The History and Significance of the Claret Jug in Golf

Colin McCarthy

claret jug in golf

Golf’s most iconic trophy, the Claret Jug, holds a special place in the hearts of golf enthusiasts around the world. Officially known as the Golf Champion Trophy, it has been awarded to the winner of The Open since 1873.

Before the Claret Jug, champions received a Challenge Belt made of Moroccan leather, dating back to the tournament’s inception in 1860.

The Claret Jug’s recent visit to Walt Disney World Golf on January 16, 2016, created a buzz, especially among staff and visitors.

Mike Bender, coach of 2015 Open Champion Zach Johnson, brought the trophy to share its rich history and significance.

This visit highlighted the enduring legacy of the Claret Jug, making it more than just a trophy but a symbol of excellence in golf.

History of the Claret Jug

The Claret Jug is one of golf’s most prestigious trophies, awarded annually to the winner of The Open Championship, one of golf’s four major championships.

Here’s a brief history of this iconic trophy:

Origins and Significance in Golf

The Claret Jug, officially known as the Golf Champion Trophy, began its journey in 1873. This trophy replaced the Challenge Belt, which was awarded from 1860 to 1870.

It was introduced to symbolize victory in The Open Championship, the oldest major in golf. Prestwick Golf Club, Royal Liverpool Golf Club, and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews funded its creation.

Tom Kidd, the 1873 winner, was the first to hold the Claret Jug. The jug has since become a symbol of excellence in golf, coveted by professional golfers worldwide.

Transition From the Challenge Belt

The Challenge Belt, the precursor to the Claret Jug, was awarded to the winner of The Open from 1860 to 1870. Made of rich, red Moroccan leather, the belt featured a silver buckle and decorations.

Willie Park Sr., the first winner, received this belt instead of a cash prize. The belt was retired when Young Tom Morris won it outright in 1870 after securing three consecutive victories.

In the absence of a trophy in 1871, The Open was not contested. To ensure continuity, a new trophy was commissioned, leading to the creation of the Claret Jug in 1872, introduced in 1873, thus bridging the history and legacy of The Open Championship.

Design and Composition of the Claret Jug

The Claret Jug, the revered trophy of The Open Championship, boasts a design that epitomizes elegance and tradition in the world of golf.

Here’s a closer look at its design and composition:

Materials and Dimensions

The Claret Jug, officially named the Golf Champion Trophy, showcases expert craftsmanship through its silver composition.

This 20.875-inch (53 cm) tall trophy weighs approximately 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg). Initially made in the early 1870s, its design has maintained a timeless appeal that continues to symbolize excellence in golf.

Awarded annually to the winner of The Open Championship, the Claret Jug holds a storied legacy in the golfing world.

Not only is it a testament to skill and perseverance, but it also embodies the rich history and tradition of the sport.

Unique Features and Craftsman Details

This iconic trophy features intricate engravings, with the names of all winners meticulously etched onto its surface.

Starting in 1927, a replica with a unique hallmark was produced to honor the tradition while preserving the original. The trophy also includes ornamental handles and a spout, mirroring a traditional claret jug used in wine service.

The detailed engravings and classical design elements make the Claret Jug not just a symbol of victory but also a masterpiece of silversmithing.

Notable Winners of the Claret Jug

The Claret Jug, awarded annually to the winner of The Open Championship, has been lifted by some of the most illustrious names in golf history.

Here are just a few notable winners who have left an indelible mark on the tournament:

Records and Repeat Victories

Many players have etched their names onto the Claret Jug. Harry Vardon, who holds the record with six titles between 1896 and 1914, represents one of golf’s legendary figures.

Peter Thomson and Tom Watson each claimed the title five times, with Watson’s victories spanning from 1975 to 1983.

Bobby Jones, a central figure in golf history, won the Claret Jug three times, solidifying his dominance in the sport. Jones achieved consecutive victories in 1926 and 1927, showcasing his exceptional skill and consistency.

Gary Player, with three wins, represents international success. His victories in 1959, 1968, and 1974 highlight his long-standing presence in competitive golf.

First-Time Champions

Winning The Open Championship and hoisting the Claret Jug for the first time is a career-defining moment for any golfer.

Here are some notable first-time champions who made history with their maiden victories:

Young Tom Morris

Young Tom Morris won The Open Championship in 1868, becoming the youngest champion in the tournament’s history at the age of 17.

Son of the legendary Old Tom Morris, Young Tom’s victory marked the beginning of a remarkable career that would see him win the championship three more times.

