FOR 2021


Published by : Stuart McLean - 03 March 2021

Following the oddest year in major championship golf in 2020, with the Masters being played in November, we hopefully return to a normal schedule of the game’s biggest events in 2021, The Players Championship leading the way on March 11.

Last year’s Players was the first Covid casualty, abandoned after the first round on March 12. The PGA Tour only resumed again at Colonial on June 11. The Open Championship and Ryder Cup weren’t played in 2020, while the PGA Championship went ahead in August (where it used to be on the calendar until 2018) and the US Open in September (not for the first time).

The revised 2020-21 PGA Tour schedule has 50 tournaments and includes two US Opens and two Masters.

While many may have been astounded to see a major played in November, there have been five previous instances. The PGA was a wandering star in the earlier years of the last century, having no firm date on the calendar. In 1936 it was played in November, in 1929 in December.

We have to remember it was not considered a “major” back then. The original “grand slam” was the US Open, British Open, US Amateur and British Amateur, achieved only once by Bobby Jones in 1930.

We now have the rare situation of the Masters being the final major of 2020, and the first of 2021, but this again is not unprecedented. The PGA was the final major of 1970 and the first of 1971. It was played from February 25-28 in Florida to avoid the oppressive August heat. The original PGA National course in Palm Beach Gardens was owned by John Macarthur, who wielded influence within the PGA, and he wanted the championship at his course in his lifetime.

Jack Nicklaus won his 11th major at age 31, and PGA National was close to his home. Staying with him as a house guest that week was Gary Player, who contended before falling back into a tie for fourth. The late Dan Jenkins, writing in Sports Illustrated, records an amusing media interview on the final day:

Someone dutifully asked Gary what they had enjoyed for breakfast in the Nicklaus household.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Jack. “He puts catsup (tomato sauce) on everything, anyhow.”

Hearty laughter.

“Barbara’s getting a complex,” Nicklaus went on. “She gives him a cheese omelet, he pours catsup all over it. She cooks him a steak, he pours catsup all over it. A couple of fried eggs, catsup all over it.”

No major has been played in January.

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina.


Ocean-side courses are the theme for three of the men’s majors, meaning wind will likely be a factor.

On the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, near the city of Charleston in South Carolina, the PGA is being played at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course in May. It was last there in August 2012, when Rory McIlroy claimed the second of his four majors at age 23, which meant he was younger than Tiger Woods to that achievement. He was still dating tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

The Ocean Course, said by Golf Digest to be designer Pete Dye’s “most diabolical creation,” is often considered to be the first course designed for a specific event – the 1991 Ryder Cup, or War on the Shore, which proved one of the most dramatic contests. South Carolina until then was not a major golf venue. That’s changed, with the Country Club of Charleston hosting the 2019 US Women’s Open.

The Ocean Course is linksland meets wetlands – every green has tricky slopes, every hole is edged by sawgrass, every bunker merges into bordering sand dunes – and high winds in the 2012 PGA resulted in a brutal second-round scoring average of 78.1, highest in the history of the championship. PGA club pro Doug Wade shot a 93, Paul Casey an 85.

McIlroy was in glorious form though, winning by 8 with a 13-under total of 275. The surprise runner-up was Englishman David Lynn, who subsequently retired from golf in 2014 due to tendonitis in his right elbow.

Pete Dye gets to display his “talent” for putting tour players on edge a second time in 2021 when another of his magnificent creations, Whistling Straits, hosts the Ryder Cup.


The US Open was at Pebble Beach in 2019, and returns surprisingly soon to another Pacific Ocean venue in June, Torrey Pines (South) outside San Diego in southern California. It’s a public course, part of a 36-hole facility, subjected most of the year to heavy traffic.

It sits in a gorgeous location atop cliffs, similar in places to Pinnacle Point. However, unlike Pinnacle Point and Pebble Beach, the 18th hole finishes well away from the ocean. For the majors it’s a rare par-5 closer, with an intimidating water hazard in front of the green. It’s the closest any 18th hole in a US Open has come to resembling the fictional 18th in the movie Tin Cup.

