Whilst golf isn’t generally everyone’s cup of tea, especially when compared to the likes of football, basketball and soccer, it does have a certain beauty that no other sport has.
Okay, so it doesn’t thrill and excite in the same way as a three pointer in a basketball game might, and there is no rough and tumble that comes with a contact sport, but what it does do is provide the crowd with amazing scenery and talented swings.
There is a built-up anticipation in golf, one that provides that thrill and excitement most – if not all – sports fans crave.
This alone gives many reasons why one might watch golf.
So, even if you are a new golf supporter, or you have been a fan for a long time, you should get to know the most prestigious and exciting golf tournaments.
These competitions provide the avid fan (and the newbies) a chance to watch some of the best golfers out there, including the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
The best golf tournaments are the ones that have a great story, a great venue and an amazing atmosphere.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the 10 most prestigious golf tournaments – as well as some notable winners out of the men’s and women’s winners.
1. Masters Tournament
This is one of the most prestigious events held every year, and is classed as one out of four of the major golf tournaments that are held.
Having begun way back in 1932, it has become one of the longest running golf tournaments ever across the world.
It is also held in the same location every year, which has become quite unusual for a golfing competition.
It is held in an infamous and very private golf course located in Georgia, the Augusta National Golf Club.
When it first began, it was actually known as the Augusta National Invitational Tournament.
The first person to ever win was a man named Horton Smith who took home $1,500. Fast forward several decades later and that prize money has jumped to a whopping few million.
For example, Tiger Woods earned just over $2 million for winning the Masters tournament.
There are also many traditions associated with the Masters, one being the green jacket which began in 1949.
If you become the champion, you are awarded the green jacket. When a year has passed and the tournament rolls round again, you have to give the jacket back to the clubhouse.
If you win again, you receive the same green jacket, and the cycle continues.
Quick facts and records of the Masters:
- Location: Augusta, Georgia, U.S.
- Established: March 22, 1934
- Course(s): Augusta National Golf Club
- Par 72
- Length: 7,475 yards (6,835 m)
- Prize fund: US$15,000,000
- Month played: April
- Tournament record score:
Aggregate 268 Dustin Johnson (2020)
- Most wins: Jack Nicklaus (6, 1963-1986), Tiger Woods (5, 1997-2019), Arnold Palmer (4, 1958-1964). Five have won three titles: Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, and Phil Mickelson.
2. U.S. Open Championship
This shares the same name with the tennis competition, but it is different – in fact, it is a highly popular and well-known golf event.
Just like the Masters, it joins another 3 of the top 4 major and most prestigious golfing championships across the globe.
It is also one of the oldest, having first begun in 1895, also making it a true golf classic. It is normally held around mid-June, and is hosted by the United States Golf Association.
So long as no delays happen, then it takes place on the third Sunday of that month. Due to Covid-19 in 2020, it actually took place in September.
Just like the Masters, and every other golf tournament, the prize money has gone up dramatically since it first began. Back in 1895, it was held in Rhode Island at the Newport Country Club.
The winner, Horace Rawlins, took home £150 out of the total prize money pot of $335. This also included a gold medal worth $50.
Comparing that to 2020, Bryson DeChambeau won £2.25 million from the £12.5 million prize money.
Quick facts and records of the U.S. Open Championship:
- Location: United States, varies, San Diego, California in 2021
- Established: 1895, 120 Editions
- Course(s): Torrey Pines Golf Course
- Par 71
- Length: 7,698 yards (7,039m)
- Prize fund: US$12,500,000
- Month played: June
- Tournament record score: Aggregate 268, Rory McIlroy (2011)
- Most wins: Willie Anderson (4, 1901–1905), Bobby Jones (4, 1923–1930), Ben Hogan (4, 1948-1953), Jack Nicklaus (4, 1962-1980)
3. PGA Championship
Often referred to as the USPGA or US PGA Championship, it is an annual competition that is currently staged by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America.
