The Grand Slam in professional golf is winning all of golf's major championships in the same calendar year.
The Men's Grand Slam
The Grand Slam in men's golf is an unofficial concept, having changed over time. In the modern era, the Grand Slam is generally considered to be winning all four of golf's major championships in the same calendar year. Before The Masters was founded, the national amateur championships of the US and the UK were considered majors along with the two national opens; only Bobby Jones has ever completed a Grand Slam. No man has ever achieved a modern calendar year Grand Slam. Tiger Woods is the only golfer to hold a non-calendar year Grand Slam in holding all four titles together, winning all four consecutively (over two calendar years).
The term also refers to a tour tournament, the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, an annual off-season tournament contested by the winners of the four major championships.
In annual playing order, the modern major championships are:
- April - Masters Tournament (weekend ending on the 2nd Sunday in April) - hosted as an invitational by and played at Augusta National Golf Club
- June - U.S. Open (weekend ending on the 3rd Sunday in June) - hosted by the USGA and played at various locations in the USA
- July - The Open Championship (The Open; usually called the "British Open" in the U.S.) (weekend containing the 3rd Friday in July) - hosted by The R&A and always played on a links course at various locations in the UK
- August - PGA Championship (USPGA) (3rd weekend prior to Labor Day weekend) - hosted by the PGA of America and played at various locations in the USA.
The term "Grand Slam" was first applied to Bobby Jones' achievement of winning the four major golf events of 1930: The Open Championship, the U.S. Open, the U.S. Amateur and the British Amateur. When Jones won all four, the sports world searched for ways to capture the magnitude of his accomplishment. Up to that time, there was no term to describe such a feat because no one had thought it possible. The Atlanta Journal's O. B. Keeler dubbed it the "Grand Slam," borrowing a bridge term. George Trevor of the New York Sun wrote that Jones had "stormed the impregnable quadrilateral of golf." Keeler would later write the words that would forever be linked to one of the greatest individual accomplishments in the history of sports:
This victory, the fourth major title in the same season and in the space of four months, had now and for all time entrenched Bobby Jones safely within the 'Impregnable Quadrilateral of Golf,' that granite fortress that he alone could take by escalade, and that others may attack in vain, forever.
Jones remains the only man to have achieved the Grand Slam, since before the creation of The Masters and the advent of the professional era, the amateur championships were considered major championships.
The modern definition could not be applied until at least 1934, when the Masters was founded, and still carried little weight in 1953 when Ben Hogan won the Masters, U.S. Open, and Open Championship. That year, it was impossible to win all four as the PGA Championship preceded and overlapped with the Open Championship; the PGA's 36-hole match play semifinals and finals near Detroit were the same days as the mandatory 36-hole qualifier at Carnoustie in Scotland for the Open Championship; the only way to compete in both events was to lose an early match at the PGA. Hogan is the only player to have won the Masters, U.S. Open, and Open Championship in the same calendar year.
In 1960, Arnold Palmer won the Masters in April and U.S. Open in June. According to his autobiography, A Golfer's Life, he and his friend Bob Drum (of the Pittsburgh Press), while on the trans-Atlantic flight to The Open Championship at St Andrews, came up with the idea that adding it and the PGA Championship titles that July would constitute a modern Grand Slam. Drum spread the notion among the gathered media and it caught on. Two years earlier, the PGA had changed to stroke play, and it started to be held two weeks after the Open Championship in 1960. Scheduling problems continued through the 1960s as the last two majors were held in successive weeks in July on five occasions. The PGA was played in August in 1965 but returned to July for the next three. With the formation of the Tournament Players Division in late 1968, now the PGA Tour, the PGA Championship permanently moved to August in 1969, except for the 1971 edition, held in late February to avoid the summer heat of Florida.
