The trophy that rewards the winner of the British Open Championship is officially known as the “Championship Trophy”, but it is commonly referred to as the “Claret Jug”; it is a Bordeaux decanter. “Claret” is the English name for a dry red wine produced in the famous French wine-growing region of Bordeaux. The British Open trophy is modeled after a silver wine jug in which claret was served in the 19th century.
Before the Claret Jug there was the Championship belt
But the winner of the British Open did not get the Claret Jug from time immemorial. The first winners were awarded with a championship belt. The first British Open was held in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club. The first belt was also awarded in that year.
The belt was made of wide, red morocco leather and was trimmed with silver buckles and decorations. This trophy would possibly still be today’s British Open award had it not been for the special achievement of Young Tom Morris: Prestwick Golf Club hosted the first eleven British Opens. Each year the championship belt changed hands as a challenge cup. But Prestwick’s rules stated that the belt would become the property of the golfer who won the British Open three times in a row. Young Tom Morris achieved this feat in 1872, winning in 1868, 1869 and 1870. So he could take home the Championship belt after his third win in 1870.
The British Open briefly had no victory award
Suddenly the British Open had no trophy and Prestwick did not have the funds to commission its own. So club members came up with the idea of sharing a trophy with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. Prestwick suggested that the three clubs could take turns hosting the British Open and all contribute something to the new trophy.
While the clubs deliberated, no British Open was held in 1871. Eventually they pooled money for a new trophy.
Tom Kidd 1873 first winner of the Claret Jug
When Young Tom Morris won the British Open again, the trophy had not yet been completed. So in 1873, Tom Kidd was the first British Open winner to win the Claret Jug.
This original trophy has been on display in the clubhouse of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews since 1927, along with the Championship belt (donated by the Morris family in 1908). The trophy currently in circulation is a copy of the original and was first presented to the 1928 winner, Walter Hagen. Each winner is allowed to keep this trophy for one year after his victory, must return it to the next British Open and then receives a replica of the traveling trophy for his own use.