Golf’s Majors: History and Facts You May Not Know

Golf Majors

The four major championships of golf are where magic happens. If you’re a golf fan, chances are you watch the majors more than you do a normal weekly event on the PGA Tour. 

There’s just something special about majors – the crowds, pressure, venues, and endless TV coverage. While the payouts and purses are enormous, it’s the legacy and place in the history books that players want more than money. It’s a special week, playing your best golf and going down with legends of the game.

The golf majors are the most important events for players. They do everything possible to ensure that their game is in peak season for majors in order to give it a chance. 

For fans, it’s a time to watch the best golfers in the world compete on the biggest stages, at the toughest venues. You can view almost every shot on TV and via social media, plus streaming. 

Continue reading to learn about the four majors in golf, including their history, best finishes and future dates/sites for upcoming events. You’ll also find some of the most memorable shots that will inspire you to practice at home, or go straight to the course. 

Golf Majors – Everything You Need to Know 

What’s great about the biggest events in golf is the rich history of each tournament. They were all created in different years, they’re played at different venues, and each one sort of has its own theme. But one thing remains the same between all events, they’re the most fun to watch and attend as a fan. 

For a golfer’s career, winning one of the four men’s majors is a game changer thanks to all the privileges that come with it. If a player wins, he is invited to play in the three majors and the Players Championship the next five years.

Some majors include a lifetime exemption to the event. You will also be eligible for membership on both the PGA Tour, European Tour, and the European Tour for the next five year. There are tons of world rankings points available for major championship winners.

The Masters, PGA Championship and US Open are the four majors as of 2022 (in that order). Let’s start with the first major of the year, the Masters. 

The Masters 

To me, the Masters is the epitome and most memorable event in golf. It has produced some of our greatest moments in the history. Augusta National, which is located in Augusta Georgia, hosts the best golfers from around the world every year during the first week of April.

Augusta National Golf Club currently has a par 72 at 7,475 yard. 

Unlike other majors, it’s hosted on the same course each year and is the only major to do so. The venue hosts the site year round and has hosted it since 1934.

That’s right, nearly 100 years of golf at the private club! Augusta National Golf Club hosts this tournament. It is not hosted by any professional tour or organisation. 

While it’s been modified throughout the years to keep up with the changes in golf, it still remains one of the toughest tests of golf. Thanks to its tree lined fairways, ultra-fast greens, and plenty of water, it’s one of the most challenging events ever. If you can survive the week and persevere you will get the iconic green jacket, trophy and a place in the history books. 

Histories 

The Masters has a rich history. It is full of iconic memories and traditions that date back to 1933. If you’ve ever watched the event on TV, you know the line delivered by Jim Nantz, “The Masters, a tradition unlike any other.”

Although the event is a tradition, there are many traditions that are unique to the event. These are some of the most beloved traditions:

  • Amateurs: Amateur golfers can play in the event, including winners from the US Amateur as well as the Mid-Amateur. They can stay on the grounds in the Crow’s Nest, which is located on top floor of the clubhouse. 
  • Par-3 contestAugusta National’s nine-hole course is arguably the best in golf. The par-3 executive course, which has a par 27 score, was built in 1958 and has been played every Wednesday since 1960. The greens are great for great shots. There have been 94 holes in one! Players often have their spouses or children with them, who can also hit shots.  
  • Opening tee shot: The Masters’ opening tee shots are honored by many legends of the game. Bryon Nelson and Sam Snead have been the first to hit the opening shot of the tournament since 1963. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are just a few of the notable players who have done so. While they don’t hit any other shots, it’s a great way to start one of the best weeks of professional golf. 
  • Champions dinners: Another thing that makes the Masters unlike other majors is the annual champion’s dinner. The dinner was first held on Tuesday night before the event in 1952 by Ben Hogan. The defending champion selects the menu and it’s typical for the player to serve dishes from their home country. Only past champions are allowed to attend and everyone must wear their green jacket. 
  • Caddies: The last tradition that distinguishes this major is the use of caddies. Until 1983, players had the option of using local caddies. While that’s changed, all caddies must still wear a uniform; a white jumpsuit, white tennis shoes, and green masters cap. 

