Golf is an individual sport, which only really stops being the case when the Ryder Cup rolls around. There are many golfers that are extremely proud of where they’re from, though, and it only takes a quick watch of some live golf to hear chants of ‘USA!’, even when it’s not a Ryder Cup year, to know that the country the golfers are from matters to some fans of the sport too. When it comes to the Majors, there have been more than a few standout golfers who have been able to put themselves at the top of the leaderboard in terms of trophies won, but what about countries?
It would be easy to assume that, as the home of golf, Scotland has provided the most Major winners. During the more formative years of the sport that might well have been the case, but in the modern era, with three of the Majors that the golfers compete over being played in the United States of America, it is fair to assume that the States might well be the country where most of the Major winners have come from. Of course, the likes of Australia and South Africa aren’t shy when it comes to producing talented golfers, but when it comes to betting on a Major winner’s nationality, where does the smart money lie?
Quick Answer: Which Country Has Won the Most Golf Majors?
Since the first Major was played, the Open in 1860, and 2023, the USA has won 283 of the 466 Majors played, 60.7%.
The next most successful nation is Scotland with 55 (11.8%), followed by England with 36 (7.7%), South Africa with 22 (4.7%) and Australia with 18 (3.9%).
Taking A Look At The Major Winners
In the world of golf, there are four tournaments that are counted as Majors. They are the PGA Championship, the Open Championship, the US Open and the Masters. They each pose their own challenge of the golfers that turn up to take them on, which is why they are so beloved of both the players and the lovers of the sport who tune in to watch them play out. At the time of writing, 466 Majors have been played and they have been won by 232 golfers. Of those 232, 86 of the players have won at least two Majors with some, like Australia’s Greg Norman, winning the same one more than once.
We will break this down further shortly, but for now it is worth taking a look at the geographical location that most Major winners have come from. Here is a look at every country that has produced at least one Major winner:
We can also look at which country has produced the most Major winning golfers.
It is far to say that the United States of America has very much been the dominant force when it comes to winning Majors. By the time the final Major of 2023 had been played, 133 golfers had won 283 Majors between them. We decided to keep the UK separated so you could see which golfers came from which specific country, but even if we combine the wins of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, adding the 55 won by Scotland to the 36 won by England, the one that Ian Woosnam won for Wales and the seven that Northern Irish golfers have won, you’d still only get to 99.
In fact, if you add up all of the other Majors won by countries that aren’t the USA, you get to a total of 183, which is still 100 short of the amount that American golfers have managed.
Breaking It Down By Major
We know, then, that the United States of America has far and away won the most Majors of any golfing country. The question is, is there a Major that golfers from the States haven’t been quite so successful in? The Open Championship, for example, tends to be more of a challenge for American golfers on account of the conditions that the tournament is usually played in, so have they struggled more for numbers on that front when you take a closer look?
Of the four tournaments that are the Majors of golf, only the Masters is played at the same course every time. Officially the Masters Tournament, it is usually refereed to simply as the Masters. It tends to take place in the first full week of April, which makes it the first Major of the year. The location for the competition is Augusta National Golf Club, a private course that is located in the city of Augusta. It was founded by Bobby Jones, and amateur golf champion, and an investment banker named Clifford Roberts.
One of the most notable aspects of the Masters is that there are a number of traditions based around the tournament. A green jacket has been awarded to the winner since 1949, which must be returned to the clubhouse a year after it was won. It remains their personal property, but it is stored with the other champions’ jackets. Since 1963, a former champion has hit an honorary tee shot to begin the first round. The course itself opened in 1933 and has been altered many times since, aiming to maintain its difficulty and to add variety from one year to the next.
The USA has 63 Masters wins, with Spain in second with six wins. They are joined by South Africa with five, England with four and Germany with two as the only nations with multiple wins.
Conducted by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America, the PGA Championship takes place annually and is typically played as the second Major of the season. It is a money event for all of the PGA Tour, the European Tour and the Japan Tour that promises players some career security if they manage to win it. The event tends to move around courses in the US, meaning that golfers might struggle to maintain any sort of consistency from one year to the next. It began life as a match play tournament, but it was changed to stroke play in 1958 and has remained that way.
Typically speaking, the PGA Championship tends to take place on the Eastern side of the United States. That has been the case all but 11 times at the time of writing, with the state of New York being one of the most popular venues for the competition. The tournament was created specifically to give professional golfers a tournament to take seriously at a time when the sport was dominated by amateurs with lots of money, which is still reflected in the entry requirements. It is the only Major that doesn’t look to invite leading amateurs, with 20 slots reserved for club pros.
Here the USA dominance is even greater than the Masters. They have 87 wins compared to the five wins from Australia as the next best. England, Fiji, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Zimbabwe all have two wins each.
The United States Open Championship, often referred to simply as the US Open, is staged by the United States Golf Association and is on the schedule of both the European Tour and the PGA Tour. It took place for the first time at the Newport Country Club’s nine hole golf course in 1895, with 36 holes being played in a single day. It has obviously developed and grown since then, being open to both professionals and any amateur that has a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 1.4. Around half of the field tends to be made up of players that don’t need to qualify.
Of all of the competitions that make up the Majors, the US Open is the one that tends to be most commonly won with a score of around par. It is a tournament that is characterised by tight scoring, with the course that is chosen to host it normally being quite long. The rough tends to be left long, whilst they fairways are often pinched and the greens undulating. It is the length of the holes that tends to play into the hands of the American golfers, with short par fives on the course in regular conditions being played as long par fours when the US Open comes to town.
The US Open has the most wins outside of the USA of the Majors to be held in the United States. The USA is again out in front with 87 wins, with Scotland second with 13 wins, England third with eight wins and South Africa fourth with five wins. Australia, Jersey and Northern Ireland all has two US Open wins each.
Sometimes incorrectly referred to as the ‘British Open,’ the Open Championship is the world’s oldest golf tournament and therefore one of its most prestigious. It first took place in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland, staying there for the first few years of its existence. Organised by the Royal & Ancient, it typically tends to be the final Major of the year. Its name comes from the fact that, in theory at least, it is open to all golfers. Whilst there are numerous qualifying events, both amateurs and professionals are welcome to play in it and that is what makes it so exciting.
During the competition’s more formative years, it was played at various golf clubs around Scotland. A new trophy, a claret jug, was paid for by Prestwick, the ‘Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers’ and the R&A, which was the point at which it was decided that the tournament would move around courses. There have been numerous host courses over the years, including St. Andrews, Royal St. George’s and Royal Liverpool. Each tournament sees 156 players play 72 holes of stroke play golf to determine a winner, with the weather conditions often influencing the outcome.
The USA is still the most successful nation at the Open Championship though the lead is significantly less than the US Majors. The USA has 46 wins followed by Scotland with 41 wins and England with 22 wins.
There is no single Major that the United States hasn’t won more times than all other countries. Interestingly, though, this time the combined United Kingdom does fare better than the US when it comes to the Open Championship. That tournament, largely played on links courses and posing problems to American golfers that tend to want to hit it long, has been won by an American 46 times, but the combination of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland has seen 66 wins. The only Welsh Major winner is Ian Woosnam whose win somewhat surprisingly came at the Masters.