Hi again! Euro 2016 may be over, Wimbledon has just finished (congratulations Andy Murray), but this week sees the start of another important event on the British sporting calendar: the Open golf championship.
History and Background
The Open is one of the four ‘majors’, which are golf’s most prestigious events. The other three all take place in the United States (the US Masters, the US Open and the US PGA). It is the oldest major, first taking place in 1860. It is played at a number of different venues, usually in Scotland or England, the most famous of which is the Old Course at St Andrews (where Prince William studied).
How does it work?
The Open lasts four days. Each golfer plays two rounds of 18 holes (Thursday and Friday). After two days, the players with the best scores qualify for the last two rounds (informally known as ‘making the cut’). The player with the lowest overall score after 72 holes is the Open champion, and wins a famous trophy called the Claret Jug. Last year’s winner was the American Zach Johnson.
Famous past winners
Many of the greatest players of all-time have been Open champions. Tiger Woods, probably the most famous golfer of modern times, has won it three times (2000,2005,2006). Englishman Nick Faldo, Spain’s Seve Ballesteros and American Jack Nicklaus are other three-time champions, but in recent times the record for the most Open victories goes to another American, Tom Watson. He won five Opens between 1975 and 1983. In Britain, the best-known golfer is currently Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland. He won two years ago, and will be among the favourites again this year.
No women allowed?
For many years, some of the most famous golf clubs had male-only membership policies. The R&A, the governing body of golf which organises the Open, only started admitting female members in 2014. Royal Troon, which is the venue for this year’s event, voted to admit women members for the first time only last week. Another Scottish venue, Muirfield, had a vote in May on whether to allow women. 64% of votes were in favour, but unfortunately a two-thirds majority was required to change the constitution of the club, so women are still unable to join. Due to this vote, the R&A announced that Muirfield, which last hosted the Open in 2013, would no longer be considered as a venue for future Opens. It seems an anachronism that in 2016, when the next UK Prime Minister will definitely be a woman, plus of course the current and previous Polish Prime Ministers, there are still some bastions of gender discrimination.
Par: the number of shots usually taken to get the ball into the hole. This is either 3, 4 or 5 shots.
Birdie: a score of one under par for a hole. For example, a Par 4 hole would require a score of 3 for a birdie.
Eagle: a score of two under par.
Bogey: a score of one over par.
Double bogey: a score of two over par.
Hole-in-one: when a golfer gets the ball in the hole with just one shot.
A golfer’s overall score is stated in comparison to the par score: e,g, three under (-3) or two over (+2). Minus scores are better than plus scores!
A hole has three parts: the tee, fairway and green. The tee is also the small object on which the golfer puts the ball before hitting it.
Golfers have a set of clubs in their bag, which is carried by a caddy. There are three different types: woods (used for hitting the ball long distances from the tee) irons (used for hitting the ball on the fairways) and putters (used for putting the ball into the hole. NB: putting rhymes with shutting!).