Definition: The 'Rota' in Golf

In golf, "rota" is a term that is simply short for "rotation." But rotation of what? "Rota" specifically refers to a regular rotation of golf courses being used for tournament play.

Take, for example, the Podunk City Championship tournament. Perhaps the city of Podunk has six golf courses total. Maybe three of them are used for the city championship, with the tournament rotating among those three courses — Course A this year, Course B next, Course C after that, then back to Course A. That is the rota. In this specific example, it is the Podunk City Championship rota.

For much of golf history, "rota" was chiefly a British term. It originated in reference to Open Championship golf courses, referred to as "the Open rota" or "the Championship rota." But rota is now a term used near-universally in the golf world to describe any regular rotation of a tournament between a regular group of golf courses.

This golf-specific use of rota has been around for a long time. British Amateur and British Open champion Harold Hilton, writing in the April 1922 issue of Golfers Magazine (published in Chicago), referred to the Open's "Championship rota." Hilton noted that some people in British golf at that time thought there were better options for the rota than those being used. That is a common theme whenever a golf course rota exists for tournaments at any level of the game: arguing over whether this course or that should be dropped or added to the rota.

The British Open rota remains, by a very wide margin, the one golfers are most-familiar with, and the use of rota remains most common in references to the British Open. Many other golf tournaments rotate among different golf courses, but the term "rota" isn't usually applied until a select number of those courses become regulars.

The U.S. Open, for example, has always moved from course to course around the United States. But there was no set pattern. Golfers couldn't say, "Well, we know Course X hosts the U.S. Open every fifth year, or at least once a decade." In recent years, however, the USGA has begun visiting a smaller group of golf courses more regularly (while still trying to add in new ones from time to time), and we could see "rota" start being applied more often to the U.S. Open.

Sources:, The Open Championship media guide, USGA Media Guide,, Golfers Magazine (April 1922 issue)

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