Counting Down The 25 Greatest Golfers of All-Time

Bettmann/Getty Images

Can you name the 25 greatest golfers of all time? Seems like that ought to be an easy enough list to assemble, except it’s not. How can you truly compare players who played the same sport but were separated by 150 years, and the gulf in equipment and course conditions that naturally developed over such a span?

So we’re imposing a few common sense ground rules here. First, this is a list of male golfers. It’s hard enough to compare players over time – if you add the difference in gender and the differing evolution of the PGA and LPGA tours, confident comparisons become almost impossible. There’s enough great history in women’s golf that those players deserve a top 25 list of their own.

Let’s also stipulate that modern competitive golf did not commence until the first Open Championship (aka the British Open), played in 1860, while the beginnings of true tour golf in the United States date back to the 1920s. So there are only two golfers on the list who were playing professionally prior to 1910. Some of the game’s greatest early players who won multiple Open Championships, such as Old Tom Morris, Young Tom Morris, Willie Park Sr., John Henry Taylor and James Braid, aren’t included here. There just weren’t enough data points to reasonably evaluate them.

As to the makeup of the list itself, some things won’t surprise you. You can get 99.9 percent of golf experts to agree on two names at the very top, followed by a brigade or so of 10-12 names that would be agreed upon as royalty. From there, it gets more open to interpretation. Wins matter, but just like real golf has proven over the decades, major wins really matter. That is given the weight it deserves.

So here are our choices for the top 25 golfers of all time.