My favorite tradition is… No cell phones on the ground, even in practice rounds. 

Best Finishes 

There have been some amazing Sunday finishes due to the incredible design of this golf course, which was created by Bobby Jones and Alister McKenzie. Thanks to Amen Corner and Rae’s Creek, the back nine on Sunday is some of the best in golf. 

These are some of the most famous shots/victories that have captured major titles.

  • 1935: Gene Srazen hit “the shot heard around the world” with a double eagle on the 15th hole and went on to win the event. 
  • 1986: Jack Nicklaus made an incredible comeback to win his 18th major career at 46 years old. 
  • 1987: Larry Mize chipped in on hole 11 to beat Greg Norman in an amazing finish.  
  • 1995: Ben Crenshaw won this tournament at 43 after he lost his coach Harvey Penick, a golf legend, just weeks before. 
  • 1997: Tiger Woods won his first major in spectacular fashion, after winning the field by 12 shots 
  • 2019: Tiger Woods lands his fifth green jacket following an 11-year drought.

PGA Championship

The PGA Championship is the second major of the year and is played the weekend before Memorial Day in Mai. This major was played in mid-August, and was the last major of the year. The Fed-Ex Cup, team events (Ryder Cup+ Presidents Cup), are all near so the PGA of America moved this event to earlier in season.

Histories 

The PGA Championship began in 1916, with $500 as the grand prize. The purses have increased substantially over 100 years. The 2022 winner will receive 2.7 of the $15 million purse.

The giant Wanamaker Trophy, which measures 2.5 feet tall and weighs 27 lbs, is also given to the winner of the PGA Championship. The champion receives a miniature replica of the trophy, but must return it for the next year. 

The first PGA Championship was originally a match-play event, but it was changed to a traditional stroke-play event. The event allows the winners of majors from the last five years, low scores from prior years, 70 leaders in official money standings, and other qualifications to qualify. The PGA Championship is not open to amateurs, but local PGA pros are eligible to compete in the 156 player field. 

Best Finishes 

Jack Nicklaus, Walter Hagen, and Tiger Woods have each won five times the PGA Championship. The following are some other notable finishes/shots:

  • 1974: Lee Trevino, who had found an old Wilson Arnold Palmer in the attic of his home, added a new putter into his bag that week. It was a Wilson Arnold Palmer. I beat Jack Nicklaus with the old flat stick. 
  • 1991: John Daly was the 9th alternate in the field, and he didn’t even play a practice round. He won Crooked stick by three shots and was able to thank Nick Price for his late withdrawal. 
  • 1999: Sergio Garcia was 19 years old when he made an instant impact with his shot at the 16th hole. He closed his eyes and almost defeated Tiger Woods. 
  • 2000: Tiger Woods and Bob May played at Valhalla in a 3-hole playoff that included the putt where Tiger walked to the hole after it pointed at him. Fans will never forget this iconic Tiger moment. 
  • 2001: David Toms was a notoriously slow hitter and chose to lay up on par-4 18th hole. He trusted his short game would get him up and down. He hit the wedge at 12 feet and putt to beat Phil Mickelson on hole 72. 
  • 2005: Phil Mickelson tapped the plate on the 18th hole dedicated to Jack Nicklaus’ iconic one iron before hitting his second shot. It was a lucky stroke that brought him luck, as he went on winning the event. 
  • 2019: Brooks Koepka beat Bethpage Black and returned to the back after winning the 2018 event.  

Future Sites 

Nearly a decade in advance, the future locations for the PGA Championship are set. These are the future locations for the PGA Championship in the upcoming years. 

  • 2023: Oak Hill Country Club 
  • 2024: Valhalla Golf Club
  • 2025: Quail Hollow club
  • 2026: Aronimink golf club
  • 2027: PGA Frisco
  • 2028: The Club of 2028
  • 2029: Baltusrol Country Club
  • 2030: Congressional Country Club 

United States Open Championship US Open

The third major of the year is the United States Open Championship. It is typically the most difficult of all four events. The courses are often long and the rough is thicker than other events. The greens are very difficult. 

