Tales from the Claret Jug

The game's most recognizable trophy has a fascinating history all of its own.

It stands just over 20 inches (512 mm) tall and weighs approximately 5.4 pounds (2.45 kg). Made from sterling silver in the style of an 18th century drinking vessel, the legendary Claret Jug – or to give its correct title of the ‘Golf Champion Trophy’– remains one of the most recognizable prizes in sport today.

Held aloft by the winner of the Open Championship each July, the joy of ownership is obvious. Some cradle it in their arms like three-time winner Nick Faldo. Others smother it with kisses like John Daly and Darren Clarke. While at Carnoustie in 2007, Padraig Harrington famously handed it to his eldest son Patrick who demanded they catch ladybirds in it! What perhaps none of them knew at the time, is the historic trophy they had in their hands was little more than a copy of the original.

One of the best kept secrets in golf, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club admit commissioning five Open trophies over the past 139 years. “We have the first claret jug made in 1873, a replica made in 1927 and three relatively modern versions,” said Hannah Fleming, assistant curator of the British Golf Museum.

Perfect replicas down to the tiny hyphen in the name of 1991 champion Ian Baker-Finch, the later versions made in the last 25 years include one made for the British Golf Museum in St Andrews, one for the World Golf Hall of Fame in Florida plus another for travelling exhibition purposes. So which version does the winner of the Open receive each year?

“The new champion receives the ’27 version,” confirms Fleming. “At least that way they get to keep the same trophy that (Bobby) Jones, (Walter) Hagen and (Gene) Sarazen all won. We think that is quite a good compromise …”