Tiger Woods came closest to meeting the modern definition of golf's Grand Slam by holding all four modern major championships simultaneously — the U.S. Open, Open Championship, and PGA Championship in 2000 and the 2001 Masters — although not in the same calendar year. This has been referred to as a Consecutive Grand Slam or, after the only player to achieve it, a Tiger Slam. In other sports with a four-major format, it is referred as a Non-calendar year Grand Slam, based on a 1982 decision. In fact, even before Woods accomplished this, there was much debate over the definition of "Grand Slam." Fred Couples said, "I don't know how I can put it more simply . . . if he wins all four, it's a Slam." As noted above, however, because there is no official definition, there is no definitive answer.
Only five golfers have won all four of golf's modern majors at any time during their careers, an achievement which is often referred to as a Career Grand Slam: Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. Woods and Nicklaus have won each of the four majors at least three times.
A number of dominant players of their eras have failed to achieve the Career Grand Slam because of their inability to win a particular major. Sam Snead and Phil Mickelson (through 2016) failed to win a U.S. Open; Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson failed to win a PGA Championship; Lee Trevino and Rory McIlroy (through 2016) failed to win The Masters; Byron Nelson and Raymond Floyd failed to win the Open Championship, at which the former competed only once. These shortcomings have been attributed to various factors: a particular major is ill-suited to a player's game (this was cited especially with regard to Trevino and The Masters); the player lacked the ability to fully adapt to that major; the player simply experienced bad luck (Mickelson finished second a record six times at the U.S. Open); or war had led to the cancellation of a major during the player's prime.
Men's Missing Major
^ Hagen co-holds the all-time record of five PGA Championship victories, which he shares with Jack Nicklaus, but all of his occurred during match-play.
∞ Barnes never got the chance to play in The Masters Tournament during his career, as it was established in 1934. He did, however, win three Western Open titles, which were considered as majors in the pre-War era of golf. Walter Hagen and Tommy Armour did compete in the Masters, toward the end of their careers, without success, but were also Western Open champions in the pre-Masters era, Hagen on five occasions between 1916 and 1932 and Armour in 1929.
The Women's Grand Slam
Women's golf also has a set of majors. No woman has completed a four-major Grand Slam, but Babe Zaharias won all three majors contested in 1950 and Sandra Haynie won both majors in 1974.
Seven women have completed the Career Grand Slam by winning four different majors. There are variations in the set of four tournaments involved as the players played in different eras, and the women's tournaments defined as "majors" have varied considerably over time in a way that has not been paralleled in the men's game. The seven are Pat Bradley, Juli Inkster, Inbee Park, Annika Sörenstam, Louise Suggs, Karrie Webb, and Mickey Wright. Webb is separately recognized by the LPGA as its only "Super Career Grand Slam" winner, as she is the only one of the group to have won five different tournaments recognized as majors.
Although other women's tours, notably the Ladies European Tour (LET) and the LPGA of Japan Tour, recognize a different set of "majors", the U.S. LPGA is so dominant in global women's golf that the phrase "women's majors", without further qualification, is almost universally considered as a reference to the U.S. LPGA majors.
The five current major championships are:
- March/April—The ANA Inspiration (week ending in the first Sunday of April)—Founded by Dinah Shore, it is most remembered for the winners taking a "lake jump" into the water surrounding the 18th green, also called the "Green Jacket of the LPGA" in reference to the ceremony held at the Masters Tournament. It shares another trait with the Masters—it is held at the same venue every year, Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.
- June—The KPMG Women's PGA Championship (historically held in the week ending on the second Sunday in June; since 2010, finishing on the last Sunday of June)—hosted by the PGA of America since 2015 and played at various locations in the USA.
- June/July—The U.S. Women's Open (historically three weeks after the LPGA Championship; in 2010, the week after and in 2011 two weeks after)—Hosted by the USGA, it is held at various golf courses around the nation. It is considered by some to be the biggest major in the LPGA circuit, despite the fact it is not sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour. It is held at various courses throughout the United States.
