The Open Championship (British Open) is right around the corner, and we can’t wait to see who takes home the Claret Jug. But as we get ready to watch, we find ourselves wondering: Who organizes this tournament? We’ve been thinking about this because 2023 has been filled with a lot of conversations centered on golf’s acronymic organizations.
With our curiosity piqued, we decided to put together a little primer of the different organizations to help make the golf world a bit easier to understand. We’ll kick this off with some of the history of the R&A, which is the governing body that organizes The Open Championship.
There are two governing bodies for golf worldwide. The USGA (United States Golf Association) is the governing body for the United States and Mexico, while the R&A governs the rest of the world. The R&A originated as the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which was founded in 1754. However, back in 2004, the R&A officially spun off from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club so that the organization could be laser focused on its responsibilities as the governing body for golfers outside of North America. As a result, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club went back to being a private golf club.
The R&A has been the sole organizer of the British Open since 1920. In total, they organize 21 golf championships and international matches every year.
The USGA was created in 1894 as a way to help determine the national amateur golfing champion in the United States. Shortly after its establishment, the association organized the first-ever national amateur golfing championship and the famed U.S. Open in October of 1895. As we all know, the U.S. Open has become one of the biggest tournaments in the world, while the amateur championship has become an afterthought. These days, the USGA organizes 14 golf championships every year.
Why do the R&A and USGA exist?
In addition to growing the sport of golf through organizing tournaments, the R&A and USGA create and interpret the rules of golf. For example, earlier this year, the R&A and USGA collaborated on a push to limit the distances of golf balls hit off the tee. According to Reuters, R&A CEO Martin Slumbers said “hitting distances at the elite level of the game have consistently increased over the past 20, 40, and 60 years. It’s been two decades since we last revisited our testing standards for ball distances.” We don’t agree or disagree with this push by the R&A and USGA, but it’s an example of how the two governing bodies create and interpret golf.
The PGA European Tour
Okay, so the R&A and USGA are the governing bodies of golf, but who’s the PGA? Also, who’s the PGA European Tour? Well, it’s important to note that The PGA European Tour (also known as the European Tour and the DP World Tour) is not the same thing as the PGA Tour — despite having similar names. The PGA European Tour is the biggest men’s golf tour in Europe, and the second biggest tour in the world after the PGA Tour. The PGA European Tour is an organization that exists solely to help professional golfers earn money. This is in stark contrast to the R&A, which exists to grow the sport of golf and interpret the rules of golf.
While the PGA European Tour is different from the PGA Tour, the PGA Tour does own a 40% stake in the PGA European Tour.
The PGA Tour
Okay, so where does the PGA Tour fit into this equation? Similar to the PGA European Tour, the PGA Tour is an organization that aims to uplift its players and helps them earn money on the touring circuit. It’s the biggest men’s golf tour in the world. Their mission statement is “By showcasing golf’s greatest players, we engage, inspire and positively impact our fans, partners and communities worldwide.”
The PGA Tour doesn’t organize any of the major golf tournaments, but it does organize the rest of the tournaments on the PGA Tour, including The Players Championship. On top of that, it organizes five other tours: the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latinoamérica and PGA Tour China.
What will the golf tours look like next season?
The announcement that the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour plan to merge with LIV Golf has thrown next year’s golf calendar into flux. However, the R&A’s Slumbers was excited about the potential combination.
“We are pleased that an agreement has been reached which will help men’s professional golf move forward in a collaborative, constructive and innovative fashion,” he told USA Today. “We care deeply about golf’s future and are committed to ensuring that the sport continues to thrive for many years to come. This agreement represents a huge step toward achieving that goal for golf and we look forward to working with the new entity for the benefit of the sport globally.”
Even with a potential merger on the horizon, it sounds like it will continue to be business as usual for the USGA. “Exactly what happens in the future of men’s professional golf, we’ll certainly be paying attention,” said USGA President Mike Whan, according to ESPN. “But I’m not really sure if it changes the USGA or the U.S. Open or our championships.”
Now, that’s interesting!
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