Torrey Pines (South) is one of a few US Open courses not considered good enough to be included in the United States Top 100. It is ranked No 36 by Golf Digest in a list of America’s Best Public Courses.

torrey pines
The US Open returns to the scene of Tiger Woods’ last Open victory at Torrey Pines in southern California.

Sadly missing following his car accident will be Tiger Woods. Torrey Pines is where he played some of his finest golf. Eight PGA Tour victories, the most famous his US Open playoff triumph in 2008, hobbling around for 91 holes with a double stress fracture in his left tibia and a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Afterwards he admitted playing against the wishes of his medical staff.

Tiger didn’t play again that year, after 46 consecutive majors, the first of his lengthy absences. It was his 14th major title (and third US Open) and he was to wait another 11 years before claiming No 15 at Augusta National in 2019.


The Open Championship was played for 31 consecutive years in Scotland before an English course was added to the rota in 1892. That was the first of 14 Opens at Royal St George’s (founded 1887), one of the world’s great links, beautifully isolated in a world of its own alongside the English Channel in Kent. No traffic or trains disturb its peaceful setting.

Royal St George’s is a liberating contrast to many of the tightly confined links in the UK, its holes spread among a large area of rolling linksland, wandering here and there, constantly changing direction.

Bobby Locke won the first of his four claret jugs in a playoff over Irishman Harry Bradshaw in 1949 at Sandwich – the name of the small historic town nearby. Bradshaw may have won but for his now celebrated stroke out of a broken beer bottle in the second round. Uncertain of his rights when he found his ball sitting in the base of the bottle, and with no rules official around, he closed his eyes and took a swipe, moving the ball just 20 metres.

What is not commonly known about that Open is Locke refusing to go out on the Saturday for the 36-hole playoff (it changed to 18 holes in 1964) until the flags were moved. In those days they were left in the same position on every green for all four rounds. Locke’s defiant stance prompted the present practice of having new pin placements each day. Locke, with two exceptional rounds of 67-68, won the playoff by 12 strokes, the 67 being his lowest Open score.

After his victory Royal St George’s was left off the Open rota for 32 years until returning in 1981, ostensibly because of the difficulty of access for spectators. However, after the European Tour held the British PGA Championship there in 1975, with Arnold Palmer the victor, it became clear to The R&A that Royal St George’s could no longer be omitted. Between 1975 and 1985 the club hosted five PGAs and two Opens.

The last Open champion there is a man now plying his trade on the Champions (Senior) Tour in America. Irishman Darren Clarke was 42 when he captured his only major trophy in wet and windy weekend weather in 2011. Pegwell Bay can be stormy. The 1938 Open saw fierce winds on the final day rip the exhibition tent apart, and send scores into the 80s.

This ancient links is known as an unpredictable layout with blind shots and unruly bounces, which might explain why five of its six Open champions since World War Two were first-time winners of a major. Greg Norman was the exception in 1993. The most surprising was American Ben Curtis in 2003, No 396 in the World Ranking.

The Open: The ancient links of Royal St George’s on the English Channel.


The five women’s majors in 2020, all to be shown on SuperSport, continue a recent trend of visiting three classic courses which have previously hosted a men’s major. A weakness of women’s majors in previous years had been the relative insignificance of some of the courses on which they were played.

This changed in 2015 when the PGA of America took over the old LPGA Championship – South Africa’s Sally Little won that title in 1980 – and renamed it the Women’s PGA Championship. A tournament that had been played at a handful of ordinary layouts for 60 years was raised to the same level as the US and British Opens by taking it to the best championship courses and almost doubling the prizemoney to over $4 million.

The women play their majors in April, June (two), July and August, and the Women’s PGA is No 3 in the order, at the Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highlands Course in Georgia where the men’s PGA equivalent was won by Keegan Bradley in 2011, David Toms in 2001, and Larry Nelson in 1981.

