Who has earned the most money playing golf? Tiger right? Wrong…

That’s what I thought.

With 14 major wins, player of the year 11 times in a row, and the second richest African American in the U.S. behind Oprah Winfrey with an estimated net worth at $640 million it feels like an automatic shoe in for that title doesn’t it? but no, there is one man who has achieved more.

Want to know who it is?

Arnold Palmer.

Surprised? I guess I was.

Arnold may have earned his last major(s), (the 1968 Masters and British Open) at the age of 33 a staggering 53 years ago, but the king is golf’s all time highest money earner with an estimated net worth of $675 million.

He was my Dad’s hero growing up. No question.

AP had a magical quality with the playing public, and had an enviable knack of being able to appear humble and forthright, when interviewed. Maybe that’s because he was. He was the first real swashbuckling hero of sport, in an era where television broadcasting was starting to change the sporting landscape and bring the game to the masses. Arnold’s Wikipedia entry frames his authenticity as well as anything I have read about the great man,

Palmer’s social impact on behalf of golf was perhaps unrivaled among fellow professionals; Palmer’s humble background and plain-spoken popularity helped change the perception of golf as an elite, upper-class pastime to a more democratic sport accessible to middle and working classes“.

Arnold managed to capitalise on his popularity and launched the Arnold Palmer Invitational (renamed the Bay Hill invitational in 2007) at the course he owned, the Bay Hill Club and Lodge. The success of this tournament ultimately led to the founding of the Golf Channel. He subsequently carved out a post retirement career as a successful course designer, amongst other interests including latterly innovative licensing contracts for the use of his name.

Perhaps the most surprising statistic is that Jack Nicklaus, Arnold’s nemesis in many tournament run-ins is a long way behind in the money stakes. Nicklaus is allegedly worth $280 million according to the Celebrity Net Worth blog.

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Whilst both men are hugely successful as course designers, Arnold has more than double Nicklaus’s estimated net worth.

That surprised me.

Jack has an incredibly successful merchandising business in Golden Bear Inc., and some would regard him as having been the more successful of the two whilst playing, with 113 tournament wins, 18 of which were Major victories.

Wouldn’t it be an interesting topic for discussion……..if any of the up and coming stars like Jordan Speith, Rory Mcllroy, Jason Day et al were ever able to replicate the success of either of these two in modern times, how would this be represented in net worth calculations. Allowing for adjustments in prize money, endorsements (which were unheard of at the time of Palmer versus Jack), inflation, PR and so on, I wonder if there would be any way to correlate the two?

A debate for the next generation.

Pouring over the stats, a couple of other interesting jumped out.

Fred Couples, download (21)$105 million in estimated net worth. WOW. Didn’t expect that.

Couples turned pro in 1980, and whilst he has won fifteen PGA tour events, three European Tour and eleven Champions Tour titles he has only one Major – the Masters in 1992. BUT, he has been a prolific winner on the Seniors tour.

Goes to show that longevity on tour(s) pays out.



roryRory Mcllroy, $90 million in estimated net worth.

Fastest riser, no doubt.

Although, keep a lookout in that rearview mirror Rory, Jordan and Jason have you in the cross hairs!





download (20)Greg Norman, $300 million in estimated net worth. Mmmmm, really!

Second thoughts……..What was I thinking?

Greg has won 2 Majors (both at the British Open in 1986 and 1993), 288 other worldwide victories, finished 2nd SEVEN times in Major tournaments and managed to claim the No.1 golfer spot for an incredible 331 weeks during the late 70’s and 80’s. Oh …… he also has a small retail business called Great White Shark Enterprises, a course design gig, Greg Norman Course Design GNCD, Medallist Developments, Southern Cross Developments, Turf Company, Greg Norman Estates (wineries), Valderrama Golf Course, GSH Investments, Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy, and of course his book The Way of the Shark, which he published in 2006. ALL of which do quite well.




Who needs to win golf tournaments!

Of course if that was purely the case then Sam Snead would be the richest golfer to have walked the planet….





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