The world’s oldest golf tournament dates back to the American Civil War, but the oldest golf tournament wasn’t founded in the United States.
The British Open Championship — known officially as The Open Championship — is the world’s oldest golf tournament still running to this day. The Open dates back to 1860, when it was first played as a 36-hole competition over three 12-hole rounds at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland. The Scottish course only had 12 holes — an 18-hole round had yet to become the standard practice — over the course of a single day on Oct. 17.
1860: The first British Open Championship
The Open Championship was organized in an effort to crown the successor to St. Andrews clubmaker Allen Robertson, who died in 1859, as the recipient of the title “best golfer in the world.” Only professional golfers across England and Scotland were invited to compete in the event. However, at the time, being a professional golfer basically meant being a caddie who also played golf. They would play for the Challenge Belt, made from red Moroccan leather and covered with silver panels of golf scenes. The £25 (approximately $2,500 now) belt was purchased from Edinburgh silversmiths James and Walter Marshall.
A total of eight players competed in the first Open Championship, with Willie Park Sr. upsetting Tom Morris Sr., the groundskeeper at Prestwick. Morris led by three after an opening 55, and the pair tied with 59 in Round 2. However, Morris found bunkers aplenty in the final round, giving Park a 30-footer on the final hole and two putts to win. Park drained the putt on the bumpy green to win on 174 total.
The oldest golf tournaments in the world
Behind The Open Championship and its 1860 debut, the second-oldest golf tournament remaining in the world is the British Amateur Championship, which began in 1885 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England. For years, the British Amateur was considered an unofficial R&A event, but it continues to this day with prominent winners from around the globe.
The third-oldest golf tournament in the world is a tie between the US Open, the US Amateur, the US Women’s Amateur and the Canadian Amateur Championship. When the United States Golf Association formed in 1895, it created these three tournaments as part of its championship lineup. All of them continue to this day. The Royal Canadian Golf Association, now known as Golf Canada, formed in the same year as the USGA and created the Canadian Amateur Championship.
The seventh-oldest golf tournament in the world, then, is South African Open. It was first played in 1903, and it has been co-sanctioned by the European Tour and hosting Sunshine Tour since 1997.
The eighth-oldest golf tournament in the world is a tie between the Canadian Open and Australian Open. Both events date back to 1904. The Canadian Open, which is now played today as the RBC Canadian Open on the PGA Tour. Golf Canada runs the event. The Australian Open is run by Golf Australia and is the nation’s biggest golf tournament.