The Claret Jug, also known as the Golf Champion Trophy, is awarded each year to the winner of the British Open Championship, golf’s oldest major championship.
However, the Claret Jug wasn’t always the trophy given to the Champion Golfer of the Year.
The original British Open Championship prize was a championship belt, called the Challenge Belt. It was first awarded in 1860, and it depicts a golf scene on the buckle, laid on red Moroccan leather. The Earl of Eglinton had the belt donated as the award to the Open champion, and it was owned by Prestwick Golf Club, which hosted the first 11 Opens. However, there was a stipulation: If someone won the Open three times in a row, they got to keep the belt. That’s precisely what Young Tom Morris did in 1870, so he got to keep the belt.
Ultimately, Morris getting to keep the belt led to the creation of the first Open rota, with St. Andrews and Muirfield clubs signing on to host. The Open wasn’t played in 1871. In 1872, the clubs banded together to purchase a silver claret jug to award to the Champion Golfer of the Year. However, they didn’t have the trophy in time to award the 1872 winner, who was, you guessed it, Young Tom Morris.
Since 1873, the winner has been awarded a gold medal and the Claret Jug. Mackay Cunningham & Company of Edinburgh made the trophy, which was given to Tom Kidd as the first champion. Young Tom Morris had his name engraved on it as well. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews took over managing the championship in 1920, and, in 1927, they decided to stop awarding the original Claret Jug to the winner. Since then, a replica has been presented to the winner, along with the gold medal that they get to keep (which the winner had to pay for out of their prize money until 1930). The winner returns the Claret Jug after a year and they can order a replica.
While the name Claret Jug is capitalized, there isn’t a guy named Claret as the namesake of the trophy. Rather, claret is a type of dry red wine from the Bordeaux region of France. The wine could be served out of such a jug. Underneath the jug, on the expanded base, has silver rings where the winner’s names have been engraved.
The Claret Jug is 20.75 inches tall with the base, which is 7.25 inches in diameter at its widest. The jug itself is 5.5 inches in diameter at its widest. It weighs just 5.4 pounds.
In 1949, the R&A began the practice of awarding the silver medal, which has the same size and design as the winner’s gold medal, to the low amateur. It has the inscription “Golf Champion Trophy” and “First Amateur.” Since 1972, any amateur that makes it to the final round of the championship, have been given a bronze medal.