What Are The Four Majors in Golf
The four majors in men`s golf are:
- the Masters Tournament in April
- the US PGA Championship in May
- the US Open Championship in June
- the Open Championship in July
These championships are held in the highest regard by players, media and fans. They are the yardstick by which a player’s career will be judged.
Winners of multiple majors are considered the greatest players in the history of golf.
Let`s take a look at each of them in order of age.
The Open Championship
In the US this is usually referred to as the British Open to distinguish it from their own Open Championship. The event is run by the R&A (Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews)
The Championship was first played in 1860 which makes it the oldest of the four men`s majors.
It was originally organized in an attempt to identify the “best golfer in the world” following the death of Allan Robertson. He was widely regarded as the best player of the era and was the first to shoot under 80 on the Old Course at. St Andrews.
The eight players vying for the first championship at Prestwick Golf club would win the Challenge Belt. Made from Moroccan leather and adorned with silver panels decorated with golfing scenes.
Tom Morris Sr. was the favorite but he was beaten in the end by Willie Park Sr. after falling foul of several bunkers during his final round.
At the time Prestwick consisted of only 12 holes, golf had not yet standardized on 18 holes. The competition took place over 3, 12-hole rounds.
Prestwick went on to host the championship on another 23 occasions which makes it the most popular venue after the Old Course at St. Andrews.
In 1871 no championship was held because Tom Morris Jr had won on three consecutive occasions. He received the Championship Belt outright.
The following year was the first when the iconic Claret Jug was played for. However, it wasn’t awarded till the following year as it hadn’t been finished yet!
The First and Second World Wars caused the Championship to be canceled on 11 occasions. A further cancellation occurred in 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic.
In the modern era, the championship is a 72-hole strokeplay event with a 36-hole cut.
A number of exemption routes are made available to enable top players to gain entry to the tournament.
In addition, a number of qualifying events are run which allows players who are not exempt to gain entry. Amateur golfers with a handicap of scratch or better are able to enter the qualifying tournament. This is why it is called an ‘Open’ Championship since entry is open to any that meet the qualifying standard.
Since 1949 a silver medal has been awarded to the leading amateur presuming they managed to make the 36-hole cut. So far only Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have managed to win both the silver medal and the championship proper.
The R&A always stages the Championship on one of the top links courses.
The winner is announced as “the champion golfer of the year”. The winner in 2021 was Collin Morikawa.
Players with Most Open Championship Wins
|Name||Championship Wins||Total Number of Wins|
|Harry Vardon||1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914||6|
|James Braid||1901, 1905, 1906, 1908, 1910||5|
|JH Taylor||1894, 1895, 1900, 1909, 1913||5|
|Peter Thomson||1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1965||5|
|Tom Watson||1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983||5|
US Open Championship
Organized by the United States Golf Association the first US Open was played on 4th October 1895 in Newport, Rhode Island.
In the early years of the competition, it was dominated by British players. The first American-born winner was John J McDermott in 1911.
America’s national open has traditionally been held at some of the more prestigious clubs in the northeast of the United States. The second most popular destination has been the mid-West. In recent years some more modern venues have been used such as Erin Hills and Chambers Bay.
The 1913 championship was among the most famous. Francis Ouimet, a local amateur, managed to defeat the British contingent of Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. (strictly speaking, they were both from Jersey).
The USGA prefers to set up the course to be a severe test for even the greatest golfers. They will endeavor to have firm greens and firm, narrow fairways with thick rough. They consider par to be something to be strived for rather than beaten.
The course par will sometimes be reduced to 70 by taking one or two short par-5s and making them par-4s.
This can often make for less than compelling viewing with players often having to chip out sideways with a wedge.
As with the Open Championship, some of the earliest courses used are no longer suitable. Either they don’t have sufficient length for modern players or they don’t have space for all the infrastructure that is required.
Players with Most US Open Championship Wins
|Name||Championship Wins||Total Number of Wins|
|Willie Anderson||1901, 1903, 1904, 1905||4|
|Bobby Jones||1923, 1926, 1929, 1930||4|
|Ben Hogan||1948, 1950, 1951, 1953||4|
|Jack Nicklaus||1962, 1967, 1972, 1980||4|
US PGA Championship
The first US PGA championship was held in October 1916 just a few months after the formation of the US PGA. As the name would suggest this is the only major tournament exclusively for professional golfers.
The winner of the event receives the Rodman Wanamaker trophy. This was donated by the eponymous department store owner involved in the formation of the Association.
Jim Barnes was the first winner and received $500 and a diamond-studded gold medal donated by Mr. Wanamaker.
The championship began life as a matchplay event but in 1957 it actually managed to lose money. This in combination with pressure from TV networks resulted in a change of format to 72-hole strokeplay starting in 1958.
It has tended to move around the calendar and at times has either been played very close to the Open Championship. Sometimes making it impossible for competitors to compete in both. For example, when Ben Hogan won three majors in 1953 he was unable to compete in the PGA championship.
Starting in the late 60s it moved to August where it remained for roughly 50 years. From 2019 the Championship has been moved to May to help accommodate the FedEx Cup play-offs and avoid them clashing with the start of the NFL season.
Players with Most US PGA Championship Wins
|Name||Total Number of Wins||Championship Wins|
|Walter Hagen||1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927||5|
|Jack Nicklaus||1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980||5|
|Tiger Woods||1999, 2000, 2006, 2007||4|
|Gene Sarazen||1922, 1923, 1933||3|
|Sam Snead||1942, 1949, 1951||3|
The Masters Tournament
The baby amongst golf’s men’s major championships having only started in 1934.