Again, like the above, it sits in the company of the 4 overall major golf championships.
Having first launched in 1916, every year it is played in a different golf course across the United States.
For example, in 2020 it was held at the Harding Park Golf Club in San Francisco.
That doesn’t mean it cannot return to the same golf club either, because as of 2020, it has been to the Harding Park Golf Club 5 times since the tournament began.
The PGA Championship winner receives the Wanamaker Trophy which is around 2.5 feet tall. However, this is a replica, with the winner not allowed to take the real trophy home.
Quick facts and records of the PGA Championship:
- Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
- Established: 1916
- Course(s): Southern Hills Country Club
- Par 70
- Length: 7,556 yards (6,909m)
- Prize fund: US$12,000,000
- Month played: May (formerly August)
- Tournament record score:
Aggregate 264, Brooks Koepka (2018)
- Most wins: Jack Nicklaus (5), Walter Hagen (5)
4. The Players Championship
The Players Championship is a part of the PGA Tour and is classed as one of the main events.
When it first began back in 1974, it was known as the Tournament Players Championship. It certainly is less of a mouthful now!
It is also known as The Fifth Major when spoken about informally, so if you hear it being called that, you’ll know what it means.
Usually, it is held in Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida at the TPC Sawgrass every year.
For the first time in the tournament’s history, a prize pot of $15 million was available in 2020. Due to it being handed out, most of the competitors received $52,000.
The winner however, saw a jackpot of $2.7 million handed to them.
The unusual yet interesting thing about this tournament is that it is invitation only.
These invites are sent to the top 50 golfers from across the world who have reached the world rankings. So, it makes sense that the prize purse is incredibly high.
Quick facts and records of the Players Championship:
- Location: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, U.S.
- Established: 1974
- Course(s): TPC Sawgrass
- Par 72
- Length: 7,189 yards (6.574m)
- Prize fund: US$20,000,000
- Month played: March (2022)
- Tournament record score: Aggregate 264, Greg Norman (1994)
- Champion: Cameron Smith (275, -13)
- Six players have won the tournament more than once: Jack Nicklaus (3, 1974-1978), Fred Couples (2, 1984-1996), Steve Elkington (2, 1991-1997), Hal Sutton (2, 1983-2000), David Love III (2, 1992-2003), Tiger Woods (2, 2001-2013)
5. The Ryder Cup
Taking place every two years, the Ryder Cup includes teams from the United States and Europe.
This means that it also takes place alternatively between the two which makes it much fairer for fans.
Having first launched back in 1927, the name comes from English businessman Samuel Ryder who the trophy is donated from.
To be able to take part in the tournament, the golfer needs to meet the requirements which change every time.
Both the American and European teams have their own selection criteria which informs whether the golfer is eligible to play or not.
The teams are made up of 12 people who play 18 holes in 28 matches.
During the first couple of days of the tournament, each team’s captain gets to choose the eight people who will golf, whilst on the last day, everyone gets to golf.
Quick facts and records of the Ryder Cup:
- Location 2021: Haven, Wisconsin, U.S.
- Established: 1927
- Par 2021: 72
- Length 2021: 7,790 yd (7,120 m)
- Month played: September/October
- US record: 43 matches, 27 wins, 14 losses, 2 ties
- Europe record: 21 matches, 11 wins, 9 losses, 1 tie
6. The British Open
Another tournament which is a part of the Big Four, the British Open (or The Open and The Open Championship) has been around since 1860.
Originally it was held in Scotland at the Prestwick Golf Club, but it now moves around to different golf clubs throughout England.
Another thing to note, it is the only major golf championship that is held outside the United States.
The 150th British Open is taking place at a very old yet famous course called St. Andrews to mark the anniversary.
In fact, the golf course is often referred to as the oldest golf course ever, in the entire world.
Like a lot of tournaments, it was canceled due to Covid-19 in 2020, but 2021 saw it take place at Royal St. George’s.
