PGA Tour players compete for millions of dollars week in and week out. While every tournament on the schedule is prestigious, there are four events throughout the year that are considered the crown jewels. They’re called the Majors.
The Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and British Open are played in that order between the second week of April through the middle of July.
Winning one of these tournaments is a career-defining achievement and something most players never accomplish.
Let’s have a closer look at golf’s four Majors and what makes each one so special.
For golfers, the official beginning of spring (and golf season for that matter) comes the second week of April when the Masters is held.
This is the only Major that’s held at the same course every year. It’s been that way since 1934 and the hallowed grounds of Augusta National in Georgia is the sight.
Horton Smith was the first player to win the tournament and took home a check for $1,500. In 2022, Scottie Scheffler was awarded $2.7 million. My, how times have changed.
More than any of the other Majors, the Masters is steeped in tradition:
The winner is awarded a green jacket.
Caddies wear white jumpsuits as uniforms and adorn green Masters hats.
The Champions Dinner is held the Wednesday before the event every year.
The nine-hole par three contest is held every Tuesday of Masters week like clockwork.
The official start of the tournament finds Honorary Starters hitting ceremonial first tee shots down the first fairway on Thursday morning. Names have included the likes of Nicklaus, Player, Palmer, and Nelson.
Television commentators are required to refer to spectators as “patrons”, not fans.
The list goes on and on. . .
The Club of Augusta National itself is also one of the most exclusive in the world. Most of us will never get the chance to play it. Members include names like Condoleeza Rice and Bill Gates.
Change is slow to come at the Masters. And that’s fine by most golfers – they like it just the way it is.
The PGA Championship
The second Major of the calendar year is the PGA Championship. It’s played in May.
The PGA Championship is run by the Professional Golfer’s Association of America. The organization is the governing body for nearly 30,000 Club Professionals whose job it is to grow the game at courses throughout the nation.
First held in 1916, the PGA is the only tournament that doesn’t invite the world’s best amateurs to participate – Professionals only.
Unlike the Masters, the PGA is held at a different golf course every year. While host facilities have historically been east of the Rocky Mountains, the west coast has come into the fray with the PGA’s most recent western visit to Harding Park in San Francisco in 2020.
The winner of the year’s second major is awarded the Rodman Wanamaker trophy. It’s named for a New York department store magnate who donated it all the way back when the tournament was first played.
The U.S. Open
The most democratic of all the majors is the U.S. Open. It’s run by the United States Golf Association.
While the world’s top ranked players receive an automatic exemption into this tournament, much of the field is made up of players that go through local, then sectional qualifying to get a spot.
All that’s required to sign up for a U.S. Open qualifier is a handicap index of 1.4 or less. Tens of thousands of golfers sign up for qualifiers across the country prior to the tournament. Less than one percent earn a spot in the field.
The U.S. Open is said to be the toughest test in golf. Winning scores are never very far under par, and some years they’re even a few shots over par.
The U.S.G.A has a reputation for setting up golf courses in a way that tests every aspect of a player’s game. Narrow fairways, high rough, and hard, fast greens are the hallmarks of the U.S. Open.
The venue changes for this tournament every year just like the PGA Championship and British Open.
The British Open or Open Championship
Golf’s roots are in the British Isles. As such, the British Open is the oldest of the four Majors dating all the way back to 1860.
The British Open marks the only tournament of the year that’s played on links-style courses. These courses are all in England, Scotland, or Ireland, and are usually located on the windswept shorelines of the Atlantic Ocean.
Links golf dictates that the game be played along the ground due to hard fairways and windy conditions. Aside from cold, windy, unpredictable weather, the defense of links courses is their penal pot bunkers. These bunkers are deep and most often leave the golfer no choice but to hit a short shot back into the fairway.
As you might guess, the Open Championship (as it’s referred to in Europe) has more history than any of the other Majors.
Since 1872, the “Champion Golfer of the Year” has been awarded the Claret Jug and the accompanying winner’s medal.
Like the PGA, and U.S. Open, the venue for the Open changes every year. Though the venue has traditionally rotated between about 10 courses, new courses have been used in recent years, like Northern Ireland’s Royal Port Rush in 2019.
Any win on the PGA Tour is special. But nothing compares to winning one of golf’s four Majors.
While winning a single major is a difficult feat, there are five players that have won all four: Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen, and Jack Nicklaus.
Each major is unique and special for its own reasons. And each player has one they’d like to win more than any other.
Every golf fan has their favorite major too. What’s yours?