In professional golf
is used for the annual
qualifying tournaments for leading golf tours
such as the U.S. based
and LPGA Tours
and the European Tour
. A fixed number
of players in the event win membership of the tour for the
following season, otherwise known as a "tour card," meaning that
they can play in most of the tour's events without having to
qualify. They join the leaders on the previous year's money
list/order of merit and certain other exempt players as members of
Getting through the qualifying school of an elite tour is very
competitive and most professional
never achieve it. There can be up to four stages to
negotiate, each of them like a regular golf tournament with only a
small number of players going on to the next stage. The final
qualifying school may be played over up to six rounds, compared
with the standard four rounds in a professional golf tournament.
However players who are successful at Qualifying School can reach
the elite level of competition very quickly.
Some lower status tours are open to any registered professional who
pays a membership fee so they don't have a qualifying school.
The PGA Tour's qualifying school
is officially known as the
PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament
, but the
organization also frequently refers to it as "Q-School." The system
dates back to 1965, and as of 2008 involves four stages (see
this link to the 2007 results
, and also the official application
, which includes the
criteria for exemption to a particular stage):
- Pre-Qualifying Stage: Four tournaments held in September, all
in warm-weather locations in the United States. Each is played over
four rounds. This stage was introduced in 2006 with four
tournaments (six in 2007). In each tournament, roughly 35 to 40
players, plus ties, advance to the next stage.
- First Stage: Eleven tournaments held in October (compared to 14
in 2005, before the introduction of Pre-Qualifying, 10 in 2006, and
12 in 2007), also in warm-weather locations in the United States.
Each is played over four rounds. The participants are a mixture of
Pre-Qualifying Stage winners and players who were exempted from
Pre-Qualifying. Roughly the top 25 players plus ties in each
- Second Stage: Six tournaments in November, also in warm-weather
locations and each played over four rounds. Like the First Stage,
certain players receive exemptions to this stage. Roughly the top
20 plus ties in each tournament advance.
- Final Stage: One tournament played over six rounds in late
November-early December. The field consists of Second Stage winners
and players who received exemptions into the Final Stage. The top
25 players, plus ties, earn PGA Tour cards for the following year.
Their priority ranking for purposes of tournament entry is 24; this
ranking enables them to enter most full-field events on the PGA
Tour, but not more prestigious stops on the tour unless a
substantial number of players in higher categories skip the events.
For example, the top 125 players on the previous year's money list
who are not otherwise eligible are at priority 19; sponsor's
exemptions are priority 11; and winners of PGA Tour events in the
previous two years are priority 9.
The European Tour has a three-stage qualifying school:
- First Qualifying Stage: eight tournaments, held in various
countries around Europe, each played over four rounds.
- Second Qualifying Stage: four tournaments, each of four rounds,
at four different courses in Spain.
- Final Qualifying Stage: a single tournament played over six
rounds at two courses in Spain.
The leading 30 players and ties at Final Qualifying receive
category 11 membership of the European Tour, which entitles them to
entry to a substantial number of European Tour events, but not to
the more prestigious stops on the tour unless a large number of
players in higher exemption categories skip those
The leading 30 players also receive category 4 membership of the
second tier Challenge Tour
, with the
remainder of those making the 72 hole cut being granted category 7
status, and those missing the cut, category 12. Any player not
making it through to the final stage is able to take up category
UR1 membership, with limited opportunities to participate in
tournaments during the season.
operates a qualifying school with two
stages (see the LPGA's Q-School page
for more details):
- Sectional Qualifying: Two tournaments played
over four rounds, one in California and the other in Florida, held in
September and October. These tournaments are scheduled so
that they do not conflict, and golfers may enter one or both
sectionals. The entry fee is $4000 for one sectional or $5000 for
both. The top 30 players, plus ties, from each sectional
Qualifying Tournament: A single tournament held in late
November-early December at the LPGA's home base of Daytona Beach,
Florida, played over five rounds. No extra fee is
charged for entry. The survivors of Sectional Qualifying are joined
by 10 players from the LPGA's official developmental tour, the
FUTURES Tour, with priority granted
based on their position on the FUTURES Tour money list. While the
top 10 finishers on the FUTURES Tour money list are granted
Tournament Division Membership in the LPGA, the top five finishers
do not enter Q-School. Finishers from 6 to 10 can, and usually do,
enter Q-School in an effort to improve their priority
The top 40 players, plus ties, receive Tournament Division
Membership. Their priority position varies depending on their
- The top 20 finishers receive Category 11 membership, which
entitles them to entry in most full-field events apart from the
more prestigious events. Note that this does not include
ties—if the top-20 cut includes more than 20 golfers, the
players tied for the last position go to a sudden-death playoff to
reduce the qualifiers to exactly 20 players. They alternate with
the golfers who finished between 81 and 90 on the previous year's
LPGA money list.
- Finishers between 21 and 30 receive Category 16
- Finishers between 31 and 40 receive Category 20
Other qualification methods
Other methods of getting onto an elite golf tour include:
- Finishing near the top of the money list/order of merit on the
tour's official developmental tour, such as the Nationwide Tour for the PGA Tour, the
Challenge Tour for the European Tour
or the FUTURES Tour for the LPGA
- Winning a specified number of tournaments on the tour's
official developmental tour may grant an exemption. For example,
both the PGA Tour and European Tour grant a "performance
promotion", also informally known as a "battlefield promotion", to
any player who wins three events on its developmental tour in a
season. Such a player is exempt from qualifying on that tour for
the remainder of that season.
- Winning a tournament on the tour after gaining entry to it
through its qualification event or as a sponsor's invitee. Tiger Woods secured his PGA Tour card by winning
the Las Vegas Invitational in
October 1996 as a sponsor's invitee, and went on to win another event two weeks
- Winning enough money on multiple events on the tour as a
qualifier/sponsor's invitee to meet whatever criteria the tour may
lay down for promotion to full membership. Even without his 1996
tournament wins, Woods would have earned his tour card by finishing
in the top 125 on the 1996 money list, since he had three other
top-5 finishes as a sponsor's invitee that season.
- Special categories for elite golfers: Most tours offer
automatic memberships to golfers with outstanding achievements such
as winning a recent major
championship or making a recent Ryder
Cup or Presidents Cup team.
For complete lists of exempt categories on various tours, see the
- David Gould: Q School Confidential : Inside Golf's Cruelest
Tournament (1999) ISBN 0-312-20355-1.
- John Feinstein: Tales from Q
School: Inside Golf's Fifth Major (2007) ISBN
- Ross Biddiscombe: Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of
Q School (2008) ISBN 978-0-9545199-5-7
- Ross Biddiscombe: Golf On The Edge 2: Q School Complete (2009)