Golf Majors: These Are the Biggest Tournaments In Golf

The Major Championships in Golf for Men, Women, Senior and Amateurs

Women's major championship trophies
Trophies representing four of the women's majors are displayed on The Old Course at St. Andrews. David Cannon/Getty Images

The term "golf majors" refers to those tournaments in men's golf, women's golf, senior golf and amateur golf that are identified by fans, players, media and history as the most important events on their respective tours. Those golf majors — also commonly referred to as the major championships — define golf seasons, and in many cases, define the careers of the best golfers.

On this page you'll find the identities of the golf majors in each segment of the golf world (men, women, seniors, amateurs), and by checking out the links you'll be able to find the histories of the tournaments, lists of major champions and much more information.

Men's Majors

The men's golf majors are the most famous and important tournaments in golf. Often, when someone refers to the "golf majors" or "major championships," is it these four events to which the speaker is referring:

  • The Masters: The tournament founded by Bobby Jones, and first played in 1934.
  • U.S. Open: The American national championship, run by the USGA, and first played in 1895.
  • British Open: More properly called The Open Championship and run by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.
  • PGA Championship: Awarding the Wanamaker Trophy, and first played in 1916.

When Bobby Jones won the "Grand Slam" in 1930, he won the two Opens (U.S. and British) and the two Amateurs (U.S. and British). It wasn't until 1960 that the four tournaments above became cemented as the four major championships of men's golf.

That year, Arnold Palmer won The Masters and U.S. Open to start his year. Then he did something most American golfers didn't do at that point: He traveled to Britain to play the British Open. Palmer wrote an article in which he stated that winning The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship in the same year would be the "modern" equivalent of Jones' 1930 Grand Slam, and that by playing the British Open that was what he was seeking to do. And those four tournaments, each of which was individually a big deal throughout its history, became firmly linked together as the four majors.

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Women's Majors

There are five majors in women's golf:

Note that the identities of the women's golf majors have changed multiple times in the history of the LPGA Tour. See our LPGA Majors article for an explanation of those changes.

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Senior Golf Majors

Only one of the senior golf majors dates farther back than 1980. That's in part because the concept of major championships didn't come to senior golf until the founding of the Champions Tour in 1980. Now, five tournaments in senior golf are designated as major championships:

  • The Tradition: The youngest of the senior golf majors, The Tradition was founded in 1989 and immediately counted as a Champions Tour major.
  • Senior PGA Championship: The oldest of the senior majors, the PGA of America began this tournament in 1937 (after prodding from Bobby Jones).
  • Senior British Open: The proper name is The Senior Open Championship and it is run by the R&A, which added the event in 1987. It has been counted as a senior major since 2003.
  • U.S. Senior Open: The USGA added its senior championship only in 1980, which coincided with the founding of the Champions Tour.
  • Senior Players Championship: The PGA Tour has The Players Championship, so it makes sense that the Champions Tour has The Senior Players Championship.

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Amateur Golf Majors

Two men's amateur tournaments were once, in the early days of professional golf but before pro tournaments gained preeminence, considered among the biggest tournaments in all of golf. As noted above, when Bobby Jones won the "Grand Slam" in 1930, the four "majors" he won were the U.S. and British Opens, and the U.S. and British Amateurs.

Many traditionalists still view these two men's amateur tournaments as majors, however:

  • U.S. Amateur Championship: First played in 1895, and several days older than the U.S. Open (the first Amateur and first Open were played back-to-back).
  • British Amateur Championship:: Its proper name is The Amateur Championship. It's run by the R&A and was first played in 1885.

Note that the equivalent tournaments in women's golf — the U.S. Women's Amateur and the British Ladies Amateur — are the biggest events in women's amateur golf. But they have never carried the "golf majors" weight as the men's amateur events have.