Golf has been around much longer than any of the other popular sports have been. This makes the best golfers of all time list highly subjective because there are a lot of good players to choose from. Some of the best golfers of all time lived before just about anyone living today was born – some played over a century ago – this makes curating a list much more difficult.
Golf in the United States is a $70 billion annual industry with 24.1 million players and 23 per cent fans. Even after that many people do not consider golf as a real sport. This argument has gone on for decades among sportswriters and on the golf courses as well. While golf’s 112-year absence from the Olympics is used as proof that it is not a sport by many, its recent inclusion in the Olympics has started tipping the scale. No matter on which side of the discussion you stand, it is impossible to not be impressed by the achievement of golfers.
Is it possible to compare great golfers from different eras considering how long this game has been around for? I would say “no” but for the sake of sparking a discussion and in the spirit of sports I will still try to write a list.
“Arnold’s place in history will be as the man who took golf from being a game for the few to a sport for the masses. He was the catalyst who made that happen.” -Jack Nicklaus
There is no question in my mind that Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer ever. He was nicknamed the Golden Bear. Jack has the most ever Major championship wins with 18 to go with his second-most ever PGA Tour wins with 73. He won the Masters on six different occasions. The last one was won when he was 46 years old, which made him the oldest to ever win the tournament.
“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” -Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer is fifth on the career PGA Tour wins list with 62 wins. His wins list includes seven Majors championships. Arnold was PGA Tour Player of the Year twice and led the money list four times.
Bobby Jones won 13 Major championships in his career. He is still the only golfer ever to win the Grand Slam – all four Major championships in a single year. Bobby Jones retired at the age of 28. He never made a penny from winning a tournament because he never turned professional in his career and therefore was unable to make money from the sport. He played for fun.
“I get to play golf for a living. What more can you ask for, getting paid for doing what you love.” -Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has won 14 Majors, which is second all-time. Tiger Woods has third all-time PGA Tournaments wins at 71. He still has time to beat more records, even though his performance has been declining in the past years.
Sam Snead, also known as Slammin’ Sammy, won seven Majors. Sam also holds the record for most PGA Tour wins with 82. He was never able to win a U.S. Open, but he is still considered to be one of the all-time greats.
Byron Nelson won 11 straight tournaments with a total of 18 on the year in 1945. He is the sixth all-time on the PGA Tour in wins with 52. The wind included five in Major championships.
“A good golfer has the determination to win and the patience to wait for the breaks.” -Gary Player
Gary Player has 165 total tournament wins across various tours, which includes nine Majors in his lifetime. He has 25 PGA tour wins.
“I have found the game to be, in all factualness, a universal language wherever I traveled at home or abroad.” -Ben Hogan
Ben Hogan is fourth all-time with 64 career PGA Tour wins, which includes nine Major victories.
Walter Hagen holds the third most amount of Major championships with eleven wins. Walter also won a total of 45 PGA Tour events. Hagen was the first-ever American-born player to win the British Open, which he accomplished four times.
When Francis Quimet won the U.S. Open in 1913 at the age of 20, he put golf on the map as a mainstream sport. He might not be the greatest golfers of all time because of his win but we can thank him for all of the great American players whom we have seen over the years.