- July/August—The Ricoh Women's British Open (historically the week of the first Sunday of August; since 2009, three weeks after the U.S. Women's Open)—It is hosted by the Ladies' Golf Union and has been hosted at a links course since 2002. 2007 marked the first time it was held at what is considered by many to be the greatest golf course in the world, and certainly the most historic, the Old Course at St Andrews. The 2012 edition was held in September to avoid conflict with the 2012 Summer Olympics in London; in 2013, it returned to its traditional July/August date. Before 2013, this was the only championship sanctioned as a major by both the LPGA and the LET.
- September—The Evian Championship, an event held in France that was historically known as the Evian Masters, became the LPGA's fifth major championship in 2013. The tournament has been an LET major since its inception in 1994, and was sanctioned as a regular LPGA tour event from 2000 to 2012.
The Evian Championship Era
A Inbee Park is recognized as achieving the career Grand Slam for winning four different major championships, even though The Evian Championship had since been designated as the fifth major championship.
Women's Missing Major
A Patty Berg is the all-time record holder of the most Titleholders and Women's Western Open victories.
B Amy Alcott is tied for the most all-time ANA Inspiration wins.
C Betsy King is tied for the most all-time ANA Inspiration wins.
D Betsy Rawls is tied for the most all-time U.S. Women's Open wins. NOTE: Mallon won two more Canadian Women's Open championships after it was replaced by the Women's British Open.
The Senior Grand Slam
Senior (i.e., 50 and over) men's golf also has a set of majors. Like the women's majors, the senior majors are not globally recognized. However, because the U.S.-based Champions Tour (operated by the PGA Tour) overwhelmingly dominates worldwide senior golf, its roster of majors is by far the most widely recognized.
Unlike the mainstream men's and women's (until 2013) Grand Slams, the senior version (as recognized by the Champions Tour) now contains five events, arguably making a senior Grand Slam a greater accomplishment than in mainstream men's golf.
In the current order of play, the five majors are:
- The Tradition (ending on the third or fourth Sunday in May, depending on the calendar)
- Senior PGA Championship (one week after The Tradition; ending the day before the U.S. holiday of Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May)
- Senior Players Championship (ending on the last Sunday in June or the first Sunday in July, depending on the calendar)
- U.S. Senior Open (ending on the Sunday in July two weeks before The Senior Open Championship)
- The Senior Open Championship (ending on the last Sunday in July)
The Senior PGA is by far the oldest of the senior majors, having been founded in 1937, decades before the establishment of the Champions Tour (as the Senior PGA Tour) in 1980. The other events were all founded in the 1980s—the U.S. Senior Open in 1980, the Senior Players Championship in 1983, The Senior Open in 1987, and The Tradition in 1989. This era saw senior golf became a commercial success as the first golf stars of the television era, such as Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, reached their fifties. The Senior Open, however, was not recognized as a Champions Tour major until 2003.
The stability of the majors in senior golf falls somewhere between mainstream men's golf and the LPGA:
No man has ever won all of the senior majors contested in a year, even in the period between 1980 and 1982 when only two senior majors existed. Also, no man has won all five of the current senior majors in his career. Miller Barber won both of the 1980-1982 senior majors, the Senior PGA and U.S. Senior Open, during that time span, and won the inaugural Senior Players Championship in 1983. Those three tournaments would be the only senior majors until The Tradition was first played in 1989. Prior to the founding of The Tradition, Palmer and Player also completed that era's Career Senior Grand Slam. However, neither Barber, Palmer, nor Player would ever win The Tradition.
Jack Nicklaus is the only other player to have completed any era's Career Senior Grand Slam, doing so in his first two years on the Senior Tour. In his first year of eligibility in 1990, he won The Tradition and the Senior Players Championship. The next year, he defended his Tradition title and went on to win the Senior PGA and U.S. Senior Open. However, he failed to defend his Senior Players title and thus missed out on a calendar-year Grand Slam.
Nicklaus is the only player to have won four different senior majors in his career. Although Nicklaus never won The Senior Open, that event was not recognized as a U.S. senior major until 2003, which was also the only year he played the event. Player won The Senior Open three times before 2003, when it was considered a major by the European Senior Tour but not the Senior PGA/Champions Tour.