The Claret Jug: British Open Trophy History and Specs

The Claret Jug is the trophy presented to winners of the British Open golf tournament. It is one of the most famous trophies in all of sports, a silver vessel with handle and pouring spout, sitting atop a banded base. And on those bands are etched the names of all the previous Open Championship winners.

The Claret Jug is the oldest trophy still in use in professional golf. But it wasn't the Open Championship's original trophy, and it isn't really, officially, named "the Claret Jug." So let's go over some of the trophy's history, how it came to be, its dimensions — and let's start with that name.

What is the name of the trophy? Trick question: "Claret Jug" is just what everyone calls it. But it actually has another name. Its official name is: "The Golf Champion Trophy." Not very inspiring or original, is it?

Why is it called the Claret Jug if that is not its real name? Secondly, because its real name is just so ... boring. But, firstly, because the British Open trophy is, literally, a jug for claret. The trophy is in the shape of a container made for holding and pouring red Bordeaux wine, which is commonly known as claret wine.

When the trophy was created: It was commissioned in 1872, but wasn't ready in time for the 1872 British Open.

Who was the first Open champion given the Claret Jug? Tom Kidd after winning the 1873 British Open.

Specifications of the Claret Jug

  • Height: The trophy is 20.75 inches tall — almost one and three-quarters of a foot tall.
  • Width: It is 5.5 inches at its widest point, excluding the base. The base is 7.25 inches wide.
  • Weight: The Claret Jug weighs in at 5.5 pounds.
And the trophy is 92.5-percent sterling silver.

How the Claret Jug Became the Open Championship Trophy

When the Open Championship was first played in 1860, at the 12-hole Prestwick links, the "trophy" was a belt, the Challenge Belt created specifically for this purpose.

The Challenge Belt was made of wide, Moroccan red leather, with a large silver buckle in front. (It looked not unlike modern professional wrestling belts.) There were other medallions around it that listed those champions who had received the belt.

British Open winners got to take the Challenge Belt home for a year (many who received it were photographed wearing it), then they returned it to Prestwick, where all the earliest Opens were played.

But there was a written rule for the Open Championship that stated any golfer winning the Open three successive years would get to keep the Challenge Belt permanently. And that is what happened in 1868, 1869 and 1870: Young Tom Morris won all three years and became the permanent owner of the Challenge Belt.

Now Prestwick had a problem: What would the club award to the next Open winner? The year 1871 came and went without a new trophy, and with nothing to award the winner, the British Open was not played in 1871.

But during 1871, what we now call the "Open rota" (the rotation of the tournament among multiple golf courses) was created when Prestwick, the R&A (St. Andrews) and the Royal Company of Edinburgh Golfers (Musselburgh) agreed to host the championship going forward, each club hosting every third year.

Those three clubs each chipped in £10 and hired the Mackay Cunningham & Company of Edinburgh, Scotland, to create a new trophy. The silver chalice they came up with is what we call the Claret Jug today.

The Claret Jug wasn't ready in time for the 1872 British Open, where Young Tom Morris won his fourth consecutive Open title. But everyone agreed that Morris' name would be the first etched on the band around the trophy's base.

The Golf Champion Trophy was ready for the 1873 Open, and that's where Kidd became the first winner to receive it. But Young Tom's name was etched onto the banding ahead of Kidd's.

The original Claret Jug was presented to winners through the 1927 British Open, won by Bobby Jones. Those winners could take the trophy home, and they returned it the following year.

After the 1927 Open, the R&A, by that time in charge of running the tournament, decided that perhaps that original trophy was too precious to be leaving its sight each year. Since 1928, the original Claret Jug has permanently resided inside the R&A clubhouse in St. Andrews. And the Challenge Belt that was retired as the trophy by Young Tom Morris is also in the R&A clubhouse.

Today, winners of the British Open receive an exact replica of the original Claret Jug. They keep it for one year and return it at the next Open Championship.

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