Top 5 Open Championship moments

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Golf in Scotland Brochure 2015
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Download the digital versions of our latest golf guides and start planning your perfect golf trips in Scotland

Golf at Gullane, East Lothian
Scotland's Golf Coast ››

Watch this video and discover some of East Lothian's top golfing spots. Video by Gary Eunson.

  • Coastal views out towards Ailsa Craig at the Ailsa Course, Turnberry.
    The Ailsa Course, Turnberry in Ayrshire
  • Golfers play Carnoustie Golf Links at dusk
    Carnoustie Golf Links, Angus
  • The Swilcan Bridge on the 18th fairway of the Old Course in St Andrews at sunset
    The Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course, St Andrews in Fife

Scotland hosts the world’s oldest golf championship, The Open, at least three out of every five years and the 2013 event took place at Muirfield, between 18- 21 July.

It is one of the biggest events in the golfing calendar and the pressure of the game has thrown up some memorable moments over the years as the world's best players battle it out on the challenging links courses.

Doug Sanders' missed putt, St. Andrews 1970

Imagine if you had a 30 inch putt to win the Open. How nervous would you feel? Now imagine this same putt with thousands of spectators standing around the green and millions watching on TV. Most of us weekend golfers get a touch wobbly if someone stops to watch us play.

Poor Doug Sanders has been immortalised for the putt that never was. The left to right downhill putt is the most nerve wrecking in golf. It is as enjoyable as skinny dipping in Antarctica. Not pleasant. To sooth the bitterness of the missed putt, who did he face in the play off on the following day? A strident Jack Nicklaus. To give Sanders his due, he won 20 PGA tournaments and brought colour and energy to the game. He also was only beaten on the last hole by Jack. When asked years later if the putt had blighted his life, Sanders said, “No….some days I can go 20 minutes without thinking about it.”

Duel in the Sun - Watson versus Nicklaus, Turnberry 1977

Regarded by many as the greatest Open ever, Turnberry's first Championship witnessed the 'duel in the sun'. In the soaring heat, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus fought shot by shot, hole by hole over the last two rounds. This match saw two giants at their best, neither afraid to take risks. Failure was not an option.

The game was aggressive, competitive and fantastic to watch. If Dan Brown was writing about a golf match, this would be it. Wherever one birdied, the other followed. Whenever one put the ball close to the hole, the other followed. Watson went on to win by one shot ahead of Nicklaus….but 10 ahead of the rest. Scotland had surely hosted one of the best golf games in golfing history.

Seve Ballesteros’ putt on the 18th, St Andrews 1984

St Andrews Old Course was playing hard and long. Seve was in his prime. Tom Watson was hot on his heels, but struggling on the road hole 17th after hitting his shot too well, over the back of the green and onto the tarmac road behind. Seve’s fiery personality and risk-taking playing style had won the hearts of Europe and transformed the game as we knew it.

Here he was, on the 18th hovering over his putt. The entire golfing world held its breath as the ball rolled languidly to the hole and dropped in, after what seemed like an eternity. Seve punched the air and gave one of the greatest celebrations in golfing history. How many kids tried to recreate this scene on their home course? This was a true legendary moment played on a Scottish course.

Greg Norman’s first major, Turnberry, 1986

Norman was the nearly-man for so long. At the very point when he looked like he was about to win, someone would pitch in on the 18th from an impossible position. Norman was also partly to blame for his nearly-man title as he had thrown a few major titles away. To be fair to Norman, it was his absolute brilliance as a player that saw him consistently in the leading group on the final day.

His debut major win came largely on the back of a course record equalling 63 on day two and a fighting 3rd round 74 in a gale. Norman strolled the last two holes of the championship and won by five. He was able to savour the moment and got a standing ovation from players and crowds alike. Speaking after the event Norman said, “Winning a golf championship is a wonderful thing, especially when it's the British Open, which is the true Open, the oldest championship in golf.”

Van de Velde’s sinking feeling, Carnoustie, 1999

Oh dear. Why did he do it? This is still painful to even write about but here goes. Tissues at the ready. Jean van de Velde, the rookie Frenchman, only needed to double bogey the 18th to win. That’s right. Double bogey. No heroics. No grand standing. Simple golf from tee to green. Thanks for the claret jug. I’m off for a soiree.

Unfortunately that is not what happened. Standing in the middle of the fairway after a so-so drive, he had two options, or perhaps one, in retrospect. He could lay up short of the Barry burn, pitch onto the green, and enjoy being the title holder (called the good option)... or as Van de Velde went for, (also known as the bad option)… take a 2 iron, drive it into the stands, pitch it into the water, climb into the water, climb out of the water, pitch into a bunker, pitch out of the bunker and hole a good putt to take part in a playoff… which he lost to Scot, Paul Lawrie.

In Van de Velde’s own words, “Maybe I should have laid up. The ball was lying so well. Next time, I’ll hit a wedge and you’ll all forgive me?" No…not yet…it still hurts.