4 Majors in Golf
(& The Unoffical 5th Major)
The 4 majors in golf are the pinnacle of the sport.
The majors are when the best players in the world look to entertain us with their amazing skills from tee to green for four days. All hoping to walk away with a victory on Sunday afternoon to become a part of history.
Each of these tournaments has its own vibe and challenges, making them very exciting to watch. From the plush fairways at Augusta National to the challenging links courses at The Open Championship, these four majors bring out the best (and worst) in golfers.
Keep reading to learn more about the four biggest tournaments, the unofficial 5th major, and plenty of golf facts about each event including the most golf majors winners.
Understanding the 4 Majors in Golf
The 4 majors in golf are the Masters, PGA Championship, US Open, and the Open Championship. Plus, there is an unofficial 5th major known as the Players Championship which we’ll cover later.
All four events are a 72-hole stroke play competition with different playoff rules. Winning a major is a dream of every pro golfer as it comes with a huge payday, other perks, and becoming a part of the history books.
Today we’ll cover the history, venue, epic finishes, and more facts about the 4 golf majors.
The first major of the year is always the Masters – which is held at the same venue every year at Augusta National Golf Club.
The golf course in Augusta Georgia is arguably one of the most iconic venues ever. The club is beyond private (it’s been said they’re turned down billionaires) and steeped in so much golf history most golfers consider it sacred ground. It was created by Bobby Jones in 1932 and has been central to the game ever since.
The Masters Tournament takes place the first full week of April every year and was first played in 1934. In 1949 the first green jacket was awarded to the champion which has its own unique rules. While the jacket is considered personal property, it must be stored in the “cloakroom” and only allowed to leave the grounds by the current reigning champion.
Augusta National is a beast of a golf course at 7,510 yards and a par 72. The course has been able to withstand the test of time thanks to its unique layout and challenging greens. It’s been modified and updated many times over the years to reshape greens, extend water hazards, lengthen holes, and more.
Facts About the Masters
- The first prize in 1934 was only $1,500 and won by Horton Smith.
- A few select amateurs are invited each year but there is no formal qualification process.
- Jack Nicklaus has the most Masters (six) and is the oldest winner. Tiger Woods has won five green jackets and was the youngest winner at only 21 years old.
- Augusta National is famous for “Amen Corner” – a stretch of holes on the back nine (11-13) which are some of the toughest in golf.
- The Masters have a famous par-3 contest that takes place the Wednesday before the event starts. This tradition started in 1960 and has yielded almost 100 holes in ones over the years. Unfortunately, the winner of the par 3 competition (which is a separate course) has never won the tournament.
- There is an opening tee shot every year with an honorary starter which have been iconic players like Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus.
- There is a Champions dinner held the Tuesday evening each year before the event. This tradition started in 1954 and is known as the “masters club.” The defending champion is the host and selected the menu – typically cuisine served from their home regions.
Overall, the Masters is steeped in tradition and as Jim Nantz says, “A tradition unlike any other.” The back nine on Sunday is must-watch TV and a great start to the major season.
The second major of the year (which was previously the final major) is the PGA Championship. This event takes place in May (previously in August) but was changed due to the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, and Fed-Ex Cup Championship. It’s conducted by the Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA of America) – not the actual PGA Tour.
The first PGA Championship was held in 1916 at the Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York. The first winner received $500 and a diamond-studded gold medal.
Winners now get a hefty payday alongside the biggest of the four trophies – the Wanamaker Trophy. This is named after Rodman Wanamaker, who was a wealthy department store owner that helped launch the tournament more than a century ago.
Unlike the Masters the PGA Championship is held at a different venue each year. But it’s hosted at iconic venues like Oak Hill, Oakmont, Southern Hills, and many other iconic courses.
Unfortunately amateur golfers are not allowed to compete but they do allow plenty of non PGA Tour members. Being run by the PGA of America they allow the top 20 local pros from the PGA Professional Championship to compete.
Facts About the PGA Championship
- The Wanamaker Trophy is 2.5 feet tall and weighs 27 pounds.
- Brooks Koepka has won three PGA championships from 2018-2023.
- Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen have both won this major five times.
- Tiger Woods won the PGA Championship four times including an epic playoff battle with Bob May in 2000.
- Phil Mickelson became the oldest winner at 50 years old in 2021, a historic feat in the game.
- While the PGA Championship is now a stroke play event, it was a match play event until 1958.
Overall the PGA Championship is a great test of golf for professionals at top-rated courses. The sites are challenging with thick rough and fast greens which provide tons of excitement for fans. It’s also fun to see PGA professionals get a chance to compete among the best players in the world.
United States Open (US Open)
The third golf major of the year is the United States Open Championship – known as the US Open. The first US open was played in 1895 on a 9-hole course in Rhode Island.
Similar to the PGA Championship, the venue rotates every year and is held on some of the most difficult golf courses. This major has been played on 52 different golf courses in its rich history.
Some of the most notable sites include Pinehurst, Medinah, Winged Foot, Shinnecock Hills, and many others. Scoring tends to be the highest of any majors with a score around even par being a good finish in the tournament.
One of the reasons golfers love this tournament is that amateurs can try and qualify. If you have a 1.4 handicap or less you can try and go through the rigorous qualification process to join the 156-man field.
