Open Championship Qualifying Criteria Broken Down

By Todd Mrowice

Open championship scoreboard 2021

Playing in the British Open is among the crowning achievements for any amateur or professional golfer. The oldest championship in golf, however, is not easy to reach as a competitor. As an "Open" championship, there are numerous amateur and professionals can qualify for the British Open. Here’s an overview of who qualifies for the British Open and the path to get there.

Overview of the Championship

The British Open, formally known as the Open Championship, is contested in July each year and is the oldest championship in golf. The inaugural British Open took place in 1860.

The championship rotates between nine host courses: The Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie Golf Links, Muirfield, Turnberry, Royal Troon Golf Club, Royal St. George’s Golf Club, Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club, and Royal Liverpool Golf Club.

Open Qualifying Series

Designated tournaments from professional tours around the world -- including the PGA Tour, European Tour, Sunshine Tour, and Asian Tour -- make up the Open Qualifying Series each year. Players who aren't otherwise qualified for the Open Championship can earn a bid with a high finish in any one of those events.

Each OQS event has a designated number of spots reserved for players who finish in among a pre-determined position. For example, in the 2019 Emirates Australian Open, three British Open spots were available to players who finished among the top 10 and weren't already qualified.

In a typical year, 15-17 events will be designated as OQS events, yielding around 45 spots in the upcoming British Open.

Regional & Final Qualifying

Another route to the British Open is through the eight, 18-hole Regional Qualifiers and four 36-hole Final Qualifiers played at host courses throughout Great Britain and Ireland, mostly in June ahead of the upcoming Open Championship.

Similar to U.S. Open qualifying, a select number of spots in the Final Qualifiers are assigned to each Regional Qualifier, and those players join the players who have already secured spots directly in the Final Qualifiers. The top three finishers in each of the four Final Qualifiers earn a spot in the Open Championship.

Amateur golfers who join the professionals attempting to qualify must have a World Handicap System handicap index of 4.0 or less.

British Open Exemptions

The large share of the British Open field is made up of exemptions, and there are 24 of those. Here is the complete list.

1Previous British Open champions age 60 or under
2Winners of the last 5 Masters tournaments

Winners of the last 5 U.S. Open championships


Winners of the last 5 PGA Championships

5Winners of the last 3 Player's Championships

Winners of the last 3 BMW PGA Championships

7The current winner of the Japan Open
8The current winner of the Open de Argentina

The current winner of the Senior British Open

10The top 10 players from last year's British Open
11The top 30 players in the previous year's DP World Tour (formerly European Tour) Race to Dubai
12The top-30 players in the previous year's FedEx Cup
13The top-2 from the previous year's Japan Tour rankings
14The top finisher from the previous year's Australasia PGA Tour
15The top finisher from the previous year's Sunshine Tour

The top-50 in the OWGR by a specified date TBD (often 2-3 weeks before The Open)

17The top-5 players in the top-20 of the Race to Dubai that are not already qualified
18The top-5 players in the top-20 of the FedEx Cup that are not already qualified
19The top-2 from the Japan Tour ranking not already qualified by a date TBD (often 2-3 weeks before The Open)


The current winner of the British Amateur
21The current winner of the U.S. Amateur
22The current winner of the European Amateur

The current winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur

24The current winner of the Mark H. McCormack Medal (leader of World Amateur Golf Ranking)

About the Author

Todd Mrowice is a Staff Writer for GolfLink. His experience spans over 15 years and he has covered all aspects of the game including travel, products, business, and professional tours. Todd has also put his deep knowledge of golf equipment to work as a club fitter and in several marketing roles in the golf industry. He has a hole-in-one on his playing resume and appropriately gave his son the middle name “Ace.”