Oldest Golf Tournaments in the World

10 Oldest Golf Tournaments in the World

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Golf is one of the most popular sports in the world and tournaments are held annually across several different countries. While most of these golf tournaments were established in the later part of the 20th century, the oldest date back to the late 19th century and the first few years of the 20th century. Of course, the oldest golf tournaments originated in the United Kingdom, which is considered the birthplace of modern golf. All of the golf tournaments on this list are still held today and they are some of the most important championships in the sport.

10. Canadian Open

Year Established: 1904
Location: Canada, exact location varies
Course(s): Varies, but currently St. George’s Golf and Country Club
Organized By: Golf Canada
Format: Stroke Play

Canadian Openphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Canadian Open is one of the oldest open championships in the world and was first contested in 1904. It is the third oldest continuously running tournament on the PGA TOUR, after The Open Championship and the U.S. Open. Before the professional tour system became dominant in golf, the Canadian Open was considered the third most prestigious tournament in the sport after The Open Championship and the U.S. Open.

Until the mid-1990s, the Glen Abbey Golf Course had hosted the Canadian Open. Glen Abbey was designed in 1976 by Jack Nicklaus for the Royal Canadian Golf Association, to serve as the permanent home for the championship. However, the RCGA (now Golf Canada) decided to move the championship around the country.

Did you know?

The Canadian Open is the only national championship that is manged by the PGA Tour.


9. South African Open Championship

Year Established: 1903
Location: Varies, but currently Sun City, South Africa
Course(s): Varies, but currently Gary Player Country Club
Organized By: Varies
Format: Stroke Play

South African Open Championshipphoto source: compleatgolfer.com

The South African Open Championship is the third oldest open golf tournament, behind The British Open and the U.S. Open. The tournament was officially established in 1903, but it was first played in 1893. However, these early tournaments were only exhibition matches between small groups of professionals.

The South African Open is one of the principal tournaments on the Southern-Africa-based Sunshine Tour. Since 1997, the South Africa Open has been co-sanctioned by the European Tour. For several years, the South Africa Open was held in Johannesburg, but in 2020, the tournament was moved to Sun City at the Gary Player Country Club.

Did you know?

Although non-whites had played in the South African Open before, most notably when Papwa Sewgolum finished second in 1963, it was not until 1972 that black golfers were allowed to compete.


8. U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship

Year Established: November 1895
Location: United States of America, exact location varies
Course(s): Varies, but currently Westchester Country Club
Organized By: USGA
Format: Match Play

U.S. Women's Amateur Championshipphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The first U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship took place at the last minute, just one month after the USGA held U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open. Together, the three tournaments are the oldest golf tournaments in the U.S. Although the tournament meant a great deal to its participants, the first U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship only warranted a small blurb in the social column of a New York newspaper. Since then, the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship has become one of the most prestigious tournaments in women’s amateur golf.

Did you know?

Initially, the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship featured a stroke play format, but since 1896, the tournament’s format has been match play.


7. U.S. Amateur Championship

Year Established: October 1895
Location: United States of America, exact location varies
Course(s): Varies, but currently Oakmont Country Club
Organized By: USGA
Format: Stroke Play and Match Play

U.S. Amateur Championshipphoto source: golf.com

The U.S. Amateur Championship is the oldest USGA championship along with the U.S. Open. The tournament was established after the United States Golf Association was formed in December 1894 to serve as a national governing body to authorize an official national championship in the United States. This move was prompted by Charles B. Macdonald of the Chicago Golf Club, was the runner-up in both of the “National Amateur Championship”  tournaments held in 1894 by the Newport Country Club and Saint Andrew’s Golf Club. Both clubs proclaimed their winners as the national champion, which didn’t sit right with Macdonald.

Today, the U.S. Amateur Championship is open to any player, regardless of age or gender, with a handicap index of 2.4 or less. The tournament is held each August over a seven-day period.

Did you know?

Since the latter half of the 19th century, the U.S. Amateur Championship has been dominated by younger players on their way to becoming professional. To give other older players a chance, the USGA established the U.S. Mid-Amateur for anyone at least 25 years old.


6. U.S. Open

Year Established: October 4, 1895
Location: United States of America, exact location varies
Course(s): Varies, but currently The Country Club
Organized By: USGA
Format: Stroke Play

U.S. Openphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Open is the second oldest of the men’s major golf tournaments, but it is held third in the series. The inaugural tournament was held on October 4, 1895 on a nine-hole course at the Newport Country Club in Newport, Rhode Island. Since anyone from any nation is allowed to play at the U.S. Open, the tournament was dominated by British winners until 1911. That year, the first native-born American, John J. McDermott won and since then, the U.S. Open has primarily been won by Americans.

The U.S. Open is held in different states and golf courses each year. The competition consists of 72 holes of stroke play (4 rounds on an 18-hole course), with the winner being the player with the lowest total number of strokes.