Quick facts and records of the British Open:
- Location: UK, location varies
- Established: 17 October 1860, 149 editions
- Course(s): Varies
- Par 72
- Length: 7,305 yards (6,680 m)
- Prize fund: US$11,500,000
- Month played: July
- Tournament record score:
Aggregate 264, Henrik Stenson (2016)
- Most wins: Harry Vardon (6, 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914).
7. The PGA Tour
First launched back in 1929, the PGA Tour consists of many prestigious golf tournaments from across the globe.
This means that there are a number of different yearly tournaments throughout many locations.
Whilst a normal golf tournament takes place in the one area, this one has golfers moving from one location to the next, playing against some of the best golfers in the world.
Due to it being quite a long lengthy tournament, it can be very exciting for the fans. This is because it is very competitive!
Currently, the tour has around 94 members who are active which come from 29 different countries. This includes locations from outside the US.
For an example of how long a tournament might last, in 2020 it began on September 10th, with the games then ending on August 29th in 2021.
It might sound quite brutal – think of the traveling and time invested – but it is worth it.
Overall, the winner takes home around $15 million, whilst second, third, fourth and fifth place receive $5 million, $4 million, $3 million and $2.5 million respectively.
Not only are financial rewards given out, but special awards too. Some of these include the Arnold Palmer Rookie of the Year Award, Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
8. Solheim Cup
The Solheim Cup actually corresponds to the Ryder Cup, both alternating which one happens each year.
The difference between the two is that the Solheim Cup is held for female golfers, whilst the Ryder Cup is for Male golfers.
Also, it includes teams from both Europe and the United States.
Whilst a late starter having only been formed back in 1990, it has been played every two years in a pattern of even numbers.
This was until 2002 when it went from every two years to odd numbers because of the World Trade Center attack.
Altogether throughout the tournament there are 28 games, similar to that of the Ryder Cup.
However, when it comes to selecting who gets to play in the Solheim cup, they use a point system. Again, just like the Ryder Cup, it differs between whether you are from the United States or Europe.
Unfortunately, any similarity with the Ryder Cup ends there.
Whilst the men receive money to give to charity (in 2021 Team USA won $200,000), women play for representation and honor by their country, and general recognition.
Quick facts and records of the Solheim Cup:
- Location: Europe or U.S.
- Established: 1997
- Month played: September
- US record: 97 singles won, 49 foursomes won, 50 fourballs won
- Europe record: 71 singles won, 59 foursomes won, 51 fourballs won
9. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Again, another tournament that is a part of the PGA Tour.
Having first been hosted by Rancho Santa Fe, California, back in 1937, it was originally called the Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur Golf Championships.
It changed to the name it is known now back in 1986 when AT&T stepped up as its main sponsor.
Sorry Mr. Crosby! The actual organizer of the event is the Monterey Peninsula Foundation.
Normally held across three golf courses in February, and includes around 156 professional golfers, and 156 amateur golfers.
The three golf courses that the tournament takes place at are: Monterey Peninsula Country Club, the Pebble Beach Golf Links, and the Spyglass Hill Golf Course
During the tournament, a professional and amateur golfer is paired up. At the start, the 156 teams complete a whole one-round format over three courses during three days.
The lucky ones who make it all the way to the 54-hole get to play on the last day.
There are individuals who play as well, but this is strictly limited to the professionals only.
Quick facts and records of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am:
- Location: Pebble Beach, California, U.S.
- Established: 1937
- Course(s): Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Monterey Peninsula Country Club
- Par: 72 (PB), 72 (SH), 71 (MP)
- Length: 6,816 yards (6,233 m) (PB), 7,035 yards (6,433 m) (SH), 6,958 yards (6,362 m) (MP)
- Prize fund: US$8,700,000
- Month played: February
- Tournament record score:
Aggregate 265, Brandt Snedeker (2015)
- Most wins: Mark O’Meara (5, 1985-1997), Phil Mickelson (5, 1998-2019), Sam Snead (4, 1937-1950 (tie)), Jack Nicklaus (3, 1967-1973), Johnny Miller (3, 1974-1994)
10. The U.S. Women’s Open
It is not unknown that golf, just like most sports, is dominated by male competitors.
