The European Tour group celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022. To celebrate the milestone, we look back at 50 years of driving golf further through our three guiding principles of being Innovative, Inclusive and Global.
When the first official season of what was then the European Tour teed off in 1972, tournaments counting towards the Order of Merit were held across eight different European countries between April and October.
The Tour and its schedule have continued to grow and evolve in that time, with each season now comprising a year-long global schedule which has visited a total of 50 countries and 440 different venues over the past five decades.
The dramatic increase in scheduled tournaments from those early years has come with a growing number of players too, with winners hailing from almost every corner of the globe.
Since May 1972, when Spain’s Antonio Garrido lifted the first Tour trophy at the Spanish Open, there have now been 1916 tournaments, 8468 different players representing 110 different countries, and 557 different winners from 37 different countries.
The first step towards a global schedule
The first step towards a more diverse schedule of tournaments took place 10 years after the Tour was established, when the 1982 Tunisian Open became the first event to be staged outside of Europe.
The move came as the 27 tournament season extended into November, and just a few years later, the Tour continued its move around the global with the first Dubai Desert Classic – now one of the marquee events in the calendar - in 1989.
In 2020, the addition of two events at Aphrodite Hills Resort marked Cyprus becoming the 50th country to be visited, and in 2023 Japan will become the 51st different country to host an event, with the postponed ISPS Handa Championship.
As the Tour began to expand into new territories, co-sanctioning agreements were forged from the creation of long-standing partnerships with Tours around the world.
The DP World Tour and the South Africa-based Sunshine Tour have combined close to 100 times on tournaments since the first co-sanctioned event, the Lexington South African PGA Championship at the Wanderers Club, in February 1995.
The winner of that first event was the Big Easy himself, Ernie Els. The four-time Major winner and former World Number One remains the most successful South African player in the Tour’s history.
Fellow South African Major winners Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Trevor Immelman have all secured multiple DP World Tour titles, and with recent winners including Thriston Lawrence, Garrick Higgo, Dean Burmester, Daniel van Tonder and Justin Harding, the partnership continues to help the career development of South African players.
Furthering collaboration within golf’s ecosystem, the DP World Tour announced a Strategic Alliance with the PGA TOUR in November 2020 to partner on a number of areas including global scheduling, prize funds and playing opportunities for the respective memberships.
As part of the agreement, the two organisations will for the first time in 2022 co-sanction three events: the Genesis Scottish Open – the third Rolex Series event of the season - the Barbasol Championship; and the Barracuda Championship.
A similar strategic alliance between the DP World Tour and the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia, announced in 2017, was extended until 2026 in January. The DP World Tour has played 42 events in Australasia since its inaugural visit in 1996 and announced this week that its 2023 season will begin in Australia with the return of the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship from November 24-27, 2022.
A commitment to driving innovation in golf has been seen throughout the past 50 years on Tour through pioneering new formats, new concepts, and award-winning content.
On the course, this has been underpinned through the development of new formats, and the inception of the transformational Rolex Series.
Launched in 2017 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Rolex’s enduring partnership with the European Tour group, the Rolex Series is one of the most important initiatives in the DP World Tour’s history.
The Rolex Series is the premium category of events on the DP World Tour, comprising five tournaments in 2022, staged in a variety of world-class golfing locations around the globe, each with a minimum prize fund of US$8 million and 8,000 DP World Tour Rankings points available.
Showcasing innovation, enriched media, content and broadcast coverage, and a superior event experience for the world’s top players, the list of Rolex Series Champions includes some of golf’s most distinguished names, with the leading winners currently former World Number One Jon Rahm and six-time DP World Tour winner Tyrrell Hatton on four Rolex Series wins apiece.
This season’s campaign has seen wins at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic for Thomas Pieters and Viktor Hovland respectively, with the Genesis Scottish Open, BMW PGA Championship and season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, to come.
Last year, reigning Open Champion Collin Morikawa ended the season by sealing his first Rolex Series win at Jumeriah Golf Estates, becoming the first American to top what was then the Race to Dubai Rankings, and winning the famous Harry Vardon Trophy.
Predominantly DP World Tour tournaments are stroke play events played over four days, where the player who takes the fewest strokes to complete 72 holes is the winner.
However, the Tour has long embraced opportunities to explore new formats to help grow the game. That was apparent back when the Alfred Dunhill Cup, the forerunner to the current Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, was staged as an ‘approved special event’ from 1985 to 2000 with three-man teams from one country competing for national glory.
Over the last decade there has been a rejuvenation of new formats, no more so than in the 2017 season when two new tournaments were launched – the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth and GolfSixes.
The ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth, originally known as the ISPS Handa Perth International, switched from a traditional 72-hole event to a 54-hole tournament with two cuts followed by a final day of match play.
GolfSixes comprised a series of six-hole matches, between 16 teams of two players from different countries over two days. It was played for three consecutive years from 2017 and has now been adopted by numerous junior leagues through the support of the Golf Foundation and The R&A.
