Prestwick recreates original Open course, which includes Old Tom's so-called 'killing zone'

Cameron Smith may have holed his winning putt at St Andrews in July but the actual anniversary of the 150th Open is on Monday and, appropriately, it is being marked in suitable style at Prestwick.

On 17 October 1860, eight players teed up in the inaugural Open Championship at the Ayrshire venue, where the original 12-hole course has been recreated by the club as its own celebration of this year’s milestone event.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” quipped Ken Goodwin, the Prestwick secretary, before adding that it had been achieved thanks to the greenkeeping team “approaching the task with gusto”.

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Six of the original greens have been retained on the now 18-hole layout, with five of those on the recreated course being on what are now fairways and the other one having been relaid in the rough.

Prestwick staged the first Open in 1860 and has recreated the original 12 hole-circuit to celebrate the event's 150th edition earlier this year. Picture: National World
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“I started here 18 months ago and was soon handed this project,” said a smiling Dave Edmonson, the head greenkeeper. “But it is incredible to be involved in something like this 150 years later.”

The inaugural Open was played over three rounds of the 12-hole circuit and, even with a lunch in the nearby Red Lion Inn accommodated, it was completed in four-and-a-half hours.

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The event was won by Willie Park snr of Musselburgh and his great grandson, Mungo Park, was thrilled to get the opportunity to follow in his footsteps by playing the recreated course this week. “We owe them a great debt,” he said of Prestwick, where the championship went on to be held 25 times, most recently in 1925.

Old Tom Morris, who, apparently, was at a bit of a loose end at the time after falling out with Allan Robertson over in St Andrews, designed the original layout nine years before that first Open.

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A commemorative cairn marks where the first shot in the 1860 Open was hit. Picture: Mark Alexander/Prestwick Golf Club

“He didn’t seem to work in straight lines,” observed Goodwin of the course criss-crossing, thus creating what is jokingly referred to as a ‘killing zone’.

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“Where do I start?” replied the club secretary to being asked if there was a particular hole where players could be in danger of being struck by shots from another hole. “At the sixth, you have the first, fifth and 12th crossing it at the front, the second, seventh, ninth and tenth to the side and, at the green, the third hole…that’s just a flavour!”

On Thursday, with a team of trained marshals helping keep everyone safe, captains of all the clubs that have hosted The Open took part in an event on the course before Prestwick members get to enjoy the experience in a three-day competition.

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Then, on Monday, it will host a match between Prestwick, the R&A and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers - the three clubs that each paid £10 towards the cost of what is actually called The Golf Champion Trophy but is better known as the Claret Jug.

Baskets were originally used instead of flags at Prestwick and they have been restored for the fortnight of the 12-hole course being in operation. Picture: Mark Alexander/Prestwick Golf Club
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It is also available to visitors before reverting to the 18-hole course on 24 October. “We will take a view afterwards of how successful it has been,” said Goodwin. “It is probably costing us about £50,000, but it is a unique occasion and a chance to celebrate a milestone event.”

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