Outside of the U.S.A and a few other countries, no other nation has a better stable of golfers than South Africa. This may be surprising to some as Africa is largely thought of as a third world impoverished continent and golf is largely seen as a “rich man’s game”. But if you go down the list of famous golfers from South Africa, you may see some names that will surprise you. In a nation with just over 50 Million people (with many who are living in poverty), the golf culture is South Africa is legendary. Here I will take a look at some of the golfers that helped to put South Africa on the map.
The best golfer currently out there from South Africa is none other than Ernie Els. Throughout his career that began as a professional in 1989, Els has been among the best golfers on the planet. In the early 2000s, he was a staple in the top 10 golfers on the planet and has continued to have success into the 2010’s as well. He has 67 career wins, with four of them being majors. If it wasn’t for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, Els likely would’ve been seen as the best player of the 2000s.
While they may not be as well known as Els, there were numerous other South Africans that have been great players in the recent decade such as Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Trevor Immelman and Retief Goosen. Shwartzel is best known for his legendary win at the Masters in 2011 (which was actually his first USPGA win). Oosthuizen had a successful career on other pro tours, but became well known among golf fans in 2010 when he picked up a win at the 2010 British Open. And Immelman, though injuries have halted his career since, is without a doubt best known for winning the 2008 Masters. And other than Els, Goosen is probably the best South African in the recent years. His first win on U.S soil was actually the 2001 U.S Open and he added another U.S Open in 2004, which is a very impressive feat for any golfer.
But easily the best and most famous South African golfer of all time (and one of the best golfers ever, period) is none other than Gary Player. Along with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, Player was one of the “big three” of golf in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Player has over 160 pro wins in his career, with 24 of them being on the PGA Tour. He has also taken home 9 career majors in his illustrious golf career, which is tied for the 4th most of all time. He is one of the few golfers in history to have won each major once and was actually one U.S Open win away from winning each major at least twice, which is a monumental accomplishment.
As you can see, the golf history in South Africa runs deep and I wouldn’t be shocked to see more up and coming golf stars come out of South Africa following the path laid out by golfers like Gary Player and Ernie Els.