Cast your mind back over the past decade or so and any number of incredible golfers spring to mind. Hence, when you think all the way back to the beginnings of the sport, it’s hard to know where to start.
Along with the most celebrated names from the recent history of the professional golf, there are literally hundreds of iconic figures who’ve moulded and shaped the game.
This is where the difference lies between world-class golfers and the greatest of all time. Narrowing things down to even 20 all-time greats isn’t easy, but there are some legendary names that have absolutely earned their place in golfing history books.
Many of which have been immortalised in equally legendary golf pictures, capturing some of their greatest moments during their illustrious careers.
The Greatest of All Time?
“What makes a true golfing great isn’t just skill, it’s about their impact on the game and the legacy they leave behind. Some golfers transformed the way the world looked at pro golf, earning new fans and followers who weren’t previously interested in the game.” – Sports Photo Gallery
At the risk of sparking debate (and perhaps a little controversy), we’ve put together what we believe to be a shortlist of the greatest golfers of all time. Not designed to be exhaustive in any way, the following list simply features five iconic pros who’ve made a huge contribution to the modern game.
See how many of the following you agree with:
#5. Walter Hagen
With no less than eleven major championships under his belt, Walter Hagen was also the first player born in America to win the British Open. An event he subsequently went on to win four times, alongside a huge 45 PGA Tour events. What’s interesting about Walter Hagen is that we’ll never know how many events in total he could have won during his career, had he continued competing in the PGA. He voluntarily moved to exhibition golf at the height of his career, openly admitting he was in it for the money.
#4. Arnold Palmer
Similarly, Arnold Palmer retired from professional golf to start an even more profitable career in high-profile sponsorship and endorsements. Nevertheless, he quit the professional game with seven major championships under his belt, contributing to a total tally of 62 PGA Tour wins. On no less than two occasions was Arnold Palmer named the PGA Tour Player of the Year, earning him the nickname “The King” during his professional career.
#3. Bobby Jones
A far cry from today’s legendary golfers, Bobby Jones didn’t earn any money whatsoever from his golfing career. That’s because he never entered the professional game, despite winning a total of 13 major championships almost a century ago. In fact, he’s also the only golfer in history to have ever won all four major championships in the same year. He decided to call it a day at 28 years of age, before earning a single penny from his incredible talent. Nobody will ever know what he could have achieved on the pro circuit, but chances are he’d have cleaned house.
#2. Tiger Woods
There was a time just a few years back when you’d have bet your bottom dollar Tiger Woods was set to become the greatest golfer in history. His professional record was simply extraordinary – 71 PGA Tour events and 14 majors, all from a pro who hadn’t yet turned 35 years of age. He therefore could have easily spent another decade racking up the titles, but things went a little awry when controversy off the circuit caught up with him. He’s still a firm contender for the top three – we’ll have to see how the next few years pan out for Woods.
#1. Jack Nicklaus
Last but not least, there are few golfing fanatics in the world that would argue against Jack Nicklaus being the greatest of all time. On paper alone, he’s still right at the top of the table – 73 PGA Tour wins, 18 major championship wins and so much more besides. He won the masters on six different occasions, annihilating the competition even at the age of 46. The official PGA Player of the Year five times, there never has been and perhaps never will be anyone quite as good as Jack Nicklaus. The fact that he was also such a likeable character only added to his legacy.