Most members of the tour play between 20 and 30 tournaments in the season. The geography of the tour is determined by the weather. It starts in Hawaii in January and spends most of its first two months in California and Arizona during what is known as the "West Coast Swing" and then moves to the American Southeast for the "Southern Swing." Each swing culminates in a significant tour event. In April, tour events begin to drift north. The summer months are spent mainly in the Northeast and the Midwest, and in the fall (autumn) the tour heads south again.
The Rookie of the Year award was also introduced in 1990. Players are eligible in their first season of PGA Tour membership if they competed in less than seven events from any prior season. Several of the winners had a good deal of international success before their PGA Tour rookie season, and some have been in their thirties when they won the award. In March 2012, a new award, the PGA Tour Courage Award, was introduced in replacement of the defunct Comeback Player of the Year award.
The criterion for retaining tour cards at the end of the season also changed. Through 2012, the top 125 players on the money list at the end of the PGA Tour season retained their tour cards. For the 2013 season only, the top 125 players on both the money list and the FedEx Cup points list at the end of the FedEx Cup regular season in August retained their cards. The tour also said that it would decide at a later time whether to keep this aspect of the qualifying system in place in future seasons. Otherwise, the planned move by the tour to have the top 125 players on the FedEx Cup points list retain their tour cards took effect with the 2014 season. The next 75 players on the points list, along with the top 75 on the money list of the Korn Ferry Tour at the end of that tour's regular season, are eligible to play a series of three tournaments in September known as the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. The Finals field, however, is not expected to consist of all 150 players, as some of the PGA Tour players will be exempt by other criteria, such as a tournament win in the previous two years. A total of 50 PGA Tour cards for the next season is awarded at the end of the Finals. The 25 leading money winners during the Korn Ferry Tour regular season receive cards, and total money earned during the Finals determines the remaining 25 card earners. For all 50 new card earners, their positions on the PGA Tour's priority order for purposes of tournament are be based on money earned in the Finals. College players who turn professional can enter the series if their earnings are equivalent to a top-200 PGA Tour or top-75 Korn Ferry Tour finish.
Three of the four majors take place in eight weeks between June and August. In the past, this has threatened to make the last 2-1/2 months of the season anti-climactic, as some of the very top players competed less from that point on. In response, the PGA Tour has introduced a new format, the FedEx Cup. From January through mid-August players compete in "regular season" events and earn FedEx Cup points, in addition to prize money. At the end of the regular season, the top 125 FedEx Cup points winners are eligible to compete in the "playoffs", four events taking place from mid-August to mid-September. The field sizes for these events are reduced from 125 to 100 to 70 and finally the traditional 30 for the Tour Championship. Additional FedEx Cup points are earned in these events. At the end of the championship, the top point winner is the season champion. To put this new system into place, the PGA Tour has made significant changes to the traditional schedule.
Non-members can play their way into the PGA Tour by finishing the equivalent or better of 125th in FedEx Cup points. Those who fail but fall within the top 200 in current season points are eligible for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. During the season, non-members can earn Special Temporary Member status by exceeding the equivalent of 150th in the previous season's FedEx Cup. Special Temporary Members receive unlimited sponsor exemptions, while non-members are limited to seven per season and twelve total events.
On the Korn Ferry Tour, a "reshuffle" refers to a reordering of the tour's eligibility list, which determines the players who can enter tournaments. After four tournaments, and every fourth tournament thereafter until the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, players are re-ranked according to their tour earnings on the season. However, the ranking position of players who are exempt from a "reshuffle" does not change.
The number of Race to Dubai points available in the last three events of the season was increased, and the field size reduced. The aim was to make more players still have a chance of winning the Race to Dubai entering the final events. In addition, although the prize money was not increased, the bonus pool of US$5m would now be split among the top five players rather than the top ten. The money saved from restricting field sizes was used solely to increase the first prizes, which means that the tournaments would not have the standard prize fund distribution, and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai would have the largest tournament first prize in golf of US$3m.
The tour began 91 years ago in 1929 and at various times the tournament players had attempted to operate independently from the club professionals. With an increase of revenue in the late 1960s due to expanded television coverage, a dispute arose between the touring professionals and the PGA of America on how to distribute the windfall. The tour players wanted larger purses, where the PGA desired the money to go to the general fund to help grow the game at the local level. Following the final major in July 1968 at the PGA Championship, several leading tour pros voiced their dissatisfaction with the venue and the abundance of club pros in the field. The increased friction resulted in a new entity in August, what would eventually become the PGA Tour. Tournament players formed their own organization, American Professional Golfers, Inc. (APG), independent of the PGA of America. Its headquarters were in New York City.