Did you know?

As of 2020, the U.S. Open awards a $12.5 million purse, the largest of the four major men’s golf tournaments.


5. Canadian Amateur Championship

Year Established: 1895
Location: Canada, exact location varies
Course(s): Varies, currently Ambassador Golf Club
Organized By: Golf Canada
Format: Stroke Play and Match Play

Canadian Amateur Championshipphoto source: amateurgolf.com

The Canadian Amateur Championship was established the same year as the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, and the U.S. Women’s Amateur. This makes all four championships, the oldest golf tournaments in North America. However, the Canadian Amateur Championship was held a few months before the other tournaments.

The Canadian Amateur is held annually by Golf Canada and the tournament has switched between stroke play and match play over the years. For the first few decades, the Canadian Amateur was only held in Ontario or Quebec, but it now rotates around Canada’s six major golf regions: Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.

Did you know?

The original Canadian Amateur trophy was the Aberdeen Cup, which was donated by George Lyon, after he won three straight titles from 1905 to 1907. However, the original cup was lost and it was replaced with the Earl Grey Cup.


4. Australian Amateur

Year Established: 1894
Location: Australia, exact location varies
Course(s): Varies, but currently Kooyonga Golf Club
Organized By: Golf Australia
Format: Stroke Play

Australian Amateurphoto source: amateurgolf.com

The Australian Amateur is the second oldest men’s amateur golf tournament in the world. It was started in 1894 when the Melbourne Golf Club founded the “Victorian Golf Cup,” open to all amateurs in Australasia. Since the first tournament, the Australian Amateur has been held every year, except during World War I and World War II.

The Australian Golf Union, the precursor to Golf Australia, was formed in 1898. The following year they organization took over running the Australian Amateur. The winner of the Australian Amateur receives the Challenge Cup, donated by Lord Forster, the Governor-General of Australia.

Did you know?

Traditionally, the Australian Amateur has been a match play event, but beginning in 2021, it has changed to a stroke play format.


3. The Women’s Amateur Championship

Year Established: 1893
Location: The United Kingdom, exact location varies
Course(s): Varies, but currently Hunstanton
Organized By: The R&A
Format: Stroke Play and Match Play

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Women’s Amateur Championship, aka the British Ladies Amateur, is the oldest women’s golf tournament. It was established in 1893 by the Ladies’ Golf Union, which is now part of The R&A. The first Women’s Amateur Championship was held at the Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire, England and was won by Lady Margaret Scott.

Until women’s professional golf was established in 1976, the Women’s Amateur Championship was the most important golf tournament for women. Today, the Women’s Amateur Championship, along with the U.S. Women’s Amateur, is the highest honor in women’s amateur golf.

Did you know?

The winner of the first Women’s Amateur Championship, Lady Margaret Scott, went on to win the tournament the next two years; her three straight tournament wins still remains the record, but has been matched by Cecil Leitch and Enid Wilson.


2. The Amateur Championship

Year Established: 1885
Location: The United Kingdom, exact location varies
Course(s): Varies, but currently Royal Lytham & St Annes
Organized By: The R&A
Format: Stroke Play and Match Play

The Amateur Championshipphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Amateur Championship aka the British Amateur is one of the leading amateur golf tournaments in the world. It dates back to 1885 when the inaugural Amateur Championship was held by the Royal Liverpool Golf Club. Originally, the Amateur Championship was played in April, but it now takes place in June.

Before World War II, the Amateur Championship it was regarded as one of golf’s major championships. However, modern golf is dominated by professionals, who have numerous tournaments they can participate in, so the Amateur Championship is now exclusively for amateur golfers. 

Did you know?

Prior to 1930, the Amateur Championship was almost always won by British players, with the exception Walter Travis, who won in 1904, and Jesse Sweetser, who won in 1926; both players were American. Since then, winners of the Amateur Championship come from all over the world.


1. The Open Championship

Year Established: October 17, 1860
Location: The United Kingdom, exact location varies
Course(s): Varies, but currently Royal St George’s Golf Club
Organized By: The R&A
Format: Stroke Play

The Open Championshipphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The very first Open Championship (also called The Open or British Open) took place on October 17, 1860, making it the oldest golf tournament in the world. It is also one of the most prestigious golf tournaments and one of the four men’s major golf tournaments. The Open originated at the Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire, Scotland and the tournament was held there until 1925. Since then, The Open has been hosted at various golf courses, which are always a coastal links golf course in Scotland, England, or Northern Ireland. For 2021, The Open will be held at the Royal St George’s Golf Club.

The Open is typically held in July and is the final major tournament of the year. The winner of The Open Championship receives numerous prizes, that include trophies, prize money, and several exemptions from world golf tours and tournaments.

Did you know?

Until 2016, the prize money from The Open Championship was paid in in pounds sterling (£), but the prize money was changed to US dollars ($) in recognition of the fact that it is the most widely adopted currency for prize money in golf.


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