The Ten Best Golfers of All Time

By Ian John
May 22, 2022

Having seen Scottie Scheffler win the first Major the year when he landed the Green Jacket at the 2022 Masters tournament, it has led us on through an exciting season of Majors.

With the US Open, USPGA Championship and The Open now in the bag, the rest of the season will be focused on players positioning themselves for a tilt at the massive money on offer in the end of season Tour Championship events, like the FeDEX Cup and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Of course, you can view all the latest golf betting for all the big tournaments around the world every week of the year at bet365 Sport and remember to check out the bet365 Live Golf Tracker for up to the second data on tournaments – an especially useful tool if you like In Play betting on golf events.

So for this week’s Top Ten, we are going to turn our attention to one of the biggest questions that fans love to debate – Who was the best golf player ever?

For this article, we are considering male players (I will cover a female top 10 list in the future).

Criteria For The Top 10

Of course, it’s hard to compare players across different eras, but what I have imagined for this article is how players of yesteryear, when they were at their very, very best, would have competed against those golfers of modern times when they were at their best.

I’ve also factored in how important a top golfer was to the future of the game. Did what they achieve on the course lead to major changes in the future of golf? Of course, tournament wins (especially Majors), world rankings and such like play a key factor too, but I’ve also tried to work in players with genuine genius creativity with golf shots. Who can imagine and play shots that mere mortals can’t even begin to contemplate.

So with that in mind, let’s start our countdown of the top ten golfers of all time.

Top Ten Male Golfers In History

10. Seve Ballesteros (Spa)

  • Tournaments Won – 90
  • Majors Won – 5
  • Other Honours –  World Golf Hall of Fame Inductee, European Tour Order of Merit Winner – 6 times, European Tour Player of the Year – 3 times, Credited with being the driving force behind making the Ryder Cup the tournament it is today, World Number 1 for 61 weeks.

Seve is the reason the European tour thrived through the 1980s, an iconic personality whose genius for visualising and executing shots, from the most difficult of positions saw him idolised on the course. His importance to elevating the Ryder Cup to the competition it is today, rather than a biannual thrashing of a weak GB and Ireland team by the US, cannot be understated. He was the Tiger Woods figure of European Golf.

9. Gary Player (South Africa)

  • Tournaments Won – 160
  • Majors Won – 9
  • Other Honours – World Golf Hall of Fame Inductee, PGA Tour Leading Money Winner – Once, PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award, Presidential Medal of Freedom, first (and still the only) non American to win all four Majors .

The first non-American to make a big impact across the world and in the United States, along with Palmer and Nicklaus, Player defined golf in the 60s and 70s in particular where his achievements laid the foundation for other stars from around the world to follow in his footsteps.

8. Gene Sarazen (USA)

  • Tournaments Won – 48
  • Majors Won – 7
  • Other Honours –  World Golf Hall of Fame Inductee, Claims to have invented the Sand Wedge, hit “The Shot Heard Around The World” At the 15th at Augusta, An albatross 2.

One of the longest hitters in golf during his era, Gene Sarazen is one of just five players to win all of the four Majors at least once. His rivalry with Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen preceded that of Player, Palmer and Nicklaus and increased the popularity of golf around the world markedly. Sarazen’s invention of the sand wedge revolutionised the short game and its effects are still in evidence today.

7. Walter Hagen (USA)

  • Tournaments Won – 58
  • Majors Won – 11
  • Other Honours –  World Golf Hall of Fame Inductee, Won USPGA Championship four times in succession from 1924 to 1927

Hagen has won the third most Major title in history, his willingness to travel the world and play exhibition matches popularised golf hugely during the 1920s and 30s. For many people, Hagen was the key driving factor behind professional golf becoming more lucrative and allowing golfers to become fully professional, rather than having to rely on a secondary job, or playing in exhibitions to make ends meet..

6. Bobby Jones (USA)

  • Tournaments Won – 34
  • Majors Won – 7
  • Other Honours –  World Golf Hall Of Fame Inductee, Only Player To Complete the Pre-Masters Grand Slam (1930). Co-Founder of The Masters.

When you consider Jones was a part-time golfer, earning money as a lawyer, it is incredible to think of the influence he had on the game. Not only did he co-found the Masters, he also co-designed Augusta National. He regularly beat professionals Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen and all the tournaments and majors he won, he had done so by the age of 28 when he retired from competitive golf.

5. Arnold Palmer (USA)

  • Tournaments Won – 95
  • Majors Won – 7
  • Other Honours –  World Golf Hall of Game Inductee, PGA Tour Leading Money Winner – 4 times, PGA Player of the Year – Twice, PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award, Presidential Medal of Freedom

The reason many people started to earn big money from golf from the 1970s and onward is primarilyt down to the efforts of one man. Arnold Palmer was one of the first true global golfing icons and in addition to being hugely successful, it was his efforts in making golf more appealing by increasing prize money, that has led to the multi-million tours that operate around the world today.

4. Ben Hogan (USA)

  • Tournaments Won – 71
  • Majors Won – 9
  • Other Honours – World Golf Hall Of Fame Inductee, PGA Tour Leading Money Winner – 5 time, PGA Player of the Year – 4 times  

If you have ever had your golf swing broken down and analysed and worked towards improving it, chances are you will be using the foundations laid down by Ben Hogan. Not just an incredible golfer, and one of the few with a career grand slam, however it is also h is imfluence on the teaching and application of golf techniques and the breakdown of the mechanics of the swing that have gone on to influence players for generations since. Rated by his peers as being one of the very few golfers to have complete mastery of his swing.  

3. Sam Snead (USA)

  • Tournaments Won – 142
  • Majors Won – 7
  • Other Honours –  World Golf Hall of Fame Inductee, PGA Leading Money Winner – 3 times, PGA Golfer of The Year – Once, PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award – 1998

Sam Snead taught himself to play golf by carving his own set of clubs from tree branches. It is worth remembering that due to World War II, Snead was forced to miss 14 Major Championships as he served in the Air Force. His longevity saw him win tournaments in six different decades. Viewed by many as having the perfect golf swing, Gary Player once said that “Sam Snead had the greatest golf swing of any human being that ever lived.”

2. Jack Nicklaus (USA)

  • Tournaments Won – 117
  • Majors Won – 18
  • Other Honours – World Gold Hall of Fame Inductee, PGA Tour Money Leader – 8 times, PGA Tour Player of the Year – 5 times, PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award , Presidential Medal of Freedom

The most decorated Major winner in golf history, the Golden Bear still holds onto that title by three tournaments in a career that saw him at the top of the game from the early 1960s to mid 1980s. Without Nicklaus, modern golf would not be where it is today and along with Palmer and Player, he is credited as being the forefathers of the modern game of golf.

1. Tiger Woods (USA)

  • Tournaments Won – 110
  • Majors Won – 15
  • Other Honours – World Golf Hall Of Fame Inductee, FeDEX Cup Champion Twice, PGA Tour Leading Money Winner – 10 times, PGA Tour Player of The Year – 11 times. Only player in history to hold all four Majors at the same time (2000 USPGA, 2000 US Open, 2000 British Open, 2001 Masters), World Number 1 for 683 weeks, Presidential Medal of Freedom

Woods may not have won quite so many tournaments or Majors as Nicklaus but at his best, he was the finest golfer to have ever lived. In an era when competition was so fierce, for Woods to remain at the top for so long and win so many events is truly astonishing. Injuries have robbed him of many more opportunities to win more events but Woods’ influence on the game of golf will last for decades to come and he isn’t finished yet.

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