The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Golfers of all time. This list of famous Golfers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Golfers.
With an HPI of 57.04, Jack Nicklaus is the most famous Golfer. His biography has been translated into 38 different languages on wikipedia.
Jack William Nicklaus (born January 21, 1940), nicknamed The Golden Bear, is an American retired professional golfer and golf course designer. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest golfers of all time. He won 117 professional tournaments in his career. Over a quarter-century, he won a record 18 major championships, three more than second-placed Tiger Woods. Nicklaus focused on the major championships—the Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship—and played a selective schedule of regular PGA Tour events. He competed in 164 major tournaments, more than any other player, and finished with 73 PGA Tour victories, third behind Sam Snead (82) and Woods (82). Nicklaus won the U.S. Amateur in 1959 and 1961 and finished second in the 1960 U.S. Open, two shots behind Arnold Palmer. Nicklaus turned professional at age 21 toward the end of 1961. He earned his first professional victory at the 1962 U.S. Open, defeating Palmer by three shots in a next-day 18-hole playoff and launching a rivalry between golf superstars. In 1966, Nicklaus became the first player to win the Masters Tournament two years running; he also won The Open Championship, becoming at age 26 the youngest player to win all four golf majors. He won another Open Championship in 1970.Between 1971 and 1980, he won nine more major championships, overtook Bobby Jones's record of 13 majors, and became the first player to complete double and triple career grand slams. He won the 1986 Masters, his 18th and final major championship at age 46, the tournament's oldest winner. Nicklaus joined the Senior PGA Tour (now known as the PGA Tour Champions) when he became eligible in January 1990, and by April 1996 had won 10 tournaments, including eight major championships despite playing a very limited schedule. He continued to play at least some of the four regular Tour majors until 2005 when he made his final appearances at the Masters Tournament and The Open Championship. Today, Nicklaus heads Nicklaus Design, one of the world's largest golf course design and construction companies. Nicklaus runs an event on the PGA Tour, the Memorial Tournament, named after the annual honoring it bestows to individuals associated with the game of golf. Nicklaus's books vary from instructional to autobiographical, with his Golf My Way considered one of the best instructional golf books of all time; the video of the same name is the best-selling golf instructional to date.
With an HPI of 53.59, Arnold Palmer is the 2nd most famous Golfer. His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.
Arnold Daniel Palmer (September 10, 1929 – September 25, 2016) was an American professional golfer who is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most charismatic players in the sport's history. Dating back to 1955, he won numerous events on both the PGA Tour and the circuit now known as PGA Tour Champions. Nicknamed The King, Palmer was one of golf's most popular stars and seen as a trailblazer, the first superstar of the sport's television age, which began in the 1950s. Palmer's social impact on golf was unrivaled among fellow professionals; his modest origins and plain-spoken popularity helped change the perception of golf from an elite, upper-class pastime of private clubs to a more populist sport accessible to middle and working classes via public courses. Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player were "The Big Three" in golf during the 1960s; they are credited with popularizing and commercializing the sport around the world. In a career spanning more than six decades, Palmer won 62 PGA Tour titles from 1955 to 1973. He is fifth on the Tour's all-time victory list, trailing only Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Ben Hogan. He won seven major titles in a six-plus-year domination from the 1958 Masters to the 1964 Masters. He also won the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998, and in 1974 was one of the 13 original inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
With an HPI of 53.08, Tiger Woods is the 3rd most famous Golfer. His biography has been translated into 84 different languages.
Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods (born December 30, 1975) is an American professional golfer. He is tied for first in PGA Tour wins, ranks second in men's major championships, and holds numerous golf records. Woods is widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time and is one of the most famous athletes in modern history. He is an inductee of the World Golf Hall of Fame.Following an outstanding junior, college, and amateur golf career, Woods turned professional in 1996 at the age of 20. By the end of April 1997, he had won three PGA Tour events in addition to his first major, the 1997 Masters, which he won by 12 strokes in a record-breaking performance. He reached number one in the world rankings for the first time in June 1997, less than a year after turning pro. Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, Woods was the dominant force in golf. He was the top-ranked golfer in the world from August 1999 to September 2004 (264 consecutive weeks) and again from June 2005 to October 2010 (281 consecutive weeks). During this time, he won 13 of golf's major championships. The next decade of Woods's career was marked by comebacks from personal problems and injuries. He took a self-imposed hiatus from professional golf from December 2009 to early April 2010 in an attempt to resolve marital issues with his wife at the time, Elin. Woods admitted to multiple infidelities, and the couple eventually divorced. He fell to number 58 in the world rankings in November 2011 before ascending again to the number-one ranking between March 2013 and May 2014. However, injuries led him to undergo four back surgeries between 2014 and 2017. Woods competed in only one tournament between August 2015 and January 2018, and he dropped off the list of the world's top 1,000 golfers. On his return to regular competition, Woods made steady progress to the top of the game, winning his first tournament in five years at the Tour Championship in September 2018 and his first major in 11 years at the 2019 Masters. Woods has held numerous golf records. He has been the number one player in the world for the most consecutive weeks and for the greatest total number of weeks of any golfer in history. He has been awarded PGA Player of the Year a record 11 times and has won the Byron Nelson Award for lowest adjusted scoring average a record eight times. Woods has the record of leading the money list in ten different seasons. He has won 15 professional major golf championships (trailing only Jack Nicklaus, who leads with 18) and 82 PGA Tour events (tied for first all time with Sam Snead). Woods leads all active golfers in career major wins and career PGA Tour wins. Woods is the fifth (after Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus) player to achieve the career Grand Slam, and the youngest to do so. He is also the second golfer (after Nicklaus) to achieve a career Grand Slam three times. Woods has won 18 World Golf Championships. He was also part of the American winning team for the 1999 Ryder Cup. In May 2019, Woods was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Donald Trump, the fourth golfer to receive the honor.On February 23, 2021, Woods was hospitalized in serious but stable condition after a single-car collision and underwent emergency surgery to repair compound fractures sustained in his right leg in addition to a shattered ankle. In an interview with Golf Digest in November 2021, Woods indicated that his full-time career as a professional golfer was over, although he would continue to play "a few events per year". He returned to the PGA Tour for the first time since the car accident at the 2022 Masters.
With an HPI of 47.35, Ben Hogan is the 4th most famous Golfer. His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.
William Ben Hogan (August 13, 1912 – July 25, 1997) was an American professional golfer who is generally considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game. He is notable for his profound influence on golf swing theory and his ball-striking ability.Hogan's nine career professional major championships tie him with Gary Player for fourth all-time, trailing only Jack Nicklaus (18), Tiger Woods (15) and Walter Hagen (11). He is one of only five players to have won all four majors: the Masters Tournament, The Open Championship (despite only playing once), the U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship. The other four are Nicklaus, Woods, Player, and Gene Sarazen; Hogan's first major win came at age 34.
With an HPI of 45.09, Walter Hagen is the 5th most famous Golfer. His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.
Walter Charles Hagen (December 21, 1892 – October 6, 1969) was an American professional golfer and a major figure in golf in the first half of the 20th century. His tally of 11 professional majors is third behind Jack Nicklaus (18) and Tiger Woods (15). Known as the "father of professional golf," he brought publicity, prestige, big prize money, and lucrative endorsements to the sport. Hagen is rated one of the greatest golfers ever.Hagen won the U.S. Open twice, and in 1922 he became the first native-born American to win The Open Championship, and won the Claret Jug three more times. He also won the PGA Championship a record-tying five times (all in match play), and the Western Open five times when it had near-major championship status. Hagen totaled 45 PGA wins in his career, and was a six-time Ryder Cup captain.
With an HPI of 44.65, Babe Didrikson Zaharias is the 6th most famous Golfer. Her biography has been translated into 35 different languages.
Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias (; née Didrikson; June 26, 1911 – September 27, 1956) was an American athlete who excelled in golf, basketball, baseball and track and field. She won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Summer Olympics, before turning to professional golf and winning 10 LPGA major championships. She is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
With an HPI of 42.76, Lee Trevino is the 7th most famous Golfer. His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.
Lee Buck Trevino (born December 1, 1939) is an American retired professional golfer who is regarded as one of the greatest players in golf history. He was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1981. Trevino won six major championships and 29 PGA Tour events over the course of his career. He is one of only four players to twice win the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship. The Masters Tournament was the only major that eluded him. He is an icon for Mexican Americans, and is often referred to as "The Merry Mex" and "Supermex," both affectionate nicknames given to him by other golfers.
With an HPI of 42.22, Sam Snead is the 8th most famous Golfer. His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.
