First Grand Slam of Golf

When amateur golfer Bobby Jones won all four of the world’s major golf tournaments in a single year, he became a popular national hero in the United States, and coverage of his success helped increase the popularity of recreational golf throughout the world.

Summary of Event

In the history of competitive golf, 1930 marked the first ever “grand slam,” the winning of all four of the world’s major golf championships in the same calendar year by a single player. The tournaments considered to be part of the grand slam have changed over time. In 1930, they were the British Amateur, British Amateur golf tournament the British Open, British Open golf tournament the United States Open, United States Open golf tournament and the United States Amateur United States Amateur golf tournament championships, and American amateur golfer Bobby Jones won all four. [kw]First Grand Slam of Golf (Sept. 27, 1930)
[kw]Grand Slam of Golf, First (Sept. 27, 1930)
[kw]Golf, First Grand Slam of (Sept. 27, 1930)
Grand slam of golf
[g]United States;Sept. 27, 1930: First Grand Slam of Golf[07690]
[c]Sports;Sept. 27, 1930: First Grand Slam of Golf[07690]
Jones, Bobby

Bobby Jones.

(Library of Congress)

Golf historians believe that Jones knew 1930 would offer him his only chance to achieve wins in all four major tournaments during a single year. Traveling across the Atlantic Ocean by ocean liner was time-consuming and expensive. The Walker Cup amateur team competition between the United States and Great Britain was held that spring in England, so the United States Golf Association named Jones to be its playing captain and, therefore, paid his travel expenses. The trip gave Jones a chance to fine-tune his skills and then extend his stay for the British Amateur and the British Open in May and June as well as to lead the American side to victory in the Walker Cup competition.

The first tournament of Jones’s grand slam was the British Amateur Championship, held May 26-31 at the famous Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. It was a match play competition; that is, the scores of individual players were compared on each individual golf hole, with the overall winner being the player who won the greatest number of holes. Jones won matches against eight different players, three of them by a narrow one-up margin, and defeated the defending British Amateur champion, Cyril Tolley, Tolley, Cyril in the fourth match. In the thirty-sixth hole final match, Jones closed out the 1923 champion, Roger Wethered, Wethered, Roger by a clear margin with five holes left to play.

The second tournament of the grand slam was the Open Championship of the British Isles, commonly known as the British Open, held June 18-20 at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England. Jones did not play well in the qualifying competition but still qualified to play. After the first two eighteen-hole rounds of the tournament, Jones was in first place by one shot, and after the third eighteen-hole round he was one shot behind Archie Compton. Compton, Archie Jones won the tournament after the fourth round by a slim two-shot margin over Macdonald Smith Smith, Macdonald and Leo Diegel. Diegel, Leo It was his third British Open title in four tries, a very noteworthy achievement. On July 2, on his return to the United States after winning the two British championships, Jones was celebrated in a ticker-tape parade through Manhattan streets.

The grand slam’s third tournament was the U.S. Open Championship, held July 10-12 at the Interlachen Country Club at Edina, Minnesota. Jones was ahead of the field by five shots after the third eighteen-hole round and won the tournament by a two-shot margin over Macdonald Smith. It was a nervous final eighteen holes for Jones; he scored poorly on the seventeenth hole and then made a remarkable forty-foot putt for a birdie (a score of one stroke less than par) on the eighteenth hole.

By this time, the world media and the golfing world were intensely following Jones’s quest for the grand slam. The fourth and final tournament that would complete his accomplishment was the U.S. Amateur Championship, held September 22-27 at the Merion Cricket Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Jones won the match play tournament in rather convincing fashion. He finished the two qualifying rounds in first place, and he won his first two match play victories by a comfortable five-hole margin, first defeating the Canadian Amateur champion, Sandy Sommerville. Sommerville, Sandy The last three matches, consisting of thirty-six holes each, were a severe test of endurance for Jones. He won by six holes in the final eight-player quarterfinal and then defeated Jess Sweetster Sweetster, Jess by nine holes in the four-player semifinal. During the last match, Jones defeated Eugene Homans, Homans, Eugene who conceded at the twenty-ninth hole.

Newspaper accounts of the final tournament of the grand slam emphasized the huge crowds of spectators lining the fairways of each hole played by Jones and the presence of a security guard detail to protect him from being engulfed by joyous fans at the completion of his victory. O. B. Keeler, Keeler, O. B. a writer for the Atlanta Journal newspaper in Atlanta, Georgia, accompanied Jones throughout his adult golf career. Keeler is credited with first using the phrase “grand slam” to describe the winning of all four major tournaments; he also referred to the accomplishment as the “impregnable quadrilateral.”

Most golf historians agree that Jones’s grand slam stands as the greatest achievement in golf history because Jones truly was an amateur player, balancing a career in law and business with family responsibilities and competitive golf. He played in an era when amateur sport was more esteemed than professional sports. After he completed the grand slam, Jones appeared on the cover of Time magazine and received another New York City ticker-tape parade.

Jones had a truly remarkable career in competitive golf. He played golf competitively only from age fourteen to age twenty-eight, but during those fourteen years he won thirteen major championships: four U.S. Opens, three British Opens, five U.S. Amateurs, and one British Amateur. In 1926, he was the first player ever to win the U.S. and British Open tournaments in the same year.

Jones practiced law and pursued business dealings from 1928 onward, and after he retired from competitive golf he was paid about $250,000 to make a series of golf instructional films. With A. G. Spalding and Company, he designed and manufactured the first set of matched golf clubs. He was among the thirteen original members inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.


By 1930, golf was rapidly evolving into a sport dominated by professional players. Jones’s chief rivals in the “open” championships (meaning that they were open to both amateur and professional players) were professionals, including the great Walter Hagen. Many historians believe that the publicity generated by Jones’s accomplishments in these tournaments helped to increase the popularity of recreational golf, leading to greater numbers of players, more courses, and mass production of equipment.

Jones was the primary founder of the Masters golf tournament Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in 1933, a tournament that later became part of golf’s grand slam. Jones retired from competitive golf in 1931, and by 1932 he had helped design and build the Augusta club. Jones served as the host of the Masters all the way through 1968, personally presenting the ceremonial green jacket to the winner each year. Golf
Grand slam of golf

Further Reading

  • Frost, Mark. The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America, and the Story of Golf. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Very detailed, research-based biography relies on thorough analysis of newspaper accounts and first-person accounts. Provides readers with a sense of the significance of Jones’s accomplishment and the degree of his fame. Includes photographs.
  • Jones, Bobby. How I Play Golf [DVD]. Burbank, Calif.: Warner Bros., 2004. After he retired from competitive golf, Jones made a series of instructional films that were shown in movie theaters. These are now available in DVD format.
  • Lewis, Catherine M. Bobby Jones and the Quest for the Grand Slam. Chicago: Triumph Books, 2005. Biography places Jones’s golfing accomplishments within the context of his life and times. Includes bibliography and index.
  • Rapoport, Ron. The Immortal Bobby: Bobby Jones and the Golden Age of Golf. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2005. Carefully researched and readable guide to Jones’s life and accomplishments. Includes bibliography and index.

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