What Is a Closed Golf Tournament?

We hear about golf tournaments called Opens (e.g., U.S. Open, The Open Championship) all the time. But what about the rarer tournament that has Closed (or Close) in its name? What does the "closed" mean?

An open tournament is one that is, theoretically at least, open to all golfers or at least to all members of a very large group (e.g., all pros or all amateurs). A closed tournament is the opposite of that: One that is closed to the wider world of golfers so that only golfers within a specified, restricted group are elegible to play.

What kind of specified, restricted groups are we talking about? Imagine two golf tournaments, one called the Texas Open Amateur and another called the Texas Closed Amateur. Any amateur golfers can attempt to play in (or qualify for) the Texas Open Amateur. But only amateur golfers in or from Texas are elegible to play the Texas Closed Amateur. That illustrates the difference beween and "open" and a "closed" tournament.

High-profile closed tournaments were once a lot more common than they are today. One of Sam Snead's first pro wins was the 1936 West Virginia Closed Pro, which only golf pros from or working in West Virginia were eligible to play.

But big tournaments with "Closed" or "Close" in the title do still exist, mostly at the amateur level. The Irish Amateur Close Championship, which Rory McIlroy won in 2005 and 2006, when he was 16 and 17 years old, respectively, is one example. (Outside the United States, the term "close," minus the "d" in "closed," is the preferred term.)

And there are some big tournaments today that began as closed championships. The European Tour's flagship tournament, the BMW PGA Championship (British PGA Championship) was created as the PGA Close Championship in 1955. It remained a closed tournament (only British/Irish PGA members could play) until 1968, when it became an open. Once it was no longer closed, golfers who were not British/Irish PGA pros could qualify, attempt to enter, or accept an invitation to play. In 1975, one of those who did so was Arnold Palmer, and Palmer's victory was one of the last of his pre-Senior Tour career.

Keep in mind that most tournaments played in the larger golf world — all the way down to so-called "ladies playdays" and such — are actually closes, even if "Closed" or "Close" does not appear in the title. The Anytown Country Club Championship is only open to members of the club. The Anytown Golf Association Championship is only open to association members. Those and thousands and thousands of local tournaments every year, everywhere are closed — only the specific membership can play.

Related articles:

European Tour. "BMW PGA Championship," https://www.europeantour.com/dpworld-tour/bmw-pga-championship-2023/
GoGolfing.ie. "2023 Irish Amateur Close Championship," http://www.gogolfing.ie/irish-amateur-golf-results.php?id=83
Wikipedia. "Open golf tournament," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_golf_tournament

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