The Belgian Open was welcomed back in 2018, following an 18-year absence, as the renamed Belgian Knockout, which began with 36 holes of stroke play, followed by nine-hole match play for the top 64 finishers.
Since then, other events have included the Shot Clock Masters, the historic co-sanctioned Scandinavian Mixed (more below), and the 2020 Cyprus Showdown. In the latter, the unique format saw the top 32 players and ties progress to Saturday’s 18-hole shootout – where scores were completely reset – before the Sunday showdown left 16 players and ties (scores also reset) in the field to compete for the title over the final 18 holes.
The Hero Challenge – another innovative concept introduced by the Tour in 2016 – has taken golf beyond the course to some iconic locations around the world.
From 2016 to 2020, the likes of Edinburgh Castle, the Albert Docks in Liverpool, and the Atlantis hotel in Dubai all hosted the game’s leading players tackling tough short-hole targets in a live night-golf event.
Last year a new era began with unique challenges and competition formats introduced at three different Hero Challenges around DP World Tour events including a Guinness World Record set at Valderrama for the 'Fastest hole of golf by a team of four'.
The first Hero Challenge of the 2022 season – held at the Yas Marina F1 Circuit on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi – saw Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Tyrrell Hatton tasked with trying to hit a one-yard-wide fairway.
Golf for Good
The Tour is also committed to finding new ways to leave positive a positive impact in the communities around events and promoting the health benefits of golf.
One of the best examples of this is the launch of the Golf for Good Campaign, which coincided with the Tour’s return to action in July 2020 following a near four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its first six weeks alone, a total of £623,120 was raised for local, national and international charitable causes.
The 2021 iteration saw the European Tour group work with UNICEF as part of a season-long ‘Every Birdie Counts’ campaign, with a minimum of €1 donated to UNICEF for every birdie, €10 for every eagle and €1,000 for every albatross made during the campaign.
In addition, €75 was pledged for every birdie made at the DP World Tour Championship, to mark UNICEF’s 75th anniversary and World Children’s Day, which coincided with day three of the event.
The campaign helped the children’s charity to deliver 50,000 vaccines to some of the world’s most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach nations.
Golf for Good has since evolved to become the umbrella name for the European Tour Group’s overarching Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, which embraces three main pillars: Support for Worthy Causes and Communities where the Tour plays, Sustainability and Inclusivity, Diversity and Health.
Hand-in-hand with innovation has been the Tour’s desire to promote inclusivity in the game, through a closer collaboration with the women’s game, disability golf and promoting the health benefits of golf.
A year after GolfSixes was first introduced in 2017, the event broke new ground when the event welcomed Ladies European Tour players to become part of the competition.
European Solheim Cup Captain Catriona Matthew partnered her Ryder Cup counterpart Thomas Bjørn in a mixed Captains Team while Georgia Hall and Charley Hull teamed up to form an all-female England team, and Mel Reid and Carlota Ciganda an all-female European Team. The new set up added further excitement and spectacular golfing moments, with both England and European Ladies teams making it to the quarter-finals.
In 2021, the Scandinavian Mixed took the idea of a mixed event set-up a step further. Demonstrating a desire to create more equal opportunities in golf, the Tour co-sanctioned the historic event in Sweden with the Ladies European Tour.
The field comprised 78 men and 78 women playing in the same field for one trophy and one prize, while there were also Official World Ranking points on offer for both Tours during both a Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup year.
After the Covid-19 pandemic forced its intended first edition in 2020 to be cancelled, the event returned last year, hosted by Swedish golf superstars Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam.
There were further milestone moments as Caroline Hedwall became the first female in history to hold the solo lead in a DP World Tour event following a second round 64, before Alice Hewson claimed top female honours with a third-place finish behind winner Jonathan Caldwell and runner-up Adrian Otaguei.
The event will return in June this year, at Halmstad Golf Club in Sweden, with Henrik – named Europe Ryder Cup captain in March – and ten-time Major winner Annika back again as hosts.
EDGA & the G4D Tour
Reinforcing a commitment to inclusivity in golf, the European Tour Group has also sought to provide playing opportunities in collaboration with EDGA (the European Disabled Golf Association).
After the DP World Tour unveiled the Golfers with Disability programme at the Betfred British Masters in May 2019, the Tour welcomed the inclusion of two EDGA events to run alongside the Scottish Open and the DP World Tour Championship.
The DP World Tour has since launched the newly named G4D (Golf for the Disabled) Tour to provide even further opportunities from this season. The 2022 G4D Tour’s schedule will feature seven tournaments – increased from five in 2021 – across six different countries.
New events will take place at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett, the Porsche European Open, the Horizon Irish Open, the BMW PGA Championship and the Estrella Damm N.A Andalucia Masters.
The season will once again culminate at the G4D Dubai Finale, where the qualifiers from the previous six events will battle it out at Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 14-15, ahead of the DP World Tour Championship, the final Rolex Series event on the DP World Tour.