Ben Curtis

In 2003, Ben Curtis stunned the golf world by claiming The Open Championship in his first attempt as a professional golfer.

Ranked 396th in the world at the time, Curtis became the first golfer since 1913 to win a major championship on his debut.

Todd Hamilton

Todd Hamilton, a relatively unknown journeyman golfer from the United States, secured his first major championship victory at The Open Championship in 2004. He defeated Ernie Els in a playoff, showcasing his resilience and skill on the grand stage.

Louis Oosthuizen

Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa emerged victorious at The Open Championship in 2010, capturing his first major title in impressive fashion.

Oosthuizen dominated the field with a seven-stroke victory at St. Andrews, demonstrating his prowess and mental fortitude.

Shane Lowry

In 2019, Shane Lowry, representing Ireland, claimed his first major championship victory at The Open Championship.

Lowry’s memorable triumph at Royal Portrush, where he won by six strokes, endeared him to the home crowds and solidified his place in golf history.

Champions from Prestwick

Prestwick Golf Club, the birthplace of The Open Championship, has seen many winners since its inception. Old Tom Morris won four times at Prestwick, while his son, Young Tom Morris, also secured four titles, showcasing a remarkable family legacy.

Anecdotes and Inside Stories

Walter Hagen dented the Claret Jug during a practice swing in 1928, bringing an amusing yet notable tale into The Open’s lore. Nick Faldo, a three-time winner, humorously claimed he once slept with the trophy to revel in his achievement.

John Daly’s 1995 win led him to take the Claret Jug across the Tay Bridge to Dundee for an unconventional dinner at McDonald’s, capturing a moment of levity in the prestigious tournament’s history.

The Claret Jug in Modern Golf

The Claret Jug remains an enduring symbol of excellence and tradition in modern golf, maintaining its significance amidst the ever-evolving landscape of the sport.

Symbol of Prestige and Achievement

The Claret Jug serves as a prized artifact in modern golf, symbolizing both prestige and achievement. Created in 1873, this iconic trophy represents the pinnacle of success in The Open Championship.

Over the past 149 Opens, The Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A) has commissioned five versions of the trophy, each an exact replica of the original.

These replicas, down to a small hyphen in Ian Baker-Finch’s 1991 win, exemplify meticulous craftsmanship. Prestwick Golf Club, the site of the first 12 Opens, received a seven-eighths replica in 2010, commemorating its key role in The Open’s history.

Despite the variations, each replica maintains the same symbolic essence, ensuring the trophy’s legacy endures.

Today’s winners receive the 1927 Claret Jug for a year before keeping a slightly smaller version. This policy balances tradition with practicality, allowing champions to possess a piece of history while preserving the original’s integrity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of the Claret Jug in golf?

The Claret Jug symbolizes victory and excellence in The Open Championship, with the names of all winners etched on its surface.

How many versions of the Claret Jug exist?

There are five official replicas of the Claret Jug, commissioned by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club to maintain the original’s essence.

Can winners keep the Claret Jug permanently?

Winners keep the original Claret Jug for a year and then receive a slightly smaller replica to keep permanently.

Where is the original Claret Jug kept?

The original Claret Jug is permanently displayed at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club clubhouse in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Why is the Claret Jug prestigious?

The Claret Jug has a rich history and represents a major achievement in golf, making it one of the most prestigious trophies in the sport.


The Claret Jug stands as a timeless symbol of golf’s rich heritage and the pinnacle of achievement in The Open Championship. Its journey from the Challenge Belt to the iconic trophy we know today reflects the evolution of the sport.

With names of legendary golfers etched on its surface, the Claret Jug continues to inspire awe and reverence. The tradition of awarding replicas ensures that the legacy endures while allowing champions to cherish their victory.

As golf evolves, the Claret Jug remains a steadfast emblem of excellence and tradition, celebrated by players and fans alike.

It represents not just a trophy, but a piece of history, embodying the spirit and honor of the game. The Claret Jug is a reminder of the dedication, skill, and sportsmanship that define golf at its highest level.

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Colin McCarthy

Golf is about mastering your misses and learning from them. I seek answers on the how and why of the golf swing, gaining experience even when answers elude me. With over 11,000 hours of teaching and a hunger for learning, I welcome any questions. My goal is to introduce golf to as many as possible, simplifying the game for all to enjoy. Passionate, eager, and ambitious, I'm here to teach, listen, and learn. LinkedIn

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