• The tournaments of Men’s Major Golf Championships


    Each year, between April and August, there are four of the most important golf tournaments organized, which together make the men’s major golf championships. The tournaments are also referred to as the Major Championships or the majors. Winning four of them in one year by one professional golfer is unofficially called a ‘grand slam’; the only golfer that achieved it was Bobby Jones, who did that in 1930.

    The Masters Tournament

    The first of the tournaments, The Masters, begins on the weekend ending the second Sunday in April. It is hosted as invitational and is played at Augusta National Golf Club, in Augusta, Georgia, United States. It began in 1934, on the course founded by Bobby Jones, the most successful amateur golfer in history and Clifford Roberts, a prominent New York financier and designed by Alister Mackenzie, a famous golf course architect. A big role in the success of the first ever tournament had Bobby Jones himself, whose participation helped promote it to a wider public despite the economic depression at that time.

    The tournament raised to its current status in the 1950s, thanks to Dwight D. Eisenhower who used to play on it during his presidency and the emergence of television. The US Masters, nowadays played as the first tournament each year, is also known for being first in many innovations later adopted by other tournaments – most notably, it was the first of the significant tournament to ever be televised – thanks to its 1956 broadcast on CBS. Nowadays, despite all the years that have passed its popularity and prestige are still growing and it is the only tournament played on the same course from the very beginning, continuing to draw world’s best golfers to Augusta each and every year in April.

    The United States Open Championship

    The second tournament, U.S. Open, begins on the weekend ending the 3rd Sunday of June. Unlike Masters, it is played in various locations in the USA and is hosted by the USGA – United States Golf Association. It is much older than the Masters, and dates back to the end of the nineteenth century – first played in 1895 at the Newport Golf and Country Club, has since evolved into one of the four most important golf tournaments in the world. The first two decades of the twentieth century have brought raise of popularity among golfers from around the world and the USGA was forced to introduce tickets for the public to watch it in 1922, lead by qualifiers for the players in 1924.

    The tournament kept evolving throughout the years, allowing amateur players for the last time in 1933 and continued to evolve until 1965 when the current format, with 18 holes played each day for 4 days have been introduced. The further spike of popularity was brought by ABC Sports, which broadcasted final 2 rounds of 18 holes live in 1977 and then 1995 when the full coverage of the whole tournament was introduced. The 70’s began the era of no European winners, with the last one, Tony Jacklin winning it exactly in the year 1970. Nowadays it’s a world-class event, with more than 9000 entrants trying to qualify to compete and $7,500,000 in prize money.

    The Open Championship

    The third tournament of the majors is The Open Championship, often referred to as British Open to distinguish it from U.S. Open. It is the oldest golf tournament of the four, which has been held annually (with a few exceptions) since 1860. It is played every year on the weekend containing the 3rd Friday of July at one of the ten locations in Scotland and England (and on one occasion was played in Northern Ireland). Its history began in Scotland at Prestwick Golf Club. It opened to amateurs just one year later, in 1861 and introduced first cash prizes two years after that, with an additional first-place cash prize introduced in 1864. The tournament has been throughout its history dominated by professionals, with only 6 amateur winners. The record number of victories belongs to Harry Vardon who won the tournament six times. Four other golfers managed to score 5 victories.

    Since 1995 the tournament is part of the PGA Tour official’s schedule and its importance and prestige are still on the rise. The only tournament played outside of the U.S., in the rainy United Kingdom, unlike other tournaments is often influenced by the weather – as its played usually along the coast, the sea breeze can have a significant impact on the results – but that’s just another feature of The Open, which, with its reputation and long history, is to this day one of the most important golf tournaments.

    The PGA Championship

    The last tournament each year, the PGA Championship, is hosted by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America and played on the 3rd weekend prior to Labour Day weekend at various locations in the United States. The first tournament was held a hundred years ago, on October 10-14, 1916 at Siwanov country Club in Bronxville, New York, and the first ever winner was a British-born man, James Barnes. The next two years the tournament had to be suspended due to the First World War.

