One of my favorite weeks of the year is here–the week of The Open Championship. Most Americans know it as “the British Open,” but when it began it had nothing else from which to distinguish it. So it’s just “The Open Championship.”
This year it’s being played at Muirfield, home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, near Edinburgh. It’s one of the more well-known and distinguished sites on the Open rota, and it’s produced some of the greatest champions and championships. Jack Nicklaus won it there in 1966 and named the golf course he developed in Ohio after it.
I was there in 2002 when Ernie Els won it in a playoff. Els returns as the defending champion, having won it last year at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s, and as the last one to win it at Muirfield.
There are five Scottish courses in the rota but it’s most regularly played at the Old Course in St. Andrews, to which it returns every five years.
I love the Open for many reasons. It’s held in mid-July, right in the heart of summer, usually when we’re on vacation or visiting family. A few sporting events epitomize the joy of summer for me–the baseball All-Star game and the Open are two of them.
The Open has a truly international field. It’s known as “the world’s championship” because players from the Asian tours and other parts of the world join those from Europe and the States.
- The 18th at Carnoustie, one of the toughest courses in the world.
The Open is always played on links courses. “Links” is an old Scottish word referring to the rough sea-side turf that isn’t suited for farming or for anything else. Golf courses laid out on links ground tend to be quite firm. Drives get lots of roll and sometimes even good shots can roll into unfortunate spots, such as pot bunkers.
The firm fairways also demand crisp iron play, and firm greens mean you have to land the ball in the right spot. Royal Portrush was the first links course I played when my family spent two summers in Northern Ireland doing ministry in the late 1990’s.
I grew to love links golf during our four years in St. Andrews. The Links Trust charged one hundred pounds for a year’s pass to play the six courses on the St. Andrews Links. I was able to play the three championship courses (the Old, the New, and the Jubilee) dozens of times at an amazing price. If you had the pass you could also play Kingsbarns for a tiny fraction of the normal cost. It opened in 2000 and is already regarded as one of the world’s top courses. It’s right on the sea and is breathtakingly beautiful.
- Kingsbarns Golf Links
I love this week! And I’m looking forward to enjoying the drama that plays out through the course of the championship. A few more links, if you’re interested:
You can follow the Open at the Royal & Ancient’s website.