The Top 10 Best Golfers of all Time
Who is the greatest golfer of all time? Tiger, Jack, Arnie, or someone else?
Today, we’ll review who we think are the best golfers of all time, which isn’t easy after all the amazing players over the years. Comparing great athletes in any sport is always difficult, especially when comparing generational players.
With golf, it’s even more difficult as technology, courses, and championships have changed over the years. With that being said, here are our picks for the top 10 golfers, notable mentions, and some commonly asked questions about legends of the game.
The 10 Best Golfers of All Time
10. Phil Mickelson
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9. Gary Player
Gary Player was one of the first worldwide golf sensations who always wore his signature black on black outfit. Over his amazing career he won over 150 tournaments worldwide, nine major championships, and one of the few golfers to have a career grand slam. Not to mention he won the Masters and British Open three times each which is wildly impressive.
Aside from his incredible golf he also has an intense commitment to fitness and growing the game worldwide. His commitment to his health likely helped him win on the PGA Tour or senior tours for five decades in a row. Not to mention he’s one of the most likable guys out there and an icon of the game.
8. Gene Sarazen
Gene Sarazen started winning golf tournaments at age 19 and won a total of 38 times. Not to mention he was the first member of the career grand slam (winning all four major championships).
But he’s remembered mostly for his incredible shot on the par 5 13th at Augusta National. With 220 yards out, he hit a miraculous 4-wood over Rae’s creek to make a rare double eagle.
He eventually went into a play to win the event along with six other major championships. Not to mention he’s often credited with the creation of the sand wedge in the 1930s.
7. Bobby Jones
While Bobby Jones doesn’t have the massive amount of wins as other golfers, there’s a caveat – he wasn’t able to compete in the PGA Championship.
Why? Because he was an amateur golfer!
Plus the Masters didn’t exist yet until 1934 when he founded the iconic event at Augusta National. What’s even crazier is that Bobby Jones retired at the young age of 28. Despite staying an amateur and retiring early he still won nine events and seven major championships.
Jones also won the British Amateur and US Amateur (which were considered majors at the time). In 1930, he won the two big amateur events and the two majors to be the only golfer to win the pre-Masters Grand Slam.
We can only wonder… How many titles would have won if he turned pro? Or didn’t retire so young?
6. Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer is one of the greatest golfers of all time for so many reasons. Yes, he won a lot – 62 major victories and seven major championships. Not to mention he had some epic rivalries with Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and other legends of the game.
But what makes Arnie one of the greatest of all time is his contribution to the game. Nicknamed “The King” he made golf cool and attracted tons of new players to the game. He also created the Arnold Palmer drink (lemonade with iced tea), started several charities, founded a PGA event, and more.
Here are a few other reasons why Arnie is one of the best golfers ever:
- He won the Masters four times.
- Captained the Ryder Cup at only 34 years old.
- Took home player of the year in 1960 and 1962.
- He had an estimated net worth of 875 million dollars when he passed away.
- He won 29 times in a four-year span, more than Jack or Tiger ever did in that time frame.
5. Walter Hagen
Walter Hagen comes in at number five on our best golfers list thanks to 45 PGA Tour victories and 11 major championships. In fact, he’s only one of three golfers (alongside Tiger and Jack) to win at least 10 major championships.
Like others on this list he might have won more major championships if not for a world war which canceled a ton of tournaments. Not to mention the Masters didn’t get started until 1934.
But one thing that Walter Hagen is known for is his incredible match play. During that time the PGA Championship was a match play event and he won it four years in a row!
4. Sam Snead
Sam Snead is another legendary golfer who won an unprecedented 82 times on the PGA Tour. This was the number Tiger was chasing for so many years and is now currently tied for most wins ever.
Sam often gets overlooked for “only” winning seven majors. But it’s important to remember that he only played the Open Championship five times. Not to mention that 14 majors were canceled due to World War II and Snead was in his prime.
Here are a few other awesome facts about Sam Snead:
- Finished third in the PGA Championship at 62 years old.
- He’s the oldest player ever to win a PGA Tour event (52 years old).
- He won 11 times in 1950 and ironically that year he didn’t win a major championship.
3. Ben Hogan
When you think of the best ball strikers in the world it’s impossible to not think of Ben Hogan. He was a true “range rat” and loved practice as much as any golfer ever. He believed in hard work and it paid off with one of the best looking swings ever.
So why is ranked number on the list of best golfers of all time?
Because he won 64 times on the PGA Tour and nine major championships. He also has a career grand slam as we won every major at least once.
But what’s most impressive is the ability to win despite a near fatal car accident in 1949. Some thought he might not make it, let alone play golf or ever compete professionally. But Hogan defied the odds and went to win player of the year in 1950, 1951, and 1953.
Ben Hogan was also incredibly consistent too. From 1940 to 1956 he played in 32 majors and finished in the top 10 in every event.
The only thing that might have held Hogan back from winning more (including World War II) is his putter. While he was a legendary ball striker, the flat stick held him back at times. As he said, “There is no similarity between golf and putting; they are two different games, one played in the air, and the other on the ground.”
