USGA History: 1931 - 1950

  • 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.
  • The concave-faced wedge is banned, but Gene Sarazen perfects his design of the sand wedge, with a wide flange, which will remain legal.
  • Bobby Jones films a series of instructional movies, How I Play Golf .
  • Billy Burke is the first to win a U.S. Open using steel shafts. It takes him seventy-two extra holes (two thirty-six-hole playoffs) to beat George Von Elm.

  • Gene Sarazen wins the U.S. Open and British Open, with record scores of 286 and 283, respectively. He finishes the U.S. Open with a record 66.
  • The first Curtis Cup Match, between women amateurs of the U.S. and Great Britain, is won by the United States, 5-1/2 to 3-1/2.

  • Augusta National Golf Club, founded by Bobby Jones, has its grand opening in January.
  • Johnny Goodman is the fifth, and most recent, amateur to win the U.S. Open.

  • Horton Smith wins the first Augusta National Invitational. Its name will be changed to The Masters in 1939.
  • Lawson Little wins the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur, the "Little Slam," a feat he will repeat in 1935.
  • England's Henry Cotton ties the British Open record with a 67 in the first round and breaks it with a 65 in the second. His victory is the first by a Briton in eleven years.
  • Virginia Van Wie wins the U.S. Women's Amateur for the third consecutive year.
  • Joseph C. Dey, Jr., is appointed Executive Secretary of the USGA. He will hold the post for thirty-four years.
  • Helen Hicks becomes one of the first women to turn professional. There are no professional tournaments, but she promotes products for Wilson-Western Sporting Goods Company.

  • Gene Sarazen strikes the most famous shot in the history of The Masters - a double eagle on Augusta National's fifteenth hole, which ties Craig Wood during the final round. Sarazen wins the playoff the next day.
  • Glenna Collett Vare wins her sixth U.S. Women's Amateur.

  • Lawson Little turns professional instead of going for a third consecutive U.S. Amateur - British Amateur sweep.
  • Unheralded Tony Manero closes with a 67 to win the U.S. Open with a record 282.
  • In winning the U.S. Amateur, Johnny Fischer is the last to capture a national championship using hickory-shafted clubs.

  • Sam Snead bursts onto the professional circuit with five victories.
  • The first Bing Crosby National Pro-Am is held at Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego. It will move to Pebble Beach in 1947.
  • Byron Nelson wins The Masters, making up six strokes on fellow Texan Ralph Guldahl on the twelfth and thirteenth holes of the final round.
  • Denny Shute wins his second consecutive PGA Championship.
  • The United States wins the Ryder Cup on British soil for the first time.

  • 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.
  • Sam Snead wins eight tournaments and shatters the earnings record with $19,534.
  • Ralph Guldahl wins his second consecutive U.S. Open, and third consecutive Western Open.
  • Patty Berg, twice a runner-up, wins the U.S. Women's Amateur at age twenty.

  • The Ryder Cup is canceled because of the war in Europe.
  • Byron Nelson wins the U.S. Open in a playoff over Craig Wood and Denny Shute after Sam Snead makes an eight on the seventy-second hole.

  • The Walker Cup is canceled because of the war. The British Open and Amateur are also canceled.
  • Ben Hogan wins his first individual title, the North & South Open, then takes the next two events as well.
  • Jimmy Demaret, the most colorful golfer of his generation, wins the first of three Masters titles despite Lloyd Mangrum's tournament-record round of 64.
  • Ed "Porky" Oliver would have tied for first in the U.S. Open, but he is disqualified from the playoff. While trying to beat a storm, Oliver and five other players start the final round before their scheduled starting times. Lawson Little defeats Gene Sarazen for the title.
  • Bryon Nelson beats Sam Snead, one up, in a match of titans for the PGA Championship.

  • Craig Wood ends a string of frustrating runner-up finishes in major events by winning both The Masters and the U.S. Open.
  • 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 United States government halts the manufacturing of golf equipment.
  • Sam Snead wins the PGA Championship. He had been granted a delay of several days before induction into the Navy so he could play in the event.
  • Byron Nelson beats Ben Hogan in a playoff for The Masters.
  • Ben Hogan wins the Hale America National Open, a charity event for the Navy Relief Fund and the USO. He shoots a second-round 62 en route to a 17-under-par total.

  • The war takes a heavy toll on competitive golf. The PGA Tour is reduced to only three tournaments. There is no PGA Championship.
  • The Masters is canceled for the duration of the war.


  • The PGA Tour is back up to 22 tournaments, though many players remain in military service.
  • The Tam O'Shanter Open offers a record purse of $42,000 and is won by Byron Nelson, who is exempt from military service because of a blood disorder.


  • Byron Nelson wins a record 11 consecutive tournaments from March through August, and 18 during the year. While fields aren't at full strength, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan each are on hand for part of the year.
  • Ben Hogan sets a 72-hole scoring record with 261; two weeks later, Byron Nelson breaks it with 259.


  • Ben Hogan wins 13 PGA Tour events, including the PGA Championship, but loses The Masters and U.S. Open by one stroke.
  • Sam Snead wins the British Open at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. On passing the course on a train on his way to the championship, Snead declares, "That looks like an old, abandoned golf course."
  • The first U.S. Women's Open is held, and the only one ever waged at match play. Patty Berg is the champion.
  • Byron Nelson retires at age 34 after winning six tournaments during the year.


  • The USGA revises and simplifies the Rules of Golf, going from 61 Rules to 21. The R & A doesn't go along, however.
  • South African Bobby Locke storms onto the PGA Tour with six victories.
  • The U.S. Open is televised - but only locally - on KSD-TV in St. Louis.
  • Babe Didrikson Zaharias is the first American to win the British Ladies' Open Amateur. She turns pro later in the year.
  • Golf World magazine begins publishing.


  • The first U.S. Junior Amateur is played, with Dean Lind beating future U.S. Open champion Ken Venturi in the championship match.
  • Bobby Locke wins the Chicago Victory National Championship by 16 strokes, establishing a PGA Tour record.
  • Ben Hogan captures the first of four U.S. Opens with a record score of 276. He also wins the PGA Championship.
  • Golf Journalmagazine - originally USGA Journal Combining Timely Turf Topics - appears.
  • African-American professionals Ted Rhodes and Bill Spiller finish in the top 25 at the Los Angeles Open, one of the few tournaments open to African-Americans. They remain excluded from most PGA Tour events under a rule that leaves the decision up to tournament sponsors.

  • Sam Snead wins The Masters by finishing 67-67. Later, he adds the PGA Championship.
  • Marlene Bauer, 15, wins the inaugural U.S. Girls' Junior Championship, and turns pro later in the year.
  • The Ladies Professional Golf Association, under dynamic tournament manager Fred Corcoran, replaces the struggling Women's Professional Golf Association.
  • Louise Suggs wins the U.S. Women's Open by 14 strokes.

  • Ben Hogan returns to the Tour a year after nearly being killed in an automobile accident and wins the U.S. Open at Merion in an 18-hole playoff.
  • Jimmy Demaret wins his third Masters.
  • Babe Zaharias wins the U.S. Women's Open by nine strokes.
  • Sam Snead wins 11 events on the PGA Tour.


Partner Links
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The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

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Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

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IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website,, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit

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Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit

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Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

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