On this day, The United States Golf Association was born
The foundation of the United States Golf Association on Dec. 22, 1894 marked the formal organization of American golf, establishing a centralized body to write the Rules, conduct national championships and establish a national system of handicapping. The USGA also plays a prominent role as the game’s historian in the United States, collecting, displaying and preserving artifacts and memorabilia at its Museum and Archives in Far Hills, N.J.
In September, William G. Lawrence wins a “national amateur championship” at Newport (R.I.) Golf Club. In October, Laurence B. Stoddard wins a “national amateur championship” at St. Andrew’s Golf Club.
C.B. Macdonald, runner-up in both events, calls for the formation of a governing body to run a universally recognized national championship.
The Amateur Golf Association of the United States – soon to be called the United States Golf Association – is formed on Dec. 22. Charter members are Newport Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, The Country Club (Brookline, Mass.), St. Andrew’s Golf Club (Yonkers, N.Y.), and Chicago Golf Club.
Charles B. Macdonald wins the first official U.S. Amateur championship at Newport Golf Club. The first U.S. Open is held the next day at the same club, almost as an afterthought to the Amateur. Horace Rawlins wins the $150 first prize over a field of 11.
The United States Open expands to 72 holes from 36 and is held for the first time at a separate course from the Amateur.
The USGA rules that caddies, caddie-masters and greenkeepers past the age of 16 are professionals. The age would be raised to 18 in 1930, 21 in 1945, until the ruling was rescinded in 1963.
Johnny McDermott signals the end of dominance by Scottish-born professionals in early American golf by becoming the first native to win the U.S. Open. At 19, he’s also the youngest winner ever.
Twenty-year-old American amateur Francis Ouimet stages the game’s biggest upset, beating English stars Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff to win the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. The resultant headlines spark a surge of interest in the game in America.
The Professional Golfers’ Association of America is formed in January. In October, Jim Barnes wins the first PGA Championship, taking the $500 first prize.
The USGA championships (U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, U.S. Women’s Amateur) and the PGA Championship are suspended in 1917 and 1918 because of World War I.
The USGA and R&A agree to a standard ball – 1.62 inches in diameter and 1.62 ounces.
Public-course golfers get their own tournament – the USGA’s Amateur Public Links Championship.
Steel-shafted clubs are permitted in the United States by the USGA as of April 11; the R&A continues to ban their use in Great Britain until 1929.
The USGA introduces sectional qualifying rounds for the U.S. Open.
The United State Department of Agriculture says it has developed “the perfect putting green grass” — creeping bent.
The U.S. Amateur goes to the West Coast for the first time, at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Bobby Jones wins the Grand Slam – the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open and British Amateur – then retires at age 28.
The USGA mandates use of a larger and lighter ball (1.68 inches and 1.55 ounces). This so-called “balloon ball” is very unpopular, and after only one year the USGA increases the allowed weight to 1.62 ounces, keeping the size at 1.68 inches. Meanwhile, the R&A stays with the 1.62-inch, 1.62-ounce ball.
A new USGA Rule limits players to fourteen clubs. Some players (e.g., Lawson Little) have been carrying as many as twenty-five. The Rule is designed to restore shot-making skill.
The USGA develops a machine for testing golf-ball velocity at impact. Plans for limiting initial velocity are put on hold until after the war.
A Rule change authorizes players to stop play on their own initiative if they consider themselves endangered by lightning.
The USGA cancels all its championships for the duration of the war. The PGA of America continues its Tour schedule, though it is an abbreviated one.
The first U.S. Women’s Open is held, and the only one ever waged at match play. Patty Berg is the champion.
The USGA revises and simplifies the Rules of Golf, going from 61 Rules to 21. The R & A doesn’t go along, however.
The first U.S. Junior Amateur is played, with Dean Lind beating future U.S. Open champion Ken Venturi in the championship match.
The USGA and R&A hold a joint conference and agree on a uniform Rules of Golf worldwide, effective the following year. The only remaining difference is the size of the ball (the R&A permits a diameter of 1.62 inches compared with the USGA’s 1.68 inches). The stymie is abolished, center-shafted putters are legalized (in Britain center-shafted putters had been illegal since 1909), and the out-of-bounds penalty is made stroke and distance.
The U.S. Open is televised nationally for the first time. Also new – the holes are roped for gallery control.
A new USGA system provides just one handicap for golfers, not “current” and “basic.”
The PGA Championship changes from match play to stroke play.
The USGA and R&A organize the World Amateur Golf Council, and hold the first World Amateur Team Championship at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. Bobby Jones serves as captain of the American squad.
The PGA of America drops the Caucasians-only clause from its constitution, allowing African-Americans to become members.
The U.S. Amateur changes from match play to stroke play. The U.S. Open is held over four days instead of three; no more 36 holes on the final day.
Croquet-style putting, used by prolific ball striker by Sam Snead, is ruled illegal by the USGA.
The Tournament Players Division is created within the PGA.
The U.S. Amateur returns to match play; the winner is Craig Stadler.
The Tournament Players Championship makes its debut.
The USGA adopts the Overall Distance Standard for golf balls, limiting them to 280 yards under standard test conditions.
The USGA adds the U.S. Senior Open to its list of Championships. Roberto De Vicenzo is the inaugural Champion.
The USGA introduces the golf ball Symmetry Standard to the Rules of Golf.
The USGA adds the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship for players 25 and older, an event in which career amateurs won’t have to face college golfers, who often dominate the U.S. Amateur.
The USGA introduces the Slope System to adjust handicaps according to the difficulty of the course being played.
The groove wars begin. The USGA rules that Ping Eye2 irons don’t conform to the Rules because the grooves are too close together. Karsten Manufacturing, maker of Ping, files suit. A settlement will be reached in 1990 under which new Pings are modified to conform and existing Pings are deemed acceptable.
The PGA Tour announces it will ban square-groove irons next year, but Karsten Manufacturing wins a court injunction against the move. Four years later, in an out-of-court settlement, the Tour reverses itself and permits square grooves.
After a controversy at the PGA Championship site Shoal Creek Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., the PGA of America and PGA Tour announce they will not play tournaments at clubs that have no African-American or women members.
The R&A adopts the American-sized ball (1.68 inches) as standard all over the world.
The USGA celebrates their centennial anniversary
The USGA implements testing protocol for “spring-like” effect in metal woods.
The USGA celebrates the 100th playing of the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, and U.S. Women’s Amateur, as well as the 75th playing of the U.S. Amateur Public Links.