What Are the Four Majors in Golf?

Each year, four professional golf tournaments are held around the world to boost golf’s prestige and to entertain its millions of playing and non-playing fans.  

Every pro golfer aspires to play in one or more of the world's golf majors. A win at one of the four majors looks great on a pro golfer’s resume and is seen by most pros as the pinnacle of their careers.

The four golf majors are:

  • The Masters
  • The PGA Championship
  • The US Open
  • The Open Championships (aka The British Open)

  • Each one of these competitions has its own set of traditions. So let’s take a look at each of the major competitions and find out why they are so popular and what makes each one unique.

    The Masters 

    The Masters is the first major golf tournament of the year and is seen by many commentators to be the most prestigious competition in golf. It was founded in 1934 by the legendary golf pro Bobby Jones (1902-1971) and the American investment banker Clifford Roberts (1894-1977). 

    A Stunning Location 

    The Masters is the only one of golf’s four majors that is always played on the same course: The Augusta National Golf Club in the city of Augusta, Georgia in the southeastern United States. The course occupies the site of a former plantation and was designed by Bobby Jones and the British golf course architect Alister MacKenzie. It opened for play in 1932.

    The Augusta course is renowned for its impeccable appearance. Pine needles are brought in to carpet the ground beneath the trees, birdsong is piped in through a network of hidden speakers and even the ponds are occasionally dyed blue!

    The Master’s Format

    The Masters is played over the first full week of April each year, with its final round scheduled for the second Sunday of that month. The event consists of four rounds of 18 holes and the competitors play in groups of three.

    After 36 holes of play (that is, two rounds each) a cut-off score is calculated to reduce the number of players: hence the phrase “Making the cut.” Play continues through a series of sudden death playoffs until a winner emerges. 

    The Green Jacket 

    The Masters are famous for the coveted “Green Jacket” that is traditionally presented to the winner of the competition along with the silver Master's Trophy. The green jacket was first awarded in 1949 and signifies honorary membership of the Augusta club. 

    The jacket cannot be removed from the course (although it is designated the personal property of the champion for a year) and is stored in a designated cloakroom on the club grounds.

    Tiger Woods has five green jackets to his name! 

    The PGA Championship

    This is the second major of the season and is played in May. It is played on various courses around the US, although courses on the eastern seaboard tend to be favoured. The competition is sometimes referred to as the US PGA Championship or by its initials, the USPGA.

    The Professional Golfers Association

    In 1916, the Professional Golfers Association of America (the PGA) was formed at a luncheon organised at the Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle by the department store owner Rodman Wanamaker.

    The first PGA Championship was held in October of the same year at the Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, a village on the northeastern outskirts of New York City. The competition's inaugural winner, a British golfer called Jim Barnes (1886-1966), pocketed $500 and received a diamond and gold medal donated by Wanamaker.

    The Wanamaker Trophy  

    Named after the businessman who established the competition, the silver Wanamaker Trophy is one of golf’s most iconic prizes. It is 2.5 feet (75cm) high and weighs in at a hefty 27 pounds (12kg).

    The trophy was lost for several years in the 1920s after it was won by Walter Hagen (1892-1969). It was eventually found in 1930, stored in a basement cupboard on the premises of the firm that manufactured Hagen’s golf clubs. Since then, a duplicate of the trophy has been awarded to the winner of the PGA Championship while the original remains on display in a Florida golf museum.

    The US Open

    This is the third major of the year and is held in June. The venue changes each year and it is widely regarded as the toughest of all the majors. It has a prize purse of US$12.5 million, making it the richest of the four majors.

    The British Invasion 

    The inaugural US Open was held on October 4th, 1895 at a nine-hole course on the Newport Country Club, on Rhode Island in the northeastern United States. It was a 36-hole competition (ie each player went around the course four times) and was played over the course of a single day.

    The winner was a 21-year-old Englishman, Horace Rawlins (1874-1935) who had recently arrived in the States to take up a position as a coach at the host club. He received a prize of $150 in cash along with a gold medal. For the next sixteen years, players from the British Isles dominated the US Open. It wasn’t until 1911 that the first American, John L McDermott (1891-1971), won the competition. McDermott was only 19 at the time and he remains the youngest player to win the title.

    72 Holes of Stroke Play

    Since 1988, the US Open has consisted of 72 holes of stroke play comprising four rounds on an 18-hole course. The winner is the player with the lowest number of strokes at the end of the tournament.

    The US Open is open to any professional golfer and to amateurs whose USGA handicap does not exceed 1.4. The competition fields 156 players (male and female) with around half of the field made up of players who have won in certain non-profession competitions.

    The Open Championships aka The British Open

    And now we come to the oldest and, arguably, the most famous Masters tournament, the British Open. Founded in 1860 it is the world’s oldest golf tournament.

    Royal and Ancient

    The world’s first Open Championship was played on the 17th of October, 1860, at the Prestwick Golf Club in the Scottish country of Ayrshire. It consisted of three rounds of the club’s twelve-hole links course. 

    In those days, golf was a game reserved only for wealthy gentlemen. Golf clubs were hand-made and expensive and professionals made a living by caddying for gents on their rounds. But in 1860, one of these professional caddies, James Olgivie Fairlie (1809-1870) decided to set up a competition “to be played by professional golfers”. He invited several clubs to send their best players to Prestwick to compete for a Challenge Belt made from red leather with a silver buckle. 

    The Open Becomes Open

    The following year, the competition was adapted to include amateur players. Ten professionals and eight amateurs contested the event that year. 

    A prize fund was established in 1863. Prior to this, competitors had to earn money by caddying during the competition for other gentlemen playing at the same time. In 1872 it was decided that the competition would rotate between the Prestwick course and two others: the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St.

     Andrews and the Muirfield links course owned by The Honourable Company of Edinborough Golfers.

    The Open Championship Today  

    The Open is always played on a “links course.” The word derives from an Old English word, hlinc which means “rising ground” or “ridge” and refers to the sandy, rolling ground found near coastlines. Links courses are regarded as the purest form of golf course and keep the connection with the origins of the game in 15th century Scotland.

    The British Open trophy is known as the Claret Jug and has been presented to the winner since 1873. The original trophy is held at the R&A clubhouse at St. Andrews and the successful golfer is presented with a replica. The winner of the competition is announced as “ The Champion Golfer of the Year”, a title which has been used ever since the first open was held.    

    Start Your Journey to the Masters

    Anyone can aspire to be a player in one of the four golf majors. So if you want to get started on the road to golf’s highest pinnacles of achievement, check out back2basics golf. They will provide you with the gear and advice to take your golf game all the way to the top.

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