Surprisingly, the first ever U.S. Women’s Open was held back in 1946.
The reason for this was to push women into the forefront of golf, giving them a chance to receive some of the spotlight that the men are used to in sport.
Just like the men’s, this tournament is hosted by the United States Golf Association, and it has become one of the best golfing tournaments to watch and play in.
Both professionals and amateurs can take part in the tournament.
All you need as an amateur is to make sure that you have a USGA handicap with an index of at the very least 4.4, and that it is up-to-date.
To be a part of the tournament, you have to make your way through it successfully to reach the qualifying rounds, however, you can play in the tournament through exemptions too – this includes being winners of certain events throughout the last 5 to 10 years.
However, unlike the men’s version who had a prize purse of $57.5 million in 2021, the women had a total of $5.5 million to share between winners.
Whilst popular, the U.S. Women’s Open has a long way to go before being able to attract lucrative sponsors.
Quick facts and records of the U.S. Women’s Open:
- Location: San Francisco, California, U.S. in 2021
- Established: 1946
- Course(s): Olympic Club, Lake course in 2021
- Par 71 (in 2021)
- Length: 6,486 yd (5,931 m) in 2021
- Prize fund: US$10,000,000
- Month played: June
- Tournament record score:
Aggregate 272 Annika Sörenstam (1996), 272 Juli Inkster (1999), 272 Chun In-gee (2015)
- Most wins: Betsy Rawls (4, 1951-1960), Mickey Wright (1958-1964), Babe Zaharia (3, 1948-1954), Susie Berning (3, 1968-1973), Holly Stacey (3, 1977-1984), Annika Sörenstam (3, 1995-2006)
Notable Golf Winners
When it comes to the winners in golf, these are the ones to look out for (whether in person, on TV, or looking at old footage):
When it comes to the U.S. Women’s Open, there are a few names that spring to mind.
One being Patty Berg who won the first ever event. Whilst that is major in itself, there have been some very notable winners since.
These include Mickey Wright and Betsy Rawls who have won it four times each making them the only two to have ever won it the most.
Following them with three wins each are Annika Sorenstam and Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
It is difficult to know where to begin with the men, but we’ll try anyway! Just like above, we’ll begin with the U.S. Open.
There are a number of men who make the top of the list due to them winning it four times.
These are Bobby Jones, Willie Anderson of Scotland, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan.
When it comes to the British Open, they get awarded the Claret Jug (formerly known as The Golf Championship Trophy).
Harry Vadon is a man who has seen the trophy six times, and holds the record of a golfer who has won it the most.
Weirdly, a young teenager named Tom Morris who was only 17 won the trophy back in 1868.
In the previous year of 1867, a Scottish man called Tom Morris won the trophy aged 49.
These both hold the titles of the youngest ever and oldest ever winners of the British Open.
In the Ryder Cup, during 41 years of the tournament, the United States has won a total of 26 games.
Whilst not originally recognizing Europe as a standalone continent, since it has, they have won 11 out of their 19 games.
During the years 1969 and 1989, interestingly there was a tie!
Moving on to the Players Championship, Jack Nicklaus has won many victories compared to any other elite golfer.
Not surprising! He also won the very first tournament.
Other people to note are Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Hal Sutton, Steve Elkington and Davis Lowe III who have all won the tournament a total of three times.
A favorite to win, Roy McElroy who hails from North Ireland won the Players Championship event in 2020.
Lastly, we’ll take a look at notable winners from the PGA Championship.
Both Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen hold the top spot for most wins at this tournament with five wins.
A golfer who has won it four times is the well-known Tiger Woods.
However, in 2020, Collin Morikawa won the event and took away £2 million of the prize purse with him. Well done!