A score of at least par 72 holes is considered a good result and will place players in contention. It is an honor to win the US Open. This makes for great TV viewing. 

Histories  

This event is run by the USGA (United States Golf Association). The event takes place mid-June on Sundays of the month. This falls on Father’s Day weekend and tends to make a lot of dads (both play and watching) quite happy. 

The first US Open took place in 1985, as a 36-hole competition. It was initially won mostly by British Players, but the majority of the winners are from the United States. The venues change each year, but the USGA ensures that each site is challenging for players. 

What’s great about the US Open is that amateurs can qualify through local qualifying. If your handicap index is less than 1.4, you may be eligible to play in the field of 156. The rest of this field is made up of top finishes from the previous year, top 60 OWGR rankings, and winner of the US Amateur championship. 

Best Finishes 

The US Open is known for its challenging golf courses and stunning shots. Here are some of our most notable.

  • 1913: Francis Ouimet (a 20-year old amateur golfer) beat Ted Ray and Harry Vardon in one of the most unlikely victories ever. The Walt Disney Film, The Greatest Game Ever played, has been made from the story. The best part about his win at The Country Club is that he did so with Eddie Lowery, a 10-year-old caddy! 
  • 1960: Arnold Palmer started the round seven shots back, but he shot 65 and won his only US Open title. 
  • 1973: Johnny Miller won the final round with a score of 63 (after shooting 76 on the previous day). This was due to hitting all 18 greens in regulation.
  • 1999: Payne Stewart won a 15-foot putt against Phil Mickelson to defeat him. He then tragically died in a plane crash a few months later. 
  • 2000: Tiger Woods won by 15 shots at Pebble beach. He was at -12, while the next closest player was at +3. It was truly spectacular golf at one of the most bucket list courses in the world. 
  • 2006: Phil Mickelson decided to hit driver on Sunday’s last hole. He went on to make double-bogey and lose out to Geoff Ogilvy. He has finished second in the US Open five times and is now unable to complete his career grand slam. 
  • 2008: Tiger wins in epic fashion. Tiger made a crucial birdie-putt on the 72nd green at Torrey Pines to force Rocco Medate into a playoff. They fought it out on Monday, and Tiger won the 91st Hole of the event.  

Future Sites 

The US Open can be played on many courses and has several venues available until 2050. Here are some potential venues for the championship.

  • 2023: Los Angeles Country Club 
  • 2024: Pinehurst Resort #2
  • 2025: Oakmont Country Club
  • 2026: Shinnecock Hill Golf Club
  • 2027: Pebble Beach Golf Links 
  • 2030: Merion Golf Club 

The Open Championship (British Open). 

The Open Championship is the final major of each year. It was previously known as the British Open. This tournament is the oldest and most historic golf tournament in the world. It was established in 1860 and is steeped in tradition.

The event is held in mid July and can be played at different venues. However, all courses are traditional links-style. Although the courses rotate, the event is usually held at St. Andrews, which is the home of the game of golf. 

Histories 

The first open was played in 1860 in Scotland and has been run by the R&A (The Royal and Ancient Golf Club). The claret Jug was invented in 1872. Professional and amateur golfers are both allowed to play in the field, just like other majors.

Bobby Locke and Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus as well as Tiger Woods, Seve ballesteros, Nick Faldo are some of the golfing legends.

The tournament’s unique style of play is thanks to links golf. It’s a challenging 72 holes that require players to deal with wind, and sometimes cold weather. Paired with pot bunkers and fescue grass, it’s very fun for viewers to watch on TV as well. 

Best Finishes 

There have been many amazing tournaments, shots and holes over the more than 100-year history of the British Open. These are some of our favourites over the years.

