Golf in the Olympics: Tokyo Qualification, What to Know for 2021

Bryson DeChambeau putts on eighteenth green as Collin Morikawa waits during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament.
Bryson DeChambeau putts on eighteenth green as Collin Morikawa waits during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive Olympic Games, golf will be one of the events taking place. It will be featured for the fourth time in Olympic history after making a comeback at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Before Rio, golf had not been a part of the Olympics since the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis.

Here is everything you need to know about the golf events in Tokyo at this year’s Summer Olympic Games. 

How does golf work in the Olympics?

Both men’s and women’s golf tournaments are 72-hole individual stroke play events taking place over four rounds. Unlike PGA events, there will be no halfway eliminations or cuts, so all 60 players will play the full four rounds. For the final two rounds, the tee times will be determined by the scoreboard, going out in reverse order. If players are tied for a medal position after the 72 holes, there will be a three-hole playoff. If there is still a tie after the three-hole playoff, it will go to sudden death. 

How do you qualify for the Olympics golf tournament?

The way that golfers qualify for the Olympics is through the Olympic Golf Rankings, a system that is essentially the same as the Official World Golf Ranking for men and the Rolex Rankings for women. How players perform at tournaments determines their Olympic Golf Ranking. 

There will be 60 contestants for both the men’s and women’s competitions. The first 15 players in the rankings for each side qualify for the tournament, unless a country has more than four players ranked in the top 15. No country is allowed to have more than four players represented at the event.


After the top 15, the field will be filled by going down the Olympic Golf Ranking until there are 60 qualified players, with no country allowed to have more than two golfers outside of the top 15 to qualify. If a country already has two players in the top 15, then they are not allowed any more players. 

Japan was guaranteed to get at least two players, regardless of their ranking, since it is the host of the Olympics. 

Which country is best at golf?

At the time when the Olympic rankings were finalized, the United States was dominating the men’s World Golf Rankings with eight consecutive golfers sitting behind Spain’s No. 1-ranked Jon Rahm. Four of those golfers — Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed — will not be joining fellow Americans Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau in Tokyo as each country is allowed a maximum of four golfers. 

Beach volleyballer Alix Klineman wants to bring a once-taboo subject out in the open: The menstrual cycle. Understanding her own cycle, she says, has made her a better athlete. Learn more on our podcast, My New Favorite Olympian.

South Korea and the U.S. are among the top contenders in women’s golf. The U.S. has three of the top 10 ranked golfers heading to the Olympics, with Nelly Korda entering the Olympics ranked No. 1. Fellow Americans Danielle Kang and Lexi Thompson are No. 5 and No. 9, respectively. South Korea has four of the top 10 ranked golfers heading to Tokyo. Jin Young Ko, In Bee Park and Sei Young Kim are Nos. 2, 3 and 4, respectively, and Hyo-Joo Kim is ranked No. 6. 

When will the men’s and women’s Olympic golf tournaments take place?

The Olympic men’s golf tournament will be four straight days of golf, starting on July 29 and concluding on Aug. 1. The women begin play on Aug. 4 and continue for four days until Aug. 7.

Where will the men’s and women’s golf Olympic tournaments take place?

Both the men’s and the women’s tournaments at the Tokyo Olympics will take place at the East Course of the Kasumigaseki Country Club, a private club in Saitama that is about 31 miles northwest of Tokyo. The course has been around since 1929, and was lengthened in 2016 to make it more difficult for the best players in the world. 

Who are the top ranked golfers in the world?

Not all of the top golfers are competing at the 2020 Olympics. In addition to Johnson opting out for the men, South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who are all golf major champions, will not be competing at the Olympics. Other top ranked golfers like Great Britain’s Tyrrell Hadley, Lee Westwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick all opted out of the Olympics as well. For the women, Great Britain’s Charley Hull is the biggest name who decided not to compete in the Olympics. 


Here are the top 15 ranked men and top 15 women heading to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. You can find the full list of the 60 men and 60 women competing at the golf event in Tokyo here

Men’s rankings:

1. Jon Rahm, Spain

2. Justin Thomas, United States

3. Collin Morikawa, United States

4. Xander Schauffele, United States

5. Bryson DeChambeau, United States

6. Rory McIlroy, Ireland

7. Viktor Hovland, Norway

8. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan

9. Paul Casey, Great Britain

10. Abraham Ancer, Mexico

11. Sungjae Im, South Korea

12. Cameron Smith, Australia

13. Joaquin Niemann, Chile

14. Tommy Fleetwood, Great Britain

15. Corey Conners, Canada

Women’s rankings:

1. Nelly Korda, United States

2. Jin Young Ko, South Korea

3. In Bee Park, South Korea

4. Sei Young Kim, South Korea

5. Danielle Kang, United States

6. Hyo-Joo Kim, South Korea

7. Brooke M. Henderson, Canada

8. Yuka Saso, Philippines

9. Lexi Thompson, United States

10. Lydia Ko, New Zealand

11. Nasa Hataoka, Japan

12. Patty Tavatanakit, Thailand

13. Jessica Korda, United States

14. Minjee Lee, Australia

15. Hannah Green, Australia