Related: Golf Swing Basics
2. Jack Nicklaus
I know golf historians won’t like Jack (the Golden Bear) Nicklaus being number two on the list but hear me out. There’s no doubt Jack has the most major championships (18) which seemed like Tiger would destroy by age 40. But personal struggles and endless injuries have barely allowed him to get to 15.
So why is Jack number two? Despite his 18 major wins, 19 runner ups (which is an incredible feat) he never dominated like Tiger and won by insane margins. Nor did he impact the game at a global level as Tiger.
Don’t get me wrong, we respect Jack to the max but Tiger is arguably the face of golf. Here are some amazing Jack Nicklaus statistics that are absolutely unbelievable:
- He won each major at least three times.
- 73 top 10 finishes in majors (including a streak from 1971 to 1977 where he placed top 5 in 23 of 28 majors). Not to mention the six major titles in that time as well.
1. Tiger Woods
We think Tiger Woods is the goat aka the greatest of all time. With 82 PGA Tour wins and 15 majors, he is a true once in a lifetime player.
Tiger might not have as many majors as Jack Nicklaus but his global impact on the game is second to none. From the late 1990s to today Tiger still moves the needle for golf like no other player in the history of the game.
It’s only how often he won but how he did it in such a dominating fashion. In his first major victory he won by 12 shots at the 1997 Masters. He also lapped the field by an astonishing 15 shots at the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach.
Not to mention he found a way to hit shots that no other player in the world could pull off… oftentimes at the biggest moments. His 2008 US Open win at Torrey Pines was a grueling 90 hole battle while playing with a torn ACL. Or finding a way to win at the 2019 Masters after an 11-year major drought, personal struggles, and endless injuries.
Other Tiger Woods Accomplishments
While his wins are incredible, I think these stats are equally impressive and he made it to number one on our list of the best golfers.
- 142 consecutive cuts made: Tiger is arguably the most consistent player of all time. In a game as unpredictable as golf, to be able to not miss a cut from 1998 to 2005 is a feat that will likely never be broken.
- Winning percentage: Golf is a sport where you lose a lot more than you win… except Tiger. His winning percentage is close to 25% while most golfers have never surpassed a 10% win rate.
- The ultimate closer: Tiger is 53-4 when having a piece of the lead (or the outright lead) heading into the final day. Unreal!
- Tiger slam: While he was unable to complete the grand slam of golf (winning all four majors in a calendar year) he did win four majors in a row. He won the final three in 2000 and the 2001 Masters to become the first golfer to have all four trophies at once.
Related: How to Hit a Stinger Like Tiger
Picking 10 players is really hard but here are some noticeable mentions and random facts of other great golfers:
- Greg Norman – Spent 331 weeks as the world number one player. Although his recent move to head up LIV seems to have his legacy questioned by many.
- Rory McIlroy – He has a lot of career left but already won four majors and is the face of the PGA Tour.
- Vijay Singh – 34 wins and two major championships.
- Nick Faldo – Sir Nick won 30 times on the European Tour, six majors, and had an incredible broadcasting career.
- Ernie Els – Four majors, 19 PGA Tour victories, and an epic Presidents Cup match with Tiger Woods that ended in a tie.
- Byron Nelson – Won 11 events in a row (52 total).
- Seve Ballesteros – One of the legends of the game that we lost too early. He exploded on the golf scene and had one of the most creative games we’ve ever seen. He ended up with 65 wins worldwide and five major championships.
- Tom Watson – He’s a legend of the game with eight majors and nearly won his 9th at 59 years old.
- Billy Casper – The 1960s were dominated by the Big 3 – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player. But Billy Casper was as good as any despite not getting the headlines with 51 PGA Tour wins! Not to mention three major championships.
Do you have more questions about the best golfers ever? If so, keep reading to learn more now.
Who is considered the greatest golfer of all time?
This is a toss up between Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. While Jack has more major championships, Tiger has nearly as many majors, 82 PGA Tour wins, and made a global impact on the game.
Is Phil Mickelson the best golfer of all time?
For left-handed players, no doubt. Phil has won X times and X majors making him one of the most prolific players to ever play the game. Not to mention he has the most Ryder Cup appearances for team United States as well.
Where does John Daly rank all time?
John Daly definitely isn’t a top 10 all time player but he’s one of the most entertaining guys in golf. He was the 9th alternate in the 1991 PGA Championship which he went on to win in epic fashion. Not to mention his caddy that week was actually the player who had to withdraw to give John the final spot.
Who is golf world number one to never win a major?
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood sadly hold this title. Both players ascended to number one in the world but never won a major title.
Picking the top 10 players wasn’t easy as the game of golf has changed so much over the years. But one thing is for sure – we’re lucky to get to watch these guys compete at the highest levels. Only time will tell if a new player can break into the top 10 now that golf is more competitive than ever.
Who’s your favorite golfer of all time?
Let us know in the comments below.