned to play the game with one club, a curved stick. With this club, he became a long and straight driver and excellent putter. Bunkers! well, he needed to avoid them.
Tom was apprenticed to Allan Robertson and later they formed a virtually unbeaten partnership in the challenge matches. They parted company when Robertson saw Morris using the new gutta-percha ball. In 1851 Morris accepted the job as Prestwick's first ‘Keeper of the Green’ and built the Prestwick course.
He was a steady player not long off the tee or a good short putter. He won four of the first eight Opens in 1861, 1862, 1864, and 1867 and continued to play in the Open until he was 75; at 46 years 99 days he remains the oldest champion.
His victory in 1865 broke the repetition between Old Tom Morris and Willie Park as champions. He won in great form with 162 for three rounds over Prestwick's 12 holes. It was the lowest score in the championship to date.
As a golfer, he was known for the amount of backspin he could get on his iron shots. Old Tom Morris would sometimes choose him as a foursome partner in the money matches which were such a feature of golf at this time.
Tommy outshone his contemporaries and totally changed their conception of how well the game could be played. His scores won the Championship by such margins that would not occur again until Tiger Woods was in his prime. He excelled in all parts of the game.
He was a powerful striker, he could rip recoveries from any resulting bad lies. His iron play was revolutionary, he used his rut iron as a pitching club obtaining increased backspin by playing off the back foot. His putting amazed others for its boldness from a distance and consistency from close up.
He remains the youngest winner and the only golfer to have won four in a row, from 1868 to 1872. Sadly just 24, Young Tom died from a lung hemorrhage on Christmas Day 1875.
he put in one of golf's most dramatic finishes to win at Prestwick in 1878. Jof, son of Old Tom Morris was in with 161. Jamie needed to play 4 holes in 17 strokes. He was a deadly player of the approach shot and very consistent. On the 17th his tee shot hit a bank by the green and trickled into the hole.
Having beaten Morris by four strokes further luck was needed when Bob Kirk put in a storming finish and had a putt to tie on the last and nearly holed it.
After a few good performances in the Open Ferguson's first victory came at his native Musselburgh winning by five strokes. His next wins at Prestwick in 1881 in appalling weather and then at St Andrew's were decisive with three-stroke margins. Could he equal Young Tom Morris by taking four in a row? He came very close but lost the play-off.
A superb long driver was as inconsistent as he was brilliant. The most powerful player of his day who sometimes buckled the heads of irons after just a few shots. Simpson's play on the second hole at Prestwick in his winning year 1884 was terrible. He topped his drive into some gorse and stumbled to a nine.
But he was renowned for his bad starts. He continued serenely to a 78 to take the lead and won the championship by four strokes.
The son of a famous father, he won his first tournament at the age of 17. He was 'given' his first Open victory in 1887 when Willie Campbell, took 9 on the 34th hole after encountering one of Prestwick's deep bunkers.
He was an innovative designer and his bulger driver and wry-necked putter were particularly popular. Park was a great putter and created the slogan 'the man who can putt is a match for anyone'.
John was the first Englishman and the first of three amateurs to win the Open. With Bobby Jones he shared the distinction of winning the Open and Amateur Championships in the same year. In 1890
Ball's play at Prestwick was good, his driving long and with straight and accurate shots to the greens helping his putting. With two rounds of 82 and no really poor holes. He kept going and won by three strokes.
He was one of the last Scottish players' residents in Scotland to have won the Championship. At Prestwick in 1893, J.H. Taylor had a dazzling first round of 75. Auchterlonie went into the lead after two rounds (78, 81), and his 81, 82 gave him a two-stroke margin over amateur Johnny Laidlay. His cool disposition allowed him to score so well after recording 5, 8, 6 and 6 on Prestwick's par-4 tricky opening hole.
He changed people's conception of how well golf could be played. He used an overlapping grip, slightly open stance, bent left arm, and upright but effortless rhythm. It is said that he never missed a fairway with his driver and that his faded fairway woods and long irons always covered the flag.
Vardon, as well as Taylor and Braid held onto the club firmly at the top of the back swing. He won at Prestwick in 1898, 1903, and 1914. His six open wins may never be beaten
James was in peak form from 1901 to 1912. Braid, was responsible for the reshaping of the bunkers on the 4th and 10th holes at Prestwick for the 1908 Open Championship, which he went on the win.
He was a long hitter. If he was sometimes erratic he was also blessed with tremendous powers of recovery, particularly from bunkers. His putting improved by using an aluminum-headed club instead of a cleek. He had five Open wins.
He was 6ft 4in tall and emigrated from Cornwall to the United States in his late teens. His 1925 victory is remembered for MacDonald Smith, a Carnoustie man who had also gone to America.
Smith began his final round with a five-stroke lead. The stewards lost control of the 15,000 crowds and Smith lost control of his golf game. Barnes won by a stroke from Ted Ray.
Prestwick as the founder of the Open has never hosted another since 1925. The final holes are too close together to accommodate large crowds.
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