What Is an 'Invitational' Golf Tournament?

Caddie bibs for the PGA Tour's WGC Bridgestone Invitational tournament
Caddie bibs for the Bridgestone Invitational, a WGC invitational tournament on the PGA Tour. Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

An "invitational" is a type of golf tournament in which the golfers who are competing are limited to those who have been issued an invitation to play, or have met pre-set criteria and automatically qualified to receive an invitation.

Golf Invitationals vs. Opens

Invitationals and opens are the two main types of golf tournaments, as far as classifying the type of player roster. (A third, the close or closed, is a tournament type that is limited to a specific sub-set of golfers.

The Irish Close Amateur, for example, is limited only to golfers from Ireland.)

An "invitational" is distiguished from an "open" thusly: The Podunk Golf Association Invitational would only be open to members of the Podunk Golf Association or those the Podunk Golf Association specifically invited to play. However, the Podunk Golf Association Open would be open to any golfer in the community who wanted to participate.

Invitationals vs. Opens in the Major Championships

There are four major championships in men's golf. Two of them are opens and two of them are invitationals:

The U.S. and British opens both have requirements in place of any golfer who wants to try to play (maximum handicaps, entry fees). But any golfer who can meet those criteria can attempt to play his way into the field by entering qualifying events.

The Masters and PGA Championship, on the other hand, are not open to anyone who wants to try to qualify. They both use a list of automatic qualifying criteria, and only the small number of golfers who meet those criteria are invited to play. There is no way for an average golfer to attempt to play his way into those fields outside of those automatic qualifying criteria.

That makes them invitationals.