Samuel Jackson Snead (pronounced [sni:d]; May 27, 1912 – May 23, 2002) was an American professional golfer who was one of the top players in the world for the better part of four decades (having won PGA of America and Senior PGA Tour events over six decades) and widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. Snead was awarded a record 94 gold medallions, for wins in PGA of America (referred to by most as the PGA) Tour events and later credited with winning a record 82 PGA Tour events tied with Tiger Woods, including seven majors. He never won the U.S. Open, though he was runner-up four times. Snead was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. Snead's nicknames included "The Slammer", "Slammin' Sammy Snead", and "The Long Ball Hitter from West Virginia", and he was admired by many for having a "perfect swing", which generated many imitators. Snead was famed for his folksy image, wearing a straw hat, and making such statements as "Keep close count of your nickels and dimes, stay away from whiskey, and never concede a putt." and "There are no short hitters on the tour anymore, just long and unbelievably long." Fellow West Virginia Golf Hall of Fame Inductee Bill Campbell has said of Snead, "He was the best natural player ever. He had the eye of an eagle, the grace of a leopard and the strength of a lion." Gary Player once said that, "I don't think there's any question in my mind that Sam Snead had the greatest golf swing of any human being that ever lived." Jack Nicklaus said that Snead's swing was "so perfect."
With an HPI of 40.22, Tom Watson is the 9th most famous Golfer. His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.
Thomas Sturges Watson (born September 4, 1949) is an American retired professional golfer on the PGA Tour Champions, formerly on the PGA Tour. In the 1970s and 1980s, Watson was one of the leading golf players in the world, winning eight major championships and heading the PGA Tour money list five times. He was the number one player in the world according to McCormack's World Golf Rankings from 1978 until 1982; in both 1983 and 1984, he was ranked second behind Seve Ballesteros. He also spent 32 weeks in the top 10 of the successor Sony Rankings in their debut in 1986.Watson is also notable for his longevity: at nearly sixty years of age, and 26 years after his last major championship victory, he led after the second and third rounds of The Open Championship in 2009, but lost in a four-hole playoff. With a chance to win the tournament with par on the 72nd hole, he missed an 8-foot (2.4 m) putt, then lost to Stewart Cink in the playoff. Several of Watson's major victories came at the expense of Jack Nicklaus, the man he replaced as number one, most notably the 1977 Masters, 1977 Open Championship, and the 1982 U.S. Open. Though his rivalry with Nicklaus was intense, their friendly competitiveness served to increase golf's popularity at the time. In Watson's illustrious career, his eight major championships include five Open Championships, two Masters titles, and one U.S. Open title. The only major that has eluded him is the PGA Championship; if he had won it would have put him in an elite group of golfing "career grand slam" winners that includes Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. In all, Watson's eight majors ranks sixth on the list of total major championship victories, behind only Nicklaus, Woods, Walter Hagen, Hogan, and Player. Watson is also regarded as one of the greatest links players of all time, a claim backed up by his five Open Championship victories, his runner-up finishes at the 1984 Open Championship and 2009 Open Championship, and his three Senior British Open Championship titles in his mid-50s (2003, 2005, and 2007). Watson played on four Ryder Cup teams and captained the American side to victory in 1993 at The Belfry in England. More than twenty years later, Watson again captained the U.S. Team in 2014 in Scotland, this time in a loss.
With an HPI of 39.00, Byron Nelson is the 10th most famous Golfer. His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.
John Byron Nelson Jr. (February 4, 1912 – September 26, 2006) was an American professional golfer between 1935 and 1946, widely considered one of the greatest golfers of all time. Nelson and two other legendary champions of the time, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, were born within seven months of each other in 1912. Although he won many tournaments in the course of his relatively brief career, he is mostly remembered today for having won 11 consecutive tournaments and 18 total tournaments in 1945. He retired officially at the age of 34 to be a rancher, later becoming a commentator and lending his name to the Byron Nelson Classic, the first PGA Tour event to be named for a professional golfer. As a former Masters champion he continued to play in that annual tournament, placing in the top-10 six times between 1947 and 1955 and as high as 15th in 1965.In 1974, Nelson received the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf, and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He became the second recipient of the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. He received the 1994 Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, GCSAA's highest honor. Nelson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2006.
Pantheon has 23 people classified as golfers born between 1892 and 1993. Of these 23, 17 (73.91%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living golfers include Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Lee Trevino. The most famous deceased golfers include Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, and Walter Hagen.
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Which Golfers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 6 most globally memorable Golfers since 1700.