    Following the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century, the tournament kept growing in popularity and prestige, with as many as 10,000 people gathering at the finals of 1953 PGA Championship. The first significant record in the number of spectators was broke in 1976 with the 115,450 spectators attending the four-day event despite the first-ever rain delay in the tournament history. Nowadays, the tournament is held on various courses across the United States and, as part of the Major Championships is one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world, visited regularly by over 100,000 spectators. Because of its origin as a high-profile tournament specifically for professionals, it’s the only major tournament that does not explicitly invite any leading amateurs – in order to get in, they have to qualify by winning one of the other majors.

  • Can the game of golf survive recent society changes?


    Golf, by many, has always been regarded an elite sport, enjoyed the most by closed groups of individuals than by the masses. Others thought of it as of an ancient game, played by old and rich people who disregard any ‘non-elitist’ ways of spending time. Of course, these are just stereotypes and golf has always been doing well despite them. But, in the last few years, something has changed.

    Millennials don’t like it

    The golf is in decline – although most of the people who played it 10 or 20 years ago usually still do that, unless they’ve been hit by the recent economic crisis, the millennials – the new generation that’s supposed to fill in the spots emptied by those who have already retired from the game – are not interested in what they believe is a costly, time-consuming and elitist way of spending free time.

    The game which was for tens of years regarded a game for the white elite, and which took 260 years for one of its most prestigious club, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andres, to admit women doesn’t seem to be playing out well in the recent demographic changes, where being a part of an ‘elite’ is not seen well – even if, this is, once again, just a stereotype.

    Middle-class way of life has changed

    For many, the golf doesn’t seem to be fitted for the average life of the declining middle-class members. It takes too long, and adding to that recent recession, increased work hours and a simple change in man and women relations, it is harder than before to leave the wife with kids for the whole day for many men. And young generations, who could possibly spare some free time, more often choose cycling as it has a better image and gives a freedom rather than being a paid privilege, full of ancient rules none of the millennials wants to obey.

    In the last 10 years in England, 20% of the golfers have discontinued their memberships; the number of golfers who played the game at least once a month has declined by more than 1/4 since 2007. The statistics are no different for other countries where the game has been quite popular over the last few decades – Japan and Australia have both lost around 40% of total golfers since mid-nineties, and in the US, which has almost 50% of all the golf courses and is the home for half the golfers in the world, more 18-hole courses have been closed down than have been built – and this is expected to continue.

    The whole industry is suffering losses

    Because the decline hits not only golf courses but also companies that produce the golf equipment, several measures have been taken to promote the game, give it a new image and acquire new players, so needed to stop the plummeting equipment sales. As golf is an extremely difficult sport, what only adds to its decline, the more open-minded golf enthusiasts are looking for innovations, such as 15-inch cups, to make the game easier, more pleasurable and attractive. Some of the innovations already exist, such as drivers that guarantee extra few yards or a golf ball that uses smart aerodynamics – but they have not been approved by neither USGA nor Royal & Ancient Golf Club, which together set rules for most of the world.

    It’s quite probable that the future golf will be easier, targeted at people who just want to have fun and spend some time with friends relaxing rather than competing. The problem with innovations that some want to introduce through the equipment is that it would kill the game’s integrity.

    Players’ mentality is evolving

    Another hope to stop the decline in golf is not the change in equipment but rather in the clubs and players mentality – what has already started on the players’ side, as they keep evolving. People don’t want to pay for the privilege of membership but they are willing to pay if they can access the course for a quick game from time to time. The game has to become shorter, possibly taking the number of holes from 18 down to 6, to create short courses which would appeal and fit into the modern lifestyle.

    The image of golf is still that of an elitist, expensive and sometimes snobbish game. It is also difficult and time-consuming what doesn’t really fit the middle class anymore. Being a very competitive game, ironically it now has to compete for the audience itself, and unless it changes, even for the price of appealing to the biggest golf purists, it will continue to see the decline. But the hope is still there – including its (hopefully) great comeback in Rio, after 112 years of absence in the Summer Olympics programme.

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