Picking a list of the most talented, most revered, and most influential golfers in history is a herculean task. Our countdown won’t go back to the very origins of the sport but will feature stars spanning over a hundred years of competition, ranging from trailblazers in golf’s early professional years to its dominators in the modern day.


Winning tournaments has gone a long way in our rankings, while grabbing a career grand slam is the icing on the cake. We’ve also considered players’ pure ability and their impact on the game’s growth.

The level of talent and legacy across the sport’s rich history is immense and means fan favourites like Seve Ballesteros and Rory McIlroy, plus incredible historic figures like Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson, have just missed out.

RadioTimes.com brings you our take on the best men's golf players of all time.

10. Phil Mickelson

We start our list with the most lethal leftie to play the sport. Phil Mickelson may now captain a team on the LIV Golf tour, but it should not be forgotten that the Californian is tied 8th all time for wins on the PGA Tour. The 53-year-old has 45 PGA wins - plus a reported 47 career hole-in-ones.

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Mickelson has victories at every major except the US Open – a feat few men have ever achieved. He won six majors in total, including three Masters titles, so he can be more than happy with his haul to date.

That ‘to date’ is very important too. The Hall of Famer’s phenomenal performance in the final round of last year’s Masters – hitting a 65 to tie for second – shows he’s got plenty left in the tank.

9. Walter Hagen

Sir Walter also missed out on a career grand slam by one tournament, but he was playing almost a century before Mickelson. Hagen excelled in the first half of the 20th century, racking up 11 majors from 1914 to 1929, including four consecutive PGA Championships. His incredible winning streak has Hagen tied with Mickelson on 45 tour victories, and third all-time in terms of majors won.

The Haig was an on and off-course entertainer, who helped to raise the stature of the game with his personable nature and wonderful golfing prowess. Not only did he excel with club in hand, Hagan made sure to leave the game in a better place than he found it.

8. Gary Player

The South African is the only non-American on our list, making him truly the greatest international golfer of all time. Player was one of the ‘Big Three’ golfers of the 1960s, alongside two of our list yet to be named, and managed to earn 159 professional wins around the globe.

He is still the only non-American to win a grand slam – and he did it with formidable aplomb. Player won three Masters, three Opens, two PGA Championships and the US Open during the 1960s and 70s and is tied for fourth all time in majors won. He may not compete with the rest of this list for PGA Tour victories, but Player was a model of hard work and dedication and should be credited with changing the face of golf internationally.

7. Tom Watson

Watson was a unique golfer who could hit long and scramble with the very best. His incredible peak from the late '70s into the '80s, in which he won PGA Player of the Year six times in eight years, is one of the most impressive periods of form from a single golfer. It didn’t curb his desire for the game either, as he played on the tour for over 40 years.

The 74-year-old from Kansas finished his PGA Tour career tied 10th all time with 39 victories. He was a master of playing with and against the conditions, earning five Open wins as part of his eight majors won. In the only major he never won, the PGA Championship, he finished tied second in 1978. Golf will always be a game of fine margins.

6. Bobby Jones

Before Bobby Jones would found and help design Augusta National - and also co-found the Masters - he was the most successful amateur golfer in the world. A lawyer by trade, Jones found time to become the first golfer to win a grand slam, then consisting of the US Open, US Amateur, British Open and British Amateur. He held the sport in an iron grip between 1923 and 1930, winning a remarkable 13 major championships before retiring at just 28 years old.

He played in 31 majors in all, finishing in the top 10 on 27 occasions. Jones’ influence on the game we watch today, through his on-course entertainment and post-career exploits, cannot be overstated.

5. Arnold Palmer

This legendary golfer has a legacy built on more than just the combination of iced tea and lemonade. The King was adored for his will to improve and win on the course and also the manner with which he held himself off it. He was a golfer people flocked to see play and a man of class and character they wanted to be around.

The former US Coast Guard had an incredible winning run from 1958 to 1970, sealing many of his 62 PGA tour wins, leaving him in fifth all time. His seven majors won could have been even more historic, too. Palmer finished tied second three times at the PGA Championship, the only competition missing from his grand slam. Thankfully, his legacy is transcendent without it.

4. Sam Snead

As far as the numbers go, Snead is in a class of his own. The Virginia-born golfer holds the record for most PGA Tour victories, with 82 wins sealed between 1936 and 1965. As we watch today’s elite players battle and fight and claw just to earn one victory on the tour, that achievement seems truly staggering.

His records go on and on. Snead finished in the top 10 in majors across five different decades. He won seven majors in total, just missing the US Open for his grand slam. His longevity was historic too: he is the oldest player to have ever shot a score lower than his age on the PGA Tour, hitting an incredible round of 66 at the Quad Cities Open when he was 67. Simply put, Snead was the most incredible winner golf has ever seen.

3. Ben Hogan

The Hawk’s career was nearly derailed before it had really begun. The beginning of Hogan’s professional career was interrupted by his service in the US Army Air Forces during the Second World War, and a few years after he had returned to golf he had a traumatic car accident which threatened more than just his occupation.

This context makes his recovery and subsequent success even more extraordinary. Hogan had one of the all-time great golf swings and the ball moved to his will. His remarkable tally of 64 PGA Tour wins leaves him fourth all time and includes nine majors and the career grand slam. He only missed seven cuts in the 300 PGA events he played. He holds the distinction of being the only man to win the Masters, US Open and British Open in the same year. Now, that you can call a comeback.

2. Jack Nicklaus

Our top two golfers were almost impossible to separate. Nicklaus deserves all the flowers for his iconic career and the dominance he held over the sport during the highly competitive era of the '60s and '70s. His tally of 73 PGA Tour wins can only be bettered by two men and none can match his potentially uncatchable record 18 major championship victories. He also finished second at majors on 19 other occasions.

Nicklaus duelled against the likes of Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Gary Player – all members of this list – and still his skill, both mental and physical, won out. The Golden Bear won a record six Masters and at least two PGA Tour events in 17 seasons running. At 26, he was the youngest ever Grand Slam winner, a record that would only be broken by the one man who ever had a chance. Nicklaus set the standard for modern golf, a standard only one man has ever matched up to.

1. Tiger Woods

Peak Tiger was the full package. He had every kind of shot in his arsenal. He had the career of a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. He had a winning mentality and an aura which captured the imagination of the world.

The 11-time PGA Tour Player of the Year has a list of records, accolades and achievements too long to even read in one sitting. He is tied number one all time for PGA Tour wins and won 15 majors, including enough to fill three separate Grand Slams. He is the only player ever to win four majors on the bounce and spent a ridiculous 683 weeks as the best golfer in the world.

He also made fans feel that impossible shots were no longer impossible. He made fans believe that as long as Tiger was standing over the ball, anything could happen. May we appreciate every event he is still a part of.

Who is the best golfer of all time?

Golf has grown at a rapid rate over the past century, with much of the credit due to players like Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer.

Nobody had the same combination of unbelievable ability, star power and tournament dominance that Tiger Woods possessed though, and that’s why he’s the best golfer of all time.

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