It is also unique as the only one of the four golf majors to be played at the same venue every year.
The Tournament is hosted at the Augusta National Golf club which was designed by Bobby Jones and Alistair Mackenzie.
Jones of course was a multiple major champion while still being an amateur. Along with Clifford Roberts he created one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the world. The course he created in conjunction with the renowned architect Alistair Mackenzie is top of most players’ bucket lists.
The course at Augusta National is always presented in impeccable condition for the tournament. That is one reason why it captures the public’s imagination. Golfers in the UK for example would consider the Masters represents the start of the golfing season.
Probably because of Bobby Jones’s amateur status the tournament has always offered spaces to leading amateur golfers. It also affords them a unique opportunity to lodge in the “Crows Nest”.
In addition to being played on the same course, the Masters also has several other traditions that have grown up then the years. Tournament winners are presented with the green jacket and are made honorary members of the club. However, you don’t get multiple jackets if you win the tournament multiple times!
The Masters is unique in having a pre-tournament competition played around the nine-hole par-3 course on the property. Famously no one has won both the par-3 and the main competition in the same year. This means many players will deliberately hit balls into the water on the last couple of holes if they fear winning the par-3 challenge.
Since 1952 there is also been an annual dinner which all past champions are invited to attend. The menu is selected by the winner from the previous year.
Until relatively recently players were not allowed to bring their regular caddies to the event and had to use caddies employed by the club. Caddies are also expected to wear the unique boiler suits through the week adorned with a number. Numbers are assigned based on the order in which the player has registered for the event. Although the defending champion always receives number one.
Hideki Matsuyama became the first male Japanese golfer to win a major in 2021.
Players with Most Masters Wins
|Name||Total Number of Wins||Tournament Wins|
|Jack Nicklaus||1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975, 1986||6|
|Tiger Woods||1997, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2019||5|
|Arnold Palmer||1958, 1960, 1962, 1964||4|
|Jimmy Demaret||1940, 1947, 1950||3|
|Sam Snead||1949, 1952, 1954||3|
|Gary Player||1961, 1974, 1978||3|
|Nick Faldo||1989, 1990, 1996||3|
|Phil Mickelson||2004, 2006, 2010||3|
Why Are There Only Four?
Despite many attempts to introduce new events to the schedule none have managed to elevate themselves to the level of a major championship. Despite many having much higher prize money.
Unfortunately, you can’t fake history. Who knows whether in another 30 or 40 years, the Players or FedEx cup will be considered as equals to the four men’s major championships.
What is the Grand Slam?
The grand slam is winning all four majors in one season. No one has yet managed this although Tiger Woods did complete the “Tiger Slam” when he managed to win four consecutive majors in 2000/2001.
To date, only five golfers have managed the career grand slam.
- Gene Sarazen
- Ben Hogan
- Jack Nicklaus
- Gary Player
- Tiger Woods
Bobby Jones also completed what was called the “impregnable quadrilateral” in 1930. He managed to win the four “majors” that were available to him, the Open and Amateur Championships of both Britain and the United States.
Most Major Championship Wins
|Ben Hogan, Gary Player||9|
|Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen, Bobby Jones, Harry Vardon||7|
What Are The Four Majors in Golf: Conclusion
Hopefully, this has piqued your interest sufficiently to research a little more into the majors.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]
Has anyone ever won four consecutive majors?
In the professional era the only player to have held all four majors at the same time is Tiger Woods in 2000/1.
Bobby Jones won the four “majors” available to him at the time (The Open, US Open, The Amateur and US Amateur). As an amateur, he was ineligible for the US PGA and he hadn’t come up with the Masters at that point (1930).
Which golf major is most prestigious?
That probably depends on your nationality.
For Americans, it would likely be the US Open, while most other nationalities would hold the Open Championship in the highest regard as it is the oldest.
Where are the 4 golf majors played?
The Masters is played at Augusta National every year.
The other majors move to a new venue each year although the organizers usually have a list of courses they tend to select from.
The Open Championship is currently played at one of the following:
St Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Royal Birkdale, Royal St Georges, Royal Liverpool, Royal Lytham & St Annes, Royal Portrush, Muirfield.
In the past, it has been held at Turnberry, Prince’s, Musselburgh, Royal Cinque Ports and Prestwick.
The US Open Championship doesn’t have an official list of host courses however the following are regular and likely future hosts:
Oakmont, The Country Club, Winged Foor, Shinnecock Hills, Oak Hill, Bethpage Black, Merion, Baltusrol, Congressional, Pinehurst, Southern Hills, Medinah, Olympia Fields, Oakland Hills, Hazeltine National, Erin Hills, Pebble Beach, Olympic Club, Torrey Pines, Chambers Bay.
The USPGA also moves to different venues including:
Southern Hills, Atlanta Athletic Club, Oakland Hills, Oakmont, Oak Hill, Valhalla, Whistling Straits, Quail Hollow, Olympic CLub, Baltusrol, Congressional.
What is the hardest major?
The US Open tends to have the most difficult course setup although it has tended to be less difficult recently.
The US PGA Championship tends to have the strongest field as they invite the Top 100 on the world ranking. Despite this, there have been quite a few one-time major champions.