10 golfers who changed the game forever

Published 14/07/2009 19:13:31

Deciding who's the best golfer of all time is a pointless and fruitless task - you can't compare men of different eras. Some men have changed the game forever without winning as many majors as Jack or Tiger. In this article we take a look at the men who have changed golf forever - and for the better.


1. Allan Robertson

Robertson was something of a superstar in his day - the first golfer to break 80 and allegedly gamed a lot of his opponents for money. In those days golf was generally played between rich men for wagers. Legend has it Robertson never lost.

Such was his status as Champion, The Open Championship was formed the year after his death in 1860 - to find out who would take the mantle as the best golfer in the world.


2. Old Tom Morris

The first ever 4-time winner of the Open Championship. Morris was also the first greenskeeper, and his innovations changed the way the game is played and how courses are kept. For instance he discovered/invented the method of top dressing greens, which is how we get smooth fast rolling greens. Old Tom was also the first real golf course designer.


3. Young Tom Morris

Young Tom also won four Open Championships from 1868 to 1872 as well as getting the first ever hole-in-one at an Open. Young Tom learned from his father and was miles ahead of any available competition before his tragic death at the tender age of 24.

Young Tom has been likened to Gary Player and brought flamboyance and showmanship to a game that had never seen the likes before. It is fitting that he was the first winner of the Claret Jug trophy in 1872.

4. Harry Vardon

The only man to win six British Opens, Vardon won seven majors in total and is one of the finest players of all time. Vardon is still the best English golfer ever.

Vardon's name continues throughout the years thanks to his invention of the "Vardon grip", perhaps more commonly known as the overlapping grip. Though Vardon never actually invented this grip, he certainly brought it to popular attention.


5. Walter Hagen


Hagen's tally of 11 majors is bettered by few but perhaps his biggest success was emerging as a true "golf pro" at a time when the distinction between amateur and professional was stark. Hagen was a proud torch-bearer for the game, with his charisma gaining attention and noteriety around the world.

Known as "the Haig" or even "Sir Walter", Hagen raised the profile of the game and is often attributed with being the first sportsman to earn a million dollars.

"I never wanted to be a millionaire, just to live like one".


6. Bobby Jones

Despite choosing to stay as an amateur, Jones won an incredible 13 majors. It's worth noting that at the time of his career, amateur championships stood as majors. The updated stats show Jones as just a 7-time major winner. Either way, he's a legend.

It's worth noting that Bobby also retired at the tender age of 28 - incredible.

But not just a great player, Jones also helped design the Augusta National course and helped form The Masters - one of the most prestigious of the golf majors.

7. Ben Hogan

Hogan is one of the best ball-strikers of all time and had a swing that many modern pros would kill for.

One of the most impressive things about Hogan was his adversity - he suffered a career-threatening car accident and still fought on to win more majors. Doctors told him he'd never swing a club again but he proved them wrong and how.

8. Arnold Palmer

Palmer was as charismatic and good-looking as he was talented. That is to say - impressively so.

Palmer pioneered the media game at a time when television was exploding. Golf become a sport of the masses thanks to people like Palmer.

Oh and seven majors isn't too shabby either!

9. Jack Nicklaus

Jack is still the best golfer ever - it's that simple. Unless Tiger gets his skates on, this statement won't be out of date for a good few years yet. He won 18 majors and finished second in majors an incredible 19 times.

He did all this with competition from the likes of Palmer and Watson too. Jack was so good they thought no-one would ever catch him. But then they didn't know about the next guy on the list.

10. Tiger Woods

Woods is a marketer's dream. He's cross-cultural, ethically whiter-than-white (and so are his teeth), good looking, physically impressive and massively talented. Tiger is so talented that he could double Jack's record providing his dodgy knee holds out. Many of his peers feel he's the best ever to play the game.

The only barrier to Tiger becoming the best player ever is himself. His mental strength is second to none and he's brought golf to the masses and helped remove the stigma of racism from the game.


1.  A very interesting list. I nice change of pace from the customary "Was Bobby better than Ben?" type discussions.

As I read the opening paragraphs I started thinking about who I'd put on a list, and they all wound up being in the top ten. Some, like Jones and Palmer, are there for dramatically changing the popularity of the game. Others, like Vardon, Hogan, Jack and Tiger, are on it for changing the way it's played. Walter Hagen is one of my all time heroes, and perpetually on my "Dream foursome of all time".

I might include Alister MacKenzie on my list, for his contribution to the art of golf course architecture.

And who can forget Joseph L Owades, the inventor of Miller Lite?

Should Deane Beman be on the list, for his work with the PGA Tour over his 20 years in charge, including ushering in stadium golf?

Way to go, IntotheRough.

comment by Golfer In Kilt - 25/08/2009 14:53

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