50 years: From the 1972 European Tour to the 2022 DP World Tour – a lot has changed

Life as a European golfer has been transformed over the last half century.

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

And here's a perfect example: the first European Tour.

The year was 1972 and when the continent's first formal professional circuit debuted it was as different to today as the three-day week.

This year what is now the DP World Tour will visit South Africa, Abu Dhabi, the UAE, Qatar, Kenya, the USA and China in addition to many European destinations. It should also have headed to Japan and in recent years has ventured to Mauritius, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Australia and Morocco.

The worldwide - rather than strictly European - nature of the tour is a vivid contrast with the original circuit, which was something of a cigarette-fuelled booze-cruise around the provinces of England and Scotland.

Nor was it a matter merely of consumption because the cigarette and alcohol industries more or less bank-rolled the tour in those days.

There were 21 stops on that first schedule and just seven of them were outside Great Britain and Ireland. Of the remaining 14, only the Open lacked a sponsor.

And of those other 13, eight were backed by tobacco companies and one by the drinks industry (the booze backers would increase markedly over the two decades that followed). Energy bar meant something very different in those days.

Unlike this year's 12 month schedule, in 1972 the action didn't begin until the week after the Masters, with a fortnight in Spain that started in Girona for the Open de Espana (at Pals GC) and ended with the Madrid Open (at Puerto de Hierro).

That's not a million miles away from the late April schedule of the last few years, but what followed was very different. Today we might phrase it 'The English Seaside Swing'.

It started with a trip north to Southport for some bracing Irish Sea air in the Piccadilly Medal at Hillside GC before everyone headed to the south coast for arguably the most mundane-sounding event in tour history - the Penfold Bournemouth Tournament (at the less prosaically-named Queen's Park GC).

Not done with the English spring there followed a quick hop across to Bognor Regis GC for the John Player Trophy and then a week in Essex for the glamorous-sounding Martini International. That title makes you think of the Cote D'Azur rather than Clacton or Southend, but even more disappointingly the venue was actually the inland Abridge GC.

Throughout mid-summer the tour was very similar to now. First they headed to Ireland for the Carrolls International (Woodbrook GC, Wicklow), then the Sunbeam Electric Scottish Open (Downfield GC, Dundee), before the Open Championship, hosted that year by Muirfield.

A four week European Swing came next: the Open de France (La Nivelle & Biarritz GC), Swiss Open (Crans GC), German Open (Frankfurt GC) and finally Dutch Open (Royal Haagsche G&CC).

Notice something? A fortnight in Spain. Then a sensible jaunt around England. Three weeks up north and then a four-week loop in Europe.

Back then the tour literally was a tour and perfect for struggling pros who often crammed themselves into vehicles and hit the road.

Very unlike, for example, the India-Malaysia-Morocco three-week loop their modern equivalents attempted early in 2013. Try pulling that trip off in a VW campervan (maybe, in the 1970s, a few hippies did).

The flipside is that nowadays the prize money (rather than what the hippies were smoking) is mind-blowing. For winning that Bournemouth event, the lowest prize fund of the 1972 season, Peter Oosterhuis pocketed €2,047. Pablo Larrazabal banked €231,765 in this season's equivalent, the MyGolfLife Open.

The Spaniard's cheque, using average earnings for comparison, would have been worth about €20,00 in 1972. He probably wouldn't want to back-date it (and he probably didn't receive his earnings by cheque).

After tasting the delights of the continent it was back to the UK for the Benson & Hedges Festival of Golf at Fulford GC and the Viyella PGA Championship at the Wentworth Club.

Benson & Hedges then coughed up more money to back the Match Play Championship in one of the tour's less celebrated stop-off points - Rickmansworth.

Another trip up north followed: the WD & HO Wills at Dalmahoy GC in Edinburgh, the John Player Classic at Turnberry, and the Dunlop Masters at Northumberland GC on the way back.

And, after a quick hop to Como for the Italian Open, it was back to Wentworth for the season-ending Piccadilly World Match Play.

And that was it. No Rolex Series worth millions, no Race to Dubai. In 1972 there were more golf courses in Rickmansworth than in the entire Middle East, never mind the UAE.

Top spot in the first money list earned around €25,000. Last year Collin Morikawa achieved the same feat and pocketed over €8million.

1972 seems a long, long time ago.

In retrospect, it looks barking mad.

Back then it was new and exciting.

The five golfers who shaped the European/DP World Tour

Severiano Ballesteros - outrageously charismatic and fuelled the continent's rise in self-confidence.

Nick Faldo - single-mindedly re-built his swing to achieve greatness.

Bernhard Langer - overcame the yips and crippling back injuries to become a ruthless (and ageless) winning machine.

Sandy Lyle - an exceptional talent who even Ballesteros was in awe of.

Ian Woosnam - driven, determined and fiercely competitive.

The five most missed tournaments and venues on the schedule

The London Standard Four Stars National Pro-Celebrity (Moor Park GC)

The Car Care Plan Invitational (Moortown GC)

The Skol Lager Individual (King's Course, Gleneagles)

The Lawrence Batley International Golf Classic (Bingley St Ives GC)

The Epsom Grand Prix of Europe (St Pierre Hotel and Country Club)

READ MORE: Collin Morikawa hoping to buck post-Masters trend with victory at the RBC Heritage

Latest news