How To Qualify For US Open Golf? [Not Easy!]

It’s one of the biggest golf tournaments in the game, but how do golfers qualify to play in the US Open Championship?

In this article, we’ll outline how you go about getting a spot in one of golf’s four majors.

How To Qualify For US Open Championship?

Qualifying For The US Open Golf

If you’re not otherwise exempt for the US Open, through various levels of exemption which we’ll explain later in the article, golfers will have to go through a level of qualifying to get into the event.

It’s a far from easy process, with just a total of 156 places available in the final field, but if you’ve got the game for it, there’s a pathway to be playing with the likes of Rory McIlroy.

Let’s break down what qualifying for the US Open looks like.

Local Qualifying

Local qualifying (or sectional qualifying) for the US Open begins in April and is the first step for many golfers looking to claim a spot in the season’s 3rd major.

The beauty of the US Open, like the Open Championship, is that it’s open to amateur golfers as well as the professionals.

If you’re playing off a handicap of 1.4 or less, you’re eligible to try and qualify for the US Open through the first stage of local qualifying.

Local qualifying starts off with 9693 golfers across 108 different events in the United States. Of these 9693 players, just 530 (about 5%) will advance to the next stage of qualifying.

Each event is different and will have a varying number of golfers competing and qualifying.

In 2023, the Coldstream Country Club in Ohio had 156 players competing for just 8 spots. Whereas the Palmer Golf Course in Alaska had a total of 16 golfers all playing for just 1 spot in Final Qualifying.

Final Qualifying

Those good enough to get through the Local Qualifying stage will then go onto Final Qualifying, the last step in getting a space at the US Open.

The 530 local qualifiers that advanced from Local Qualifying will also be joined by 348 golfers exempt into Final Qualifying.

In 2023, a total of 13 locations were used for Final Qualifying. These include 11 golf courses in USA and Canada, 1 golf course in Japan and 1 at Walton Heath in Surrey, England.

The Final Qualifying consists of 36 holes in a single day, with some immensely tough conditions and competition.

Some of the best players in the world, including those on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour will hoping for a spot through the Final Qualifying stage, having not been able to get an exemption into the main event.

Out of the 878 golfers taking part in the Final Qualifying, only 64 (7% of the final field and 0.6% of the starting field) will get a coveted spot at the US Open Championship.

It’s a brutal qualification process, but one that has the potential to completely change or elevate a golfer’s career.

US Open Exemptions

Out of the 156 competing in the 2023 US Open Championship at Los Angeles Country Club, 86 golfers are exempt and didn’t have to go through the qualifying process.

To be exempt for the event, a golfer needs to meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Previous US Open winner within the last 10 years
  • 10 lowest and ties from previous year’s US Open
  • Winner of the previous year’s US Senior Open Championship
  • Winner of the previous year’s US Amateur Championship, as well as US Amateur runner up
  • Winner of the previous year’s US Mid Amateur Championship
  • Winner of the previous year’s US Junior Amateur
  • Last 5 Masters champions
  • Last 6 winners of the PGA Championship
  • Last 5 winners of the Open Championship
  • Last 3 winners of The Players Championship
  • Winner of the previous year’s BMW PGA Championship on DP World Tour
  • Players that were eligible for the previous season’s Tour Championship
  • Winners of multiple PGA Tour events since last year’s US Open
  • Top 5 players from the current FedExCup not otherwise exempt
  • Korn Ferry Tour points leader from the previous season
  • Top 2 players from DP World Tour Final Points List not otherwise exempt
  • Top player from current Race to Dubai Rankings not otherwise exempt
  • Top 2 players from DP World Tour U.S. Open Qualifying Series not otherwise exempt
  • Winner of the previous year’s Amateur Championship
  • Winner of the previous year’s Mark H. McCormack Medal (Men’s World Amateur Golf Ranking
  • Current winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship
  • Top 60 from Official World Golf Ranking not otherwise exempt

Final Thoughts

For the best players in the world, playing in the US Open is just another chance to add a major championship to their collection.

But for many, the US Open is an opportunity to fulfil potential and realise a dream of playing in one of the biggest tournaments in golf. This is possible through the qualifying series, which allows amateur golfers like myself to try and get a spot among the legends of the game.


Can anyone qualify for the US Open golf?

Any professional golfer or amateur with a handicap index of 1.4 or less can try and qualify for the US Open Championship. To qualify, most players will have to go through local qualifiers and then Final Qualifying, but the places in the final field are very limited.

What handicap do you need to play the US Open?

Golfers looking to qualify for the US Open need a handicap index of 1.4 or better. This will be enough to get them into the first stage of qualifying.

How many golfers can qualify for the US Open?

The US Open has a final field of 156 golfers, with a total of 64 qualifying through the final stage and 86 golfers are exempt for the tournament.

Ed Welton

Founder, Editor

Ed is the founder and editor at EEE Golf. He’s been playing golf for over 20 years, competing in many top amateur events. He’s played courses all over the world and played with some of the best players in the game. His aim is to help educate people about the game of golf and give insights into the sport he loves most.

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