The Highlands Course is able to host a major in the extreme heat of summer in Georgia due to planting a revolutionary ultradwarf Bermuda grass (Champion) on the greens prior to the 2011 PGA. It putts like bent grass, yet thrives in the heat, whereas the previous bent grass greens required electric fans and constant watering to keep them alive.

Atlanta AC also replaced the grass on their tees and fairways, and this may have prompted the turf grass changes at Leopard Creek in 2017.

The Olympic Club in San Francisco has hosted five men’s US Opens; the US Women’s Open there in early June will be the first in its 75-year history. The Women’s British Open stays in Scotland, making a second appearance at challenging Carnoustie.

The last occasion in 2011 was played on what the greenkeeper described as a “watered-down” version of Carnoustie. The Ladies Golf Union, who ran the event before merging with The R&A in 2017, had set “Carnasty” up at a shortish 5 934 metres, 851 less than the men’s 2007 Open. Yani Tseng of Taiwan won on 16-under, and commentators called the LGU out of touch with how the modern female golfer can play.

Ryder Cup: Pete Dye’s unconventional design at Whistling Straits.


The nine major championships are played from April to August, followed in September by two highly anticipated team events between the United States and Europe. Three weeks separate the women’s Solheim Cup from the Ryder Cup. Europe hold both trophies, but the Americans have home advantage.

Because of last year’s postponement of the Ryder Cup, this will be the first time since 2002 the two biennial contests have been played in the same year and month. While it’s fine this year, with fans starved of team golf rivalries, it’s an unfortunate clash going forward. They should be played in alternate years, so each can enjoy special status. The LPGA did feel that way after 2002, and immediately had another Solheim Cup in 2003.

The 2019 Solheim Cup was a thrilling event at Gleneagles in Scotland (the US leads the overall count 10-6), and this year it is being held in Ohio at the Inverness Club, a vintage Donald Ross design, with a Monday Labour Day finish.

The 1931 US Open at Inverness is remembered as one of the most unusual majors. It lasted 144 holes. After the customary 72 holes from Thursday to Saturday there were back-to-back 36-hole playoffs on Sunday and Monday between Billy Burke, the winner, and George von Elm. Burke became the first US Open champion to use steel-shafted clubs, and it was the first tournament to feature the large 1.68-inch ball. Furthermore, it was the first US Open to be broadcast around the country, on national radio.

Ryder Cup venue Whistling Straits on the shores of Lake Michigan (an hour’s drive north of Milwaukee) was originally a US military base until being transformed by Pete Dye in 1998 in to what Golf Digest describes as an imitation of Ballybunion in Ireland. It is said to have too much rub-of-the-green areas for the comfort levels of many tour pros. Can anything be read into the fact there was not one American winner in the three US PGAs played there between 2004 and 2015?

Sunningdale is where Ernie Els and Retief Goosen will aim to win the Senior British Open in July.


A South African hasn’t won one of the game’s biggest trophies in almost nine years (32 majors) – Ernie Els at the 2012 Open – and our best chance of something special happening this year would appear to lie in the Senior majors, where Els and Retief Goosen are a giant presence. The US Senior Open and Senior British Open are both being played in July, before and after the Open at Royal St George’s.

These are two trophies which carry considerable weight and prestige, and the last South African to win either one was Gary Player in the 1997 Senior British at Royal Portrush, in an all-SA playoff against John Bland. Back then, however, it was not part of the Champions Tour, and only became a senior major in 2003.

Player won three Senior British titles (in 2018 they were retroactively given major status), and back-to-back US Senior Opens (1987-88). Simon Hobday also won the US event at Pinehurst in 1994.

Mark McNulty lost a playoff for the Senior British at Sunningdale in 2009, and the beautiful heathland course south of London is the 2021 venue for a third time.

Goosen, 52, already has a senior major to his credit, the 2019 Senior Players Championship at Firestone CC, while 51-year-old Els has yet to make his debut in either the US Senior Open and Senior British Open after they were postponed last year.



Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass, Florida, March 11-14
Rory McIlroy (from 2019)


ANA Inspiration, Mission Hills, California, April 1-4
Mirim Lee

Masters, Augusta National, Georgia, April 8-11
Dustin Johnson


PGA Championship, The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island,
South Carolina, May 20-23
Colin Morikawa


US Women’s Open, The Olympic Club, California, June 3-6
A Lim Kim

US Open, Torrey Pines (South), California, June 17-20
Bryson DeChambeau

US Women’s PGA, Atlanta Athletic Club, Georgia, June 24-27
Sei Young Kim


US Senior Open, Omaha CC, Nebraska, July 8-11
Steve Stricker (from 2019)

The Open Championship, Royal St George’s, England, July 15-18
Shane Lowry (from 2019)

The Evian Championship, Evian Resort, France, July 22-25
Jin Young Ko

British Senior Open, Sunningdale (Old), England, July 22-25
Bernhard Langer (from 2019)


Women’s British Open, Carnoustie, Scotland, August 19-22
Sophia Popov


Solheim Cup, Inverness Club, Ohio, September 4-6

Ryder Cup, Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, September 24-26


  • Augusta National, No 2 in America’s 100 Greatest
  • Whistling Straits (Straits), No 21 in America’s 100 Greatest
  • The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, No 24 in America’s 100 Greatest
  • The Olympic Club (Lake), No 33 in America’s 100 Greatest
  • TPC Sawgrass (Stadium), No 49 in America’s 100 Greatest
  • Inverness Club, No 88 in America’s 100 Greatest
  • Sunningdale (Old), No 15 in Golf Digest World 100
  • Carnoustie, No 20 in Golf Digest World 100
  • Royal St George’s, No 28 in Golf Digest World 100
Article Search
Search for news articles
Top 100 Course News, Blog
and Feature
Recent news articles
1 Bosch Hoek Golf & Lodge Near… Read more
Joe Knox is not a golf pro… Read more
Louis Oosthuizen’s display at Leopard Creek is… Read more
Homeowners at the Oubaai golf estate in… Read more
The weekend of the SA Open at… Read more
Fancourt have built a new halfway house… Read more
This year is the 25th anniversary of… Read more
An attractive 9-hole course on the remote… Read more
Peter Matkovich has kept himself active as… Read more
Marco Simone was the first purpose-built golf… Read more
More than half of South Africa’s courses… Read more
On a quiet Central Drakensberg road between… Read more
Listed below are all 414 courses affiliated… Read more
Gary Player Country Club will forever be… Read more
The new millennium has seen a remarkable… Read more
Pretoria Country Club has been rated on… Read more
The US Open at Los Angeles Country… Read more
South African Open host Blair Atholl, ranked… Read more
Of all the great tournament venues that… Read more
Augusta National has Amen Corner to describe… Read more
The closure of Beachwood CC in Durban… Read more
Former Sunshine Tour commissioner Arnold Mentz has… Read more
Durban Country Club will be closing their… Read more
Casey Jarvis has become the second youngest… Read more
In South Africa, the Halfway House stop… Read more
Amanzimtoti Country Club was devastated by flooding… Read more
The Garden Route is a popular destination… Read more
Pearl Valley has been judged as having… Read more
Zwartkop Country Club, the 18-hole course owned… Read more
Does any other sport offer as many… Read more
Silver Lakes has asked to be removed… Read more
Mount Edgecombe Country Club is hosting two… Read more
KZN estate Cotswold Downs, at No 52… Read more
There was a change of the guard… Read more
Houghton and Hermanus are two clubs at… Read more
Woodhill continues its phenomenal rise up the… Read more
Having a river flowing through your course… Read more
Atlantic Beach is one of those courses… Read more
Katberg, Orkney and Emfuleni are this year’s… Read more
An exciting project in Mpumalanga is the… Read more
We’re seeing five key changes to the… Read more
The Eastern Cape has been included as… Read more
The Alfred Dunhill Championship is one of… Read more
Royal Johannesburg’s newly renovated West Course was… Read more
Durban Country Club’s iconic short par-4 18th… Read more
Composite courses could become fashionable locally in… Read more
