The winds of change are blowing regarding the future of major championship venues in both the men's and women's game.
Last week's United States Golf Association announcement that Pinehurst No. 2 will be a future "anchor site" for the U.S. Open, hosting the championship five times between 2024-2047, hints that the USGA could be ready to form a more traditional rota much like The Open run by the R&A overseas. Earlier this summer on the women's side, the R&A released an impressive list of upcoming sites for the AIG Women's Open, raising the profile of that event.
Maybe now's the time to take stock of what all these moves mean. All three of the largest pro tours - the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions - each have at least one major championship that returns to the same venue year after year. The PGA Tour, of course, has The Masters at Augusta National. With its five majors, the LPGA Tour returns annually to the ANA Championship at the Dinah Shores Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and the Evian Championship at Evian Resort Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains, France.
The PGA Tour Champions also promotes five majors, but the Regions Tradition, held since 2016 at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Alabama, and its Senior Players Championship, held at Firestone Country Club in Ohio since 2019, are a bit more nomadic. Firestone might finally be the permanent home the old guys have been looking for since TPC Michigan was the longtime host from 1991-2006.
The majors that move - the PGA Championship, The Open and the U.S. Open (along with their senior and women's versions) - are run by three different organizations: The PGA of America, the R&A and USGA, respectively. That leads to a juggling act within each organization to share the best venues among the three tours, and, at the same time, promotes a healthy competition between the organizations to secure the best courses in the most lucrative markets. So who's doing it right? Which tour boasts the best collection of courses for upcoming majors?
Obviously, with more host courses announced well in advance, the PGA Tour provides the most compelling major venues from top to bottom. That doesn't mean it couldn't be improved. I'd love to see a nod to growing the game with more public courses and new venues sprinkled in from time to time. That's looking more and more like a pipe dream with the USGA's anchor site philosophy likely expanding to a handful of coveted venues and the PGA of America going all-in on its new Texas headquarters.
The women are coming on stronger, it seems, every time something new is announced. The AIG's commitment to raising the profile of the Women's British Open has brought Muirfield into play for the first time. That Pebble Beach will host its first U.S. Women's Open in history in 2023 raises the profile of that tournament as well. The seniors seem resigned to visiting good, but rarely great, country clubs in America that are either located in too small of a footprint or too small of a market to host a men's major.
Let's dive deeper into the upcoming major championship schedule for each tour:
PGA Championship: 2021 - Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort (Kiawah Island, S.C.). 2022 - Trump National Bedminster (Bedminster, N.J.). 2023 - East Course at Oak Hill Country Club (Rochester, N.Y.). 2024 - Valhalla Golf Club (Louisville, Ky.). 2025 - Quail Hollow Country Club (Charlotte, N.C.). 2026 - Aronimink Golf Club (Newtown Square, Pa.). 2027 & 2034 - Panther Creek Course at Frisco PGA (Frisco, Texas). 2028 - Lake Course at The Olympic Club (San Francisco, Calif.). 2029 - Lower Course at Baltusrol Golf Club (Springfield, N.J.). 2030 (TBD). 2031 - Blue Course at Congressional Country Club (Bethesda, Md.).
The Open: 2021 - Royal St. George's (Sandwich, England). 2022 - Old Course at St. Andrews (Scotland). 2023 & 2024 - Royal Liverpool (Hoylake, England) and the Old Course at Royal Troon (Ayrshire, Scotland) will each get one, but the exact order has yet to be determined.
U.S. Open: 2021 - Torrey Pines South (La Jolla, Calif.). 2022 - The Country Club at Brookline (Brookline, Mass.). 2023 - North Course at Los Angeles Country Club (Los Angeles). 2024 - Pinehurst No. 2 (Pinehurst, N.C). 2025 - Oakmont Country Club (Oakmont, Penn.). 2026 - Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (Southampton, N.Y.). 2027 - Pebble Beach Golf Links (Pebble Beach, Calif.).
Public venues: You'll recognize the usual suspects - Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst No. 2. Gone are the experimental interlopers like Chambers Bay and Erin Hills, although there is one intriguing newcomer on the horizon - the still-under-construction Panther Creek course at the PGA of America's new headquarters in Frisco, Texas. Of course, all venues for the Open offer some sort of non-member access.