  • 1970: Jack Nicklaus celebrated his victory over Doug Sanders by throwing his putter into the air. 
  • 1984: Seve Balesterso made a birdie at the 18th hole to win his fourth major.  
  • 1990: Sir Nick Faldo beats all the field by five strokes and dominates the Old Course with three rounds each of 67, 65, and67. 
  • 1999: Jean van de Velde was the victim of the worst ever finishing hole. The nightmare ended in a triple bogey, and he lost in a playoff. You can Google the meltdown at your own peril!
  • 2000: Tiger Woods won the third major tournament at The Old Course at St. Andrews, his home course in golf. 
  • 2006: Tiger Woods became the champion golfer at Royal Liverpool, months after his mentor Earl Woods died.
  • 2013: Phil Mickelson defied all critics and played some great golf to win his third career grand slam. 

Future Sites 

Here’s a look at the next venues to host the Open Championship.

  • 2023: Royal Liverpool Golf Club
  • 2024: Royal Troon Golf Club
  • 2025: Royal Portrush 

5th Major – The Players Championship 

You might have wondered, “What is the 5th major in golf?”

The Players Championship is the unofficial 5th major. It is held each year at TPC Sawgrass. This course is a test of golf, and it has an incredible design.

The last three holes are among the best in golf, and make for a fun finish to Sunday afternoon. The most historic moments have come on the 17th hole, a short par-3 island green that has wreaked havoc on so many players’ rounds. It’s not your average PGA Tour event!

Golf Majors

FAQs about Major Golf Courses 

Do you have any questions about the largest tournament in golf? We have tons of answers and questions below for you.

What are the 4 majors of golf?

The four majors of golf are the Masters Tournament (PGA Championship), US Open (US Open), and The Open Championship (Open Championship).

Each of these events has a fixed date on the calendar. They require a global pandemic to move them. These events are fixed and the rest of professional golf events work around it.

The dates for majors are:

  • Masters Tournament: Sunday, April 2nd 
  • PGA Championship: Third Sunday in May
  • US Open: 3rd Sunday of June
  • The Open Championship: Third Friday in July

Are there 4 or 5 majors?

There are four majors in golf, but the Players Championship is the most prestigious. It is a more exciting and challenging event than other PGA Tour events, and has a larger purse.

What is the order in which majors are played in golf? 

From 2019, the Masters, PGA Championship and US Open are in order. The PGA Championship was the last major before 2019, but it was moved due to events such as the Fed-Ex Cup Playoffs. 

Can LIV Golf Tour members play in majors

As of July 2022, yes, LIV golf members can still compete in the majors as they aren’t PGA Tour events. Since the majors aren’t hosted by the PGA or European Tour, any bans to these players do not apply at this time. However, this could change in the near future. 

Which golf major is most prestigious? 

It depends on the person who you’re asking. Some players might say the Masters thanks to its rich history, tradition, and the fact it’s always played at Augusta National. Others might say the US Open if they’re from America and want to win their home tournament.

While others might say the Open because it’s the oldest major. Other players may prefer the PGA Championship. 

Is the British Open considered to be a major? 

Yes, it’s the oldest major championship in the game of golf but now known as The Open Championship, instead of the British Open.  

How do you get tickets to majors?

This is a great question because watching a major is one my favorite fan experiences. I was able to see Tiger Woods play on Saturday, and the Monday finish at the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines. It was a paradise for true golf fans.

It’s easy to get tickets online for three majors. The hardest task is getting tickets to Augusta National’s Masters and walking around the hollow grounds. This is a moment that many golfers consider a top memory. 

To win tickets to Augusta you must win them through the lottery. Or, buy one of the few tickets that are available online but they’re insanely expensive.

Have you ever won all four major championships of golf in one year? 

The grand slam of Golf is when you win all four major championships in one year. Bobby Jones in 1930 was the only person to achieve this feat. However, it was on a different schedule.

Tiger completed the “Tiger slam” in 2000-2001 and had all four major champion trophies at once. This feat is unlikely to be repeated.

Final Thoughts about Major Tournaments

These prestigious tournaments are great fun for both players as well as fans. Major wins are a way to be a part of history and can help your career in more than one way.

For fans, it’s a chance to watch the best players compete at the highest level, on the toughest venues. Amateurs can participate in three of the four majors. All it takes to qualify for the US Open is a few good rounds. 

The majors are a significant part of golf history and a great tradition of this game. 

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