Facts About the US Open
- The first winner only got $150 cash and a $50 gold medal.
- Hale Irwin is the oldest US Open champion at 45 years old.
- Oakmont has hosted the open the most times (9) starting in 1927.
- Sam Snead is the oldest player to make the cut at 61 years old in 1973.
- Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele set the lowest score to par (62) in 2023 at Los Angeles Country Club.
- Phil Mickelson has the most runner-up finishes (6) and is the only major holding him back from completing the career grand slam.
- Tiger Woods won the 100th US Open Championship at Pebble Beach by an incredible 15 shots. He finished the event at -12 with second place coming in at +3.
Overall the US Open is typically the toughest test of golf. The rough is always thick, fairways are narrow, and greens are diabolical at times. Future sites include Pinehurst #2, Oakmont, Pebble Beach, Merion, and Riviera Country Club.
The final major of the year is the Open Championship – commonly known as the British Open. This event is the oldest tournament in golf and started in 1860! This golf major is hosted by the R&A and held in mid-July each year.
Like the US Open and PGA Championship, the venues rotate each year but there are some sites that stay in the rotation – like the Old Course at St. Andrews. The Open is always hosted at a coastal links golf course which is known as a “pure” form of the game since the 15th century. Some of the most iconic courses over the years include the Old Course at St. Andrews, Muirfield, Royal Liverpool, Turnberry, and more.
What’s great about the Open is that it’s open to all – both amateur and professionals who can qualify through a formal process. The winners – known as the “Champion Golfer of the Year” get their name etched on the iconic Claret Jug.
Facts About the Open Championship
- From 1940-1945 there was no tournament due to World War II.
- Bobby Jones – who founded Augusta National – won the event three times as an amateur.
- Jack Nicklaus has the most runner-up finishes with seven at this major.
- Tiger Woods won the 100th Open Championship at the home of golf in 2000 – winning by eight strokes.
- Old Tom Morris is the oldest winner at 46 years old while his son, Young Tom Morris is the youngest winner at 17 years old.
Overall, the Open Championship is a great test of golf thanks to old-school links golf. It’s fun to watch players hit different types of stingers off the tee, putt from 30 yards off the green, and escape pot bunkers.
Paired with difficult weather conditions, it’s a very different major than the other three. Future sites include Royal Liverpool Golf Club in 2023, Royal Troon Golf Club in 2024, and Royal Portrush in 2025.
The Players Championship – Golf’s “Fifth” Major
Is the players championship a major? The four majors in golf are extremely popular but there is an unofficial fifth major as well. The Players Championship – which is held at TPC Sawgrass, is another incredible event. It began in 1974 and at one point had the highest purse of any golf tournament.
What’s great about this event is that you get to see the best of the best compete. The field usually has the top 50 players all playing for 18% of the largest purse in golf. Winners also get 80 world ranking points (major winners get 100) and a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
Aside from the 144-player stacked field the course is one of the best in the world. TPC Sawgrass is the ultimate test of golf thanks to its length, design, and challenging finishing holes.
The 16th hole is a great par 5 with water down the entire right side. But the real test for players comes on the 17th hole which is an island green. The final hole is also a brutal test with water down the entire right side.
Facts About the Players Championship
- Jack Nicklaus won the first Players in 1974.
- In 1994 Greg Norman shot the 72 scoring record to win by four shots.
- Kim Si-woo became the youngest player to win in 2017 at only 21 years old.
- It’s been estimated that 100,000 balls are retrieved from the island green each year.
- Adam Scott won in 2004 despite hitting his second shot in the water on the 18th hole.
Do you want to learn more about the four golf majors? If so, keep reading our top questions and answers now.
Who has won the most majors in golf?
Jack Nicklaus holds this title with an impressive 18 major wins. Tiger Woods is in second place at 15 major championships, despite an 11-year winless drought. Only time will tell if Tiger can win another major, let alone surpass the Golden Bear.
Has anyone won all four majors in the same year?
Winning all four majors is known as the grand slam of golf. In the current era of the Masters, PGA Championship, US Open, and Open Championship, no player has ever won all four.
But in the pre-Masters era Bobby Jones did win all four major championships. Tiger Woods also won all four in a row (known as the Tiger slam) in 2000-2001. He won the US Open, PGA Championship, and Open Championship in 2000 then the Masters in 2001.
Based on how hard it is to win a major championship, it’d be shocking if anyone ever completes their own “Tiger slam.”
Why are LIV players allowed to play in majors?
The 4 majors are not run by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. Each has their own eligibility requirements based on past finishes and world ranking points.
What do they call the 5th major in golf?
The fifth major is the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. This event brings the best players from around the world to compete at one of the hardest golf courses in the world. The final three holes are some of the best in golf including a challenging par 3 17th which is an island green.
Is the tour championship a major?
No, the tour championship is not a major. It’s an important even on the PGA tour though. Historically it’s one of the final events of the season and used to consist of the top 30 money leaders of the past season. Now it has a different format to ensure the winner would also be the FedEx cup champion.
The 4 majors make golf great and something both players and fans look forward to every year. The history, golf courses, and huge prizes make for a truly special week of golf.
If you ever get a chance to attend a major, do it! I went to the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines when Tiger Woods won on a broken leg and it was one of the best experiences ever.
What’s your favorite golf major?
Let us know in the comments below.