How Many Majors are There in Golf?
Maybe you’re out with your friends enjoying a socially distanced beverage or two and the discussion turns to golf – more specifically golf majors – and you realise you haven’t a clue what they are talking about. So you smile and nod and add in the occasional oh yeah or definitely to draw attention away from your lack of knowledge.
But never fear because Halpenny Golf has got you covered, and we are going to look at the majors in the men’s game and any questions that could possibly come your way. After reading this article you will be able to answer like a pro!
How many Golf Majors are there?
There are 4 majors in golf. 3 are held in America every year while one is held in the UK.
Why are majors important?
Like tennis, the majors are the yardstick of a golfer’s success. They’re the big ones. The tournaments every player trend towards and trains hard for. They plan their seasons around them, try to ensure they are coming into form at the correct time so that they may win one of golf’s most coveted titles.
What are the four majors?
The four majors are; the Masters, The U.S. Open, The Open Championship (also known as the British Open) and the PGA Championship. Let’s delve a bit deeper into each to understand their significance.
First Played: 1934
First Winner: Horton Smith
Host Venue: Augusta
Lowest tournament score: 20 under par
Most Wins: Jack Nicklaus (6)
Typically played: April
Despite being the youngest major in men’s golf, the Masters does carry that extra bit of aura to it. It’s the only major to be played at a single venue, a venue that is used interchangeably to describe the event. Maybe you have heard someone say, Augusta is on this week. What they really mean is the Masters is on this week but the course is so well known that it can easily substitute the name of the event.
And then there are the other names associated with Augusta. Magnolia Lane. Amen Corner. Rae’s Creek. Mystical terms we hear year in, year out referring to various parts of the course and grounds that make up Augusta. Even the Par 3 contest which is a wonderful exhibition including all the stars from yesteryear. Who doesn’t love seeing the likes of Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson tee it up for nine holes? Unfortunately the Par 3 contest was not played in 2020 or 2021 but here’s hoping for a change to that in 2022.
First Played: 1895
First Winner: Horace Rawlins
Host Venue: Various (Oakmont is the most frequented venue, having hosted the event 9 occasions)
Lowest tournament score: 16 under par
Most Wins: Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Willie Anderson (4)
Typically played: Mid-June
The toughest test in golf. Or at least that’s what it has been billed as in the past. Where the first cut of rough is long and the second cut is a jungle. The courses play hard and fast and the pin positions are tough. The general advice for the event is to keep it as straight as you can. Bogeys aren’t that bad and if you can keep doubles off the card for the week, you could easily be in contention.
Of course, that was the outlook until Bryson DeChambeau swaggered out to Winged Foot Golf Club in 2020 announcing "I'm hitting it as far as I possibly can up there. Even if it's in the rough…” Everyone thought he was crazy and then he went on to win by 6 shots. So yeah, maybe you don’t need to keep it straight.
First Played: 1860
First Winner: Willie Park Snr
Host Venue: Various (St. Andrews is the most frequented venue, having hosted the event 29 occasions)
Lowest tournament score: 20 under par
Most Wins: Harry Vardon (6)
Typically played: July
The Open Championship, also known as the British Open, is the only major tournament to be played outside of America. It is also the oldest tournament in the world at over 160 years old. And many consider it to be the best of all the majors.
Why? Links golf. Links golf is a completely different animal to the parkland golf you see week in week out on the PGA Tour. In fact, for the top pros it might be the only time they play links golf all year round.
What is the difference? Links is generally by the coast and will be wide open with hardly any trees on it. There will be dunes and tight fairways with a lack of water hazards. If the wind blows it is absolutely imperative that the ball is kept low. Perhaps the most difficult part of links golf though is the bunkers. They can be deep, can pop up almost anywhere and if you go into the wrong one you would be lucky if it only cost you one shot.
First Played: 1916
First Winner: Jim Barnes
Host Venue: Various
Lowest tournament score: -20 (Jason Day, 2015)
Most Wins: Jack Nicklaus, Walter Hagan (5)
Typically played: May (formerly August)
The PGA Championship is the final major in the quartet and has been moved to be played in May, ahead of the Open Championship (and US Open), instead of August, when it was played just a couple of weeks after it.
One of the differentiating factors of the PGA Championship is the allocation of spots to club pros. This year, 20 club pros from around the USA teed it up in the tournament. While the vast majority missed the cut, two players actually made it into the weekend; Brad Marek and Benny Cook with the latter finishing a solid T44th.
No club pro has ever won the event and the best finish from a club pro was in 1971, Tommy Bolt at the age of 55. To be fair to Bolt though, he was a retired tour pro and had already played in two Ryder Cups, won the US Open and was a 15-time PGA Tour champion.
Another interesting fact about the PGA Championship was that it wasn’t always a stroke play event. From 1916 to 1957 the event was played in a match play format, which would make for extremely interesting viewing were it to happen in today’s game.
The Unofficial “Fifth” Major
As of this moment in history, there are only four majors in the men’s game. That doesn’t mean it will stay like that forever though and one of the things we often hear about is an unofficial “fifth” major. And there is one tournament in particular that is associated with this term, the Players Championship.
The Players Championship takes place every year at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, America. It is the most lucrative event in golf and usually attracts one of the strongest fields of the year and also happens to be the headquarters of the PGA Tour. Due to its huge prize pool and the esteem it is held in – not to mention the famous course on which it is played, especially the island green on the 17th hole – it is often termed as the unofficial “fifth” major.
There are also two other options when it comes to the unofficial major. One is the BMW PGA Championship which is the flagship event on the European Tour and is seen by many European Tour players as a major event. The second is, as we are an Irish company, the Irish Open! Patriotism aside though, it does stand to reason that any golfer’s national event will feel like a fifth major to them. The Irish Open is held in particularly high regard due to its long history and reputation.
Mark McGowan of the Irish Golfer put forward an interesting idea when he suggested the Olympics be made a fifth major. Certainly the novelty of having a major once every four years as well as it being in a different country each year is compelling and would also help with regards to the participation issue the event faces with some of its main stars.
And there you have it, everything you need to know about the four majors! Only kidding, there is plenty more you can learn but for now, that will do you. Now you’ll be able to bamboozle your buddies and perplex your pals with your facts on golfing majors. We hope you enjoyed this article and if you want to keep up to date with all our content and business updates then follow us on Facebook and Instagram! We look forward to seeing you there.