Understanding the Golf Calendar: When Does the Season Officially Start?

Decoding the Official Start of the Golf Season

The golf season typically revolves around the major golf events. These are four events; The Masters, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship or British Open, and the PGA Championship. These tournaments provide the big milestones in the golfing year, but the start of the golf season sometimes feels like a nebulous term, with professionals and amateurs alike having different perceptions of when it begins.

In America, the start of the golf season traditionally begins with The Masters. The tournament typically runs in the first full week of April in Augusta, Georgia. Because of its historical significance and prestige, The Masters is often considered the kickstart of the golf season. Rich in traditions, such as the champion's dinner and inaugural tea shot by golfing legends, The Masters towers over other tournaments in cultural significance. However, various professional tours, including the PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA Tour begin earlier in the year.

Professionally speaking, the PGA Tour starts its season with the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, usually during the first week of January. Strictly speaking, this is the opening event on the PGA Tour calendar and should technically be considered as the season opener. However, due to its location and the fact that it's an invitational event, not many perceive it as the official start of the season.

On the European Tour, the season begins with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA in mid-January. This tournament traditionally leads the 'Desert Swing' through the Middle East, an integral part of the European Tour, and sets the pace for the year's competition.

On the other hand, on the women's professional scene, the LPGA Tour traditionally starts its season with the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in Florida during January. Similar to the PGA Tour's opener, it's an invitational event with a qualified limited field based on the previous season's tournament winners.

The season's start can also be seen from the perspective of amateur golfers. Many golf fans and amateur players based in colder climates mark the start of their golf season based not on a particular tournament, but on the arrival of spring, when the weather becomes conducive to golfing.

Amateur golf seasons often begin around the same time as The Masters, due to the weather improving in the northern hemisphere, especially in Europe and northern America. This is when greenkeepers begin serious course maintenance after winter, golf clubs organize opening days, and golfers are eager to dust off their clubs.

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Introduction to the Golf Season Cycle

The golf season cycle can feel like a maze, especially for beginners and those unfamiliar with the global golf calendar. Understanding the golf season is not just about knowing the dates but exploring what happens during these times and why they are crucial in the overall golf landscape.

One has to comprehend that unlike several other sports, golf doesn't really have a rigid, universally accepted "season." This lack of an official season start date can be attributed to golf's global nature and its dependency on good weather. Unlike basketball or football, which stick to strict season timelines irrespective of geography, golf ebbs and flows with the change in weather and is played virtually year-round in some parts.

The golf season is typically segmented into tours. The most prestigious of these is the PGA Tour, primarily held in the United States. The PGA Tour commences in September and concludes in August of the following year, stretching across distinct parts namely the Fall Series, the West Coast Swing, the Florida Swing, the Major Championship Season, and the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

The Fall Series marks the beginning of the PGA Tour season, typically starting in September. It includes tournaments such as the Safeway Open and Sanderson Farms Championship. These tournaments provide golfers with opportunities to get a head start on earning points for the FedEx Cup.

The West Coast Swing, taking place from January to February, involves iconic tournaments like the Farmers Insurance Open and the Waste Management Phoenix Open. This portion is where golfers cement their standings after the Fall Series and secure their rankings.

The Florida Swing follows in February and March, as the action shifts to the East Coast. The Arnold Palmer Invitational, The Honda Classic, and The Players Championship are some of the significant events during this swing.

Consequently, the Major Championship Season runs from April to July, showcasing the biggest tournaments in golf. These include the Masters, the PGA Championship, the US Open, and The Open Championship. These four tournaments are the highlights of the golf season, drawing the most attention from fans and players alike.

Finally, the season usually ends with the FedEx Cup Playoffs in August. This segment consists of three high-stakes tournaments designed to crown the FedEx Cup Champion. Players accumulate points throughout the season to qualify for these playoffs, and the player with the highest points at the end of the playoffs is declared the season’s champion.

Other golf tours include the European Tour, Asian Tour, and LPGA for women, each having its own season cycle.