Is 2022 the best year ever for major championship courses?

Is 2022 the best year ever for major championship courses?

With Southern Hills, The Country Club and The Old Course complementing Augusta National, it is hard to imagine a single-year major championship slate much better than this one.
Southern Hills Country Club anchored an all-time-great rotation of major championship venues in 2022.

For decades, men's golf's major championships have brought attention to some of the greatest championship golf courses in the United States, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The U.S. Open loves its big, imperious old-school tests with stifling rough and pool-table-like greens. The Open Championship is a sampling of the greatest championship links. The PGA Championship is a bit of a mixed bag, with classic and modern courses chosen for the championship of late.

The one constant, obviously, is Augusta National Golf Club, which always gets the major championship season off to a proper start, and sets a very high bar for the other courses to try to meet. Frankly, it doesn't always work out, but I think 2022 brought as much heat as any in my lifetime, and possibly as much as ever.

Quality of major championship golf courses has always been important to us golf architecture nerds, but even less-obsessed golf fans are starting to sense that a varied test, presented in a way that challenges the best players in the world in an interesting setting, tends to produce a more exciting tournament.

This year has been a great example of the point, with both the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.; and the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. serving up nail-biting finishes and plenty of lead-up drama taking place over the rest of the course for four days. Is there any doubt that next week's Open Championship at The Old Course at St. Andrews will deliver similarly? In my estimation, 2022 ranks as the best collection of the major championship courses ever assembled.

You'd be forgiven for assuming that that means we're in for a letdown next year. Thankfully, 2023 should be almost as strong as 2022's foursome. Next May's PGA Championship could be a little iffy on the weather front, but Oak Hill Country Club's East Course, recently renovated by Andrew Green to rave reviews, will be looking its best ever. In June, the U.S. Open goes Hollywood, visiting Los Angeles Country Club's North Course for the first time. George Thomas' masterpiece there, recently renovated by new "Open Doctor" Gil Hanse, should be a spectacular host for our national championship. Finally, the Open Championship heads to Royal Liverpool for the first time since 2014, when Rory McIlroy won. Not too shabby.

All this left me wondering: What other years might have offered such a dynamic collection of championship venues? For the sake of comparison, I took a look back and nominated a year from each decade that stands out. Peruse the list and offer your own nominations in the comments below.

1930s and 1940s: Best year for major championship courses

Best major championship courses year: 1934.

U.S. Open: Merion Golf Club (East)
Open Championship: Royal St. George's Golf Club
PGA Championship: The Park Country Club
With the Masters only getting underway in 1934 and World War II preventing the following decade from having a full slate of four majors until 1946, I'm combining the two. Several years stand out for their major championship sites, but to me, 1934 is the most attractive. Park Country Club near Buffalo is not in the current major rota, but its Willie Park, Jr. design has always intrigued me.


Best major championship courses year: 1951

U.S. Open: Oakland Hills Country Club (South)
Open Championship: Royal Portrush Golf Club (Dunluce)
PGA Championship: Oakmont Country Club
The 1951 major championship season is the clear class of the decade here. Ben Hogan winning the Masters and U.S. Open and Sam Snead winning the PGA seems to support the notion that great venues produce great champions.


Best major championship courses year: 1962

U.S. Open: Oakmont Country Club
Open Championship: Royal Troon Golf Club (Old Course)
PGA Championship: Aronimink Golf Club
Arnold Palmer wins the Masters and Open Championship, Jack Nicklaus wins the U.S. Open and Gary Player wins the PGA. Hard to argue with the pedigree of those champions, and hard to argue with the greatness of the courses on which they won.


Best major championship courses year: 1972

U.S. Open: Pebble Beach Golf Links
Open Championship: Muirfield Golf Links
PGA Championship: Oakland Hills Country Club (South)
Pebble Beach makes its debut as a major championship host, and Jack Nicklaus hits one of the greatest shots in U.S. Open history - a one-iron to tap-in distance on the 17th hole in the final round - to usher it in as one of the modern era's iconic venues. Muirfield and Oakland Hills aren't too shabby, either.

Jack Nicklaus' victory in the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach helped to put the course on the map as a major championship venue.


Best major championship courses year: 1988

U.S. Open: The Country Club
Open Championship: Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club
PGA Championship: Oak Tree Golf Club (now Oak Tree National GC)
An 18-hole playoff at The Country Club and a tussle with a wild, intimidating Pete Dye gem in the Plains bookend this strong major championship year.


Best major championship courses year: 1995

U.S. Open: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Open Championship: The Old Course at St. Andrews
PGA Championship: Riviera Country Club
Corey Pavin, John Daly and Steve Elkington captured major championship glory in this year - what an eclectic group of champions! Shinnecock always adds a little windswept linksy aura to a U.S. Open and Riviera always identifies strong players.

John Daly won the 1995 Open Championship at The Old Course at St. Andrews.


Best major championship courses year: 2007

U.S. Open: Oakmont Country Club
Open Championship: Carnoustie Golf Links (Championship)
PGA Championship: Southern Hills Country Club
That putt for 62 should've fallen in for ya, Tiger. Even still, this was a major championship year defined by gritty wins, from Angel Cabrera's +5 winning score at Oakmont to Padraig Harrington's survival at "Carnasty."


Best major championship courses year: 2013

U.S. Open: Merion Golf Club (East)
Open Championship: Muirfield Golf Links
PGA Championship: Oak Hill Country Club (East)
Muirfield is the best Open Championship venue outside of The Old Course, and Merion and Oak Hill likewise sit within the top tiers of stateside major venues. Not an ounce of fat on this lineup.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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Is 2022 the best year ever for major championship courses?