There are four major championships in golf each year, but what are they? Here's everything you need to know
What are the four golf majors? They are the sport’s four most prestigious tournaments to win and, in order of when they were inaugurated, they are The Open, the US Open, the PGA Championship, and the Masters.
Each one takes place annually between April and July and represents the pinnacle of the sport, helping to distinguish the very best golfers in the world.
The major championship season has changed over the years, and currently it begins with the Masters in April, then moves to the PGA Championship in May, the US Open in June, and ends with The Open in July.
Established by Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones in 1934, the Masters Tournament takes place during the first week of April and is unique in that it is always held at the same venue, Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
The Masters has the smallest field of any major tournaments, typically between 90-100 players. There are no qualifying events held prior to the tournament, so to take part players require an invitation from Augusta National itself.
The winner of the Masters receives a coveted Green Jacket which signifies their honorary membership into the club and lifetime exemption to play in the tournament. The champion also receives a trophy modelled on Augusta National’s famous clubhouse.
Jack Nicklaus holds the record for the most victories, with six, with Tiger Woods next on five.
The first PGA Championship was held in 1916 at Siwanoy in New York and was won by Englishman Jim Barnes.
The PGA Championship was originally a match play event, consisting of a knockout style tournament played over the course of a week. In 1958, it became a stroke play event to fall in line with the other three majors.
The winner of the PGA Championship receives the impressive Wanamaker Trophy, named after businessman and tournament pioneer Rodman Wanamaker. Like the Masters, champions of the event are also afforded lifetime exemption.
The PGA is the only major in which no amateur golfers can qualify – though there are spots for around 20 PGA club professionals – and the field is generally the strongest of the four majors.
As with the Masters, Jack Nicklaus holds the record for most PGA Championship victories with five, followed by Tiger Woods on four. In 2021, Phil Mickelson became the oldest major champion in history at the age of 50.
The United States Open Championship, to use its full name, is staged by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and is held at various courses around the country that are always set up to produce the toughest of tests.
The first three US Opens from 1895 to 1897 were held on a nine-hole course and played over 36 holes in a single day. From 1898 the event switched to what is now a traditional 72-hole stroke play tournament. Up until 2017, the US Open also used to employ an 18-hole playoff system if two or more players were tied after 72 holes.
The tournament has a field of 156 players and is open to any professional or amateur with a USGA Handicap Index lower than 1.4. Roughly half of the field is made up of already exempt players, while the rest of the field has to go through several rounds of open qualification in order to play.
The winner of the tournament receives the silver sterling US Open trophy, which has been given to the champion since 1895, as well as a gold medal, which, since 2012, has been named after Jack Nicklaus. The champion also earns exemption to the next 10 US Opens.
Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus hold the record for the most US Open wins with four each.
The final major of the year is The Open. Originally called the Open Championship and often referred to as the British Open, it is the oldest golf tournament in the world and is the only major held outside of the US.
The first 12 Opens, starting in 1860, were held at Prestwick. Since then, 13 other venues have hosted the tournament, while the current rotation features 10 courses across England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The Home of Golf, St Andrews, has hosted it the most times.
The tournament is open to all professional and amateur golfers thanks to its local qualifying systems. The final field consists of 156 players.
The winner of receives arguably the most coveted prize in golf, the Claret Jug, a trophy which dates back to 1872. The winner is also named the ‘Champion Golfer of the Year’ and is awarded the Gold Medal. The runner-up then receives a Silver Salver, while the leading amateur receives the Silver Medal.
Harry Vardon is the most successful player in Open history, with six wins, while James Braid, JH Taylor, Tom Watson and Peter Thomson have all won five.