What Is an 'Open' Golf Tournament?

U.S. Open - Round One
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When a golf tournament is called an "open," what does that mean? Generally speaking, it means the tournament is open to all golfers, as opposed to being restricted to only a certain group of golfers.

Golf Opens

Being open to all golfers doesn't mean that any golfer can show up to play an Open, however. Most Opens — including all professional tournaments and high-level amateur tournaments that call themselves Opens — have minimum eligibility requirements (such as a maximum handicap index) that golfers must meet. Also, golfers might be required to play in qualifying tournaments in order to advance into the "Open."

A few examples:

  • The Masters is not an open because its field includes only golfers who received an invitation to play. (The Masters is an invitational.)
  • The Irish Close Championship is not an open because, as its name implies, it is closed to golfers from outside Ireland.
  • The U.S. Open and British Open championships are opens because, while their fields are filled partially by automatic qualifiers who meet pre-set requirements, a large portion of their fields are reserved for golfers who've entered local and regional qualifying tournaments and advanced. Any golfer can play in a local qualifier, so long as they meet the eligibility requirements (in this case, a maximum handicap would be the most important) and pay the entry fee.

So an "open tournament" is not restricted only to golfers who received an invitation to play, and it is not closed to golfers who aren't members of the right club or association or group.

The term "open" dates to the earliest days of tournament golf. The first Open Championship (as in British Open) was played in 1860 and was truly open to any golfer — professional or amateur — who was willing to travel to the tournament site and pay an entry fee.