Geographic spread: For those keeping score, the West Coast (three U.S. Opens, one PGA) and the country's midsection (Kentucky and Texas one PGA each) always lag behind the East Coast (11, including two in Pennsylvania) in hosting majors. California leads the way with four overall. These numbers don't include the four additional U.S. Opens (2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047) recently announced for Pinehurst.
Overview: As my colleague Tim Gavrich pointed out in this column after this year's PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, it's disappointing to see no "munis" beyond Torrey Pines South's 2021 U.S. Open. Bethpage Black's majors have always been buoyed by enthusiastic crowds - sometimes too much so - and TPC Harding Park proved it deserves another chance.
KPMG Women's PGA Championship: 2021 - Aronimink Golf Club (Newtown Square, Pa.). 2022 & 2027 - Blue Course at Congressional Country Club (Bethesda, Md.). 2023 - Lower Course at Baltusrol Golf Club (Springfield, N.J.)
AIG Women's Open: 2021 - Championship Course at Carnoustie Golf Links (Scotland). 2022 - Muirfield (Gullane, Scotland). 2023 - Walton Heath (England). 2024 - Old Course at St. Andrews (Scotland). 2025 - Royal Porthcawl Golf Club (Wales).
U.S. Women's Open: 2021 - Lake Course at The Olympic Club (San Francisco, Calif.) 2022 - Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club (Southern Pines, N.C.). 2023 - Pebble Beach Golf Links (Pebble Beach, Calif.). 2024 - Lancaster Country Club (Lancaster, Pa.).
Public venues: Muirfield and Pebble Beach will host their first women's majors, a massive lift for the LPGA Tour players looking for more equality with the men. It's cool to see an underrated links like Royal Porthcawl land an AIG Women's Open. Just ask Tiger Woods, who was tamed by the layout as an amateur at the 1995 Walker Cup. Pine Needles will become the first four-time U.S. Women's Open host in 2022.
Geographic spread: The East Coast leads the West Coast, 5-2. What's missing are some great classic courses in the Midwest (Chicago? Detroit? Ohio?) to give the women some more variety.
Overview: You could make an argument that the women's slate is every bit as good as the men because they're going to many of the same places. You could also make a case it's better because, with fewer needs of a large infrastructure for parking, tents, fans, etc., that opens up a deeper lineup of choices. Many golf fans would love to see the men take on respected courses like Walton Heath and Royal Porthcawl.
PGA Tour Champions
Senior PGA Championship: 2021 - Southern Hills Country Club (Tulsa, Okla.). 2022 & 2024 - Harbor Shores (Benton Harbor, Mich.). 2023 (TBD), 2025 & 2033 - Blue Course at Congressional Country Club (Bethesda, Md.).
Senior Open Championship: 2021 - Sunningdale Old (England).
U.S. Senior Open: 2021 - Omaha Country Club (Neb.). 2022 - Saucon Valley Country Club (Bethleham, Pa.). 2023-24 (TBD). 2025 - East Course at The Broadmoor (Colorado Springs, Colo.).
Public venues: Harbor Shores probably doesn't register much with a national audience, but it's a really good Jack Nicklaus-designed course in southwest Michigan. Its growth the last decade into a full-service resort is helping to revive an economically challenged community. Out west, if Broadmoor East had more length, it would be stout enough for a U.S. Open.
Video: Taking on Ross, RTJ and a bear at The Broadmoor
Geographic spread: What's interesting is the old guys are currently favoring the country's midsection with four majors in Big Ten/Big 12 country and just two on the East Coast.
Overview: Since the majors on the PGA Tour Champions don't need the length or infrastructure of the men, it would be great to see more variety and creativity in choosing sites. Why not a Senior PGA Championship at Sand Valley or Bandon Dunes? Why not a U.S. Senior Open at Cypress Point Club? Going to a compelling venue not normally on TV could really amp up the interest.
Anybody else notice the common thread among all three tours? The Congressional Country Club's famed Blue course will host five majors in next 15 years - at least one from each tour. That's impressive. Several other top-tier courses - The Olympic Club's Lake course, Aronimink, Pebble Beach and the Old Course at St. Andrews - will host men's and women's majors in the next decade. That's great for the women's game, and just as important, for golf fans everywhere who love to see the best courses challenging the best golfers in the world.
What upcoming major venues intrigue you? Let us know in the comments below.