Blair Atholl is an exciting new addition… Read more
Veteran East London Golf Club member Denis Jones… Read more
How would you react if you learned… Read more
Blair Atholl has the longest stretch of… Read more
Amanzimtoti Country Club suffered the most devastation… Read more
Durban Country Club will next year be… Read more
Bryanston Country Club head teaching professional Leigh-Jane… Read more
Work has started on the refurbishment of… Read more
Golf Digest magazine in the United States… Read more
The Sunshine Tour visited 17 of SA’s… Read more
TOP 20 GREENS 1 Fancourt Links, 2… Read more
No 1-ranked Fancourt Links claimed more honours… Read more
Links courses were the big winners in… Read more
Gauteng is endowed with wonderful golf courses,… Read more
Today’s announcement of 20 courses ranked between… Read more
Anyone who has played at Plettenberg Bay… Read more
Woodhill is one of 17 courses in… Read more
Four courses – Reading, Eagle Canyon, Centurion… Read more
Two new entrants to the Top 100… Read more
Such has been the huge amount of… Read more
The new year ushered in great excitement… Read more
The 2022 Top 100 Course Rankings will… Read more
It was 30 years ago this January-February… Read more
Christiaan Burke, this year’s scoring sensation in… Read more
In recent years golfers have experienced more… Read more
Ian Leach, a doyen of golf club… Read more
They do not count as criteria when… Read more
Following the oddest year in major championship… Read more
From Plettenberg Bay in the east to… Read more
Veteran Western Province golfer Greg Woodbridge gave… Read more
In a high-profile appointment, Meyer du Toit,… Read more
Fancourt in the Garden Route is acknowledged… Read more
After an innovative, lengthy and suspenseful week… Read more
Golfers in the greater Gauteng region are… Read more
South Africa’s collection of bushveld courses are… Read more
Big positional swings are a feature of… Read more
Three of the new entrants into the… Read more
My 61-day Road Trip visiting 70 courses… Read more
Cash prizes for holes-in-one are being offered… Read more
The design of the standard golf cart… Read more
Zimbali Lakes has been an anticipated golf… Read more
Highland Gate was a popular venue for… Read more
It’s not fashionable today but there was… Read more
The Humewood links in Port Elizabeth has… Read more
A countdown has begun to the announcement… Read more
Irene Country Club elected its first female… Read more
The Top 100 Courses website has a… Read more
I’m on a road trip around South Africa aiming to complete visiting… Read more
The PGA of South Africa announced its… Read more
Pinnacle Point have done it again and… Read more
Gary Player Country Club will become the… Read more
St Francis Links has introduced a great… Read more
Big changes are taking place at South… Read more
Colin Nel at the weekend became the… Read more
The golfing members at Irene Country Club… Read more
While golf has happily resumed, with most… Read more
One of South Africa’s iconic golf courses,… Read more
GolfRSA today received the green light for… Read more
Golf courses around South Africa serve as… Read more
The golf industry will need to adapt… Read more
GolfRSA is making every effort to ensure… Read more
South African golf courses today are increasingly… Read more
PGA professional John Dickson spends most of… Read more
One of the stated 10 keys to… Read more
The national lockdown over the coronavirus has… Read more
David Melman is the Golf Manager at… Read more
Golf clubs have been issued with lengthy… Read more
There are a handful of golf courses… Read more
When the idea of a Top 100… Read more
Silver Lakes Golf & Wildlife Estate in Pretoria has been named one… Read more
Golf participation in South Africa would appear to be increasing, with Handicap… Read more
Serengeti Estates in Ekurhuleni has created one… Read more
Intimidating and challenging closing holes help create… Read more
Umhlali Country Club in Ballito on the… Read more
Erinvale Country Estate & Golf Club is… Read more
The Links at Fancourt and Leopard Creek… Read more
It’s a magical scoring barrier everywhere in… Read more
Royal Johannesburg & Kensington will make history… Read more