The Best Trophies In Golf

We explore the history behind the best trophies in golf and explain why some trophies are not quite what they seem

best trophies in golf - a line up
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The Best Trophies In Golf 

The best trophies in golf are, in our eyes anyway, also the most important. But they are also all striking items in themselves. We delve into the history of these items and you will swiftly discover some unusual feature. For example, one of the trophies had to be replaced after it had been lost by the winner. The Claret Jug is itself a replacement for another type of trophy altogether. Replicas of trophies are typically awarded to winners, but the organisers of which Major required some of its winners to pay for their replica trophy? Who is that chap on top of the Ryder Cup and why is he there? Why is the Walker Cup not actually the Walker Cup?

The very best of the best trophies in golf? The Claret Jug

The Claret Jug

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The Claret Jug

One of the best trophies in golf is undoubtedly the Claret Jug. However the Claret Jug was not the original trophy for winning The Open Championship. When the first Open was held in 1960, the winner was presented with the Challenge Belt, which was made of rich Moroccan leather with a silver buckle. When, in 1870, Young Tom Morris won the Challenge Belt for the third consecutive year, he got to keep it. Problems with a lack of a trophy meant there was no competition in 1871, but by 1872 it had been decided to buy a new trophy.

Rather than another belt, the new trophy would be a silver Claret Jug, to be called The Golf Champion Trophy. The winner would also receive a medal. But the Claret Jug was not ready in time for the 1872 tournament, so the winner, once again Young Tom Morris, only received a medal inscribed ‘The Golf Champion Trophy’.

That particular Claret Jug was retired and is now the property of the R&A and displayed at St Andrews. The Claret Jug which is now presented to the winner dates from 1928. It has to be returned by the winner before the following year’s Open, but the winner does get to keep a smaller replica of the trophy – but there are ways to make it seem larger as I learnt when visiting Rory McIlroy’s home course.

US Open Championship Trophy

US Open Championship Trophy

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US Open Championship Trophy

Unlike the Claret Jug, the US Open Championship trophy has been awarded right from the start of that Open. Thus it dates from 1895. However, just like the Claret Jug, the trophy that the winner now receives is not the original, which was lost in a fire. The 1946 winner Lloyd Mangrum had it at his home club of Tam O'Shanter in Chicago when the clubhouse burnt down. The trophy is 18-inch-tall and of sterling silver.

Wanamaker Trophy

Wanamaker Trophy

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Wanamaker Trophy

When US department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker helped to found the PGA of America he offered a trophy – I dream that someone asked him 'do you wanna make a trophy?' – and cash prizes for the inaugural US PGA Championship. Wanamaker suggested the trophy be modelled on the one given to the PGA champion in Great Britain. The original Wanamaker Trophy was lost by Walter Hagen in 1925, a fact Hagen managed to keep quite until 1928. He did so by winning the trophy again in 1926 and 1927, When in 1928 Leo Diegel won, Hagen had to confess that he had lost the 28in tall trophy three years before.

The trophy was later discovered by chance, in 1930, in the cellar of Hagen’s clubmakers L.A. Young & Company. But by then US PGA had had another one made. The original it is now on display at the PGA Historical Centre in Florida and the winners names are still added annually to it. but it is the replacement that is presented to the winner.

US Masters Trophy is one of the best trophies in golf

The Masters Trophy

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The Masters Trophy

The US Masters awards many trophies every year. Although the Masters dates from 1935, the trophy for winning it only debuted in 1961. Made in England from 900 pieces of silver, it depicts the Augusta National clubhouse and weighs about 132 pounds and stands on a 4ft wide base. 

Since 1993, winners of the US Masters have received a smaller replica which weights only 20lb and is 13.5 inches wide and 6.5 inches tall. But those who won the US Masters before 1993 were given the chance to purchase a replica trophy. Several of these past winners chose not to. One who did not explained it was because he wife said to him "Why do you want a replica of a trophy that you didn't actually win?"

Walker Cup

Walker Cup

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Walker Cup

The trophy for the Walker Cup was in fact intended for another competition and is inscribed “The United States Golf Association International Challenge Trophy”. George Herbert Walker, was the President of the USGA had intended that many nations would contend for this trophy, but logistics and finances meant this did not happen.

Instead after an unofficial match between the American amateurs who had travelled over for the 1921 Amateur Championship at Royal Liverpool and their British counterparts was a success – unlike the match between the pros that year – and os the USGA and the R&A agreed to play an official amateur match between USA and Great Britain & Ireland. This took place at Walker’s club, National Golf Links of America, in 1922 and the winning team received the trophy that Walker had commissioned. This biennial match became known to headline writers as the Walker Cup rather the exceedingly cumbersome “The United States Golf Association International Challenge Trophy.”

Ryder Cup

Ryder Cup

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Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup trophy is made out of gold, which alone may be said to make it one of the best trophies in golf, even if it is only 17 inches tall and weighs four pounds. It was commissioned by seed merchant Samuel A. Ryder from Mappin & Webb Co. It cost him £250, roughly equivalent of roughly $21,000 in 2020. The figure on top is of Abe Mitchell, one of the leading players of the day and coach to Samuel Ryder. Mitchell was unable to play in the inaugural Ryder Cup of 1927 due to illness, but he played in the following three Ryder Cups.

Presidents Cup

Presidents Cup

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Presidents Cup

The Presidents Cup was made by Tiffany & Company, and took a total of 80 man hours to craft. It weighs a total of 28 pounds and is gilded in 24-carat gold. The original trophy is kept at the World Golf Hall of Fame in Florida.

If you go to our golf quizzes section and you can test your knowledge of the players who have won not only these trophies but other trophies as well such at the Harry Vardon Trophy. Or perhaps you fancy creating your own trophy for your society or golf day? If so, why not check out our best golf trophies to buy suggestions?

Contributing Writer Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests and he was contributing editor for the first few years of the Golf Monthly Travel Supplement. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is the author of five books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.