Famous Golf Quotes From Legends Of The Game

Professionals, amateurs, actors, singers, comedians, writers, and politicians have all had many words of wisdom and a lot of jokes and witty remarks about the game of golf.

Many of these quotes have become legendary and are often repeated on the course or at the nineteenth hole. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and check out some of the best.

The Legends:

Jack Nicklaus

Also known as ‘The Golden Bear’ is rated as the best golfer in history in terms of major wins and had many words of inspiration and advice such as…

Golf is a game of respect and sportsmanship; we have to respect its traditions and rules.

Success depends almost entirely on how effectively you learn to manage the game’s two ultimate adversaries: the course and yourself.

The worse you are performing, the more you must work mentally and emotionally. The greatest and toughest art in golf is playing badly well. All the true greats have been masters at it.

Don’t be too proud to take lessons. I’m not.

A kid grows up a lot faster on a golf course. Golf teaches you how to behave.

I never missed a putt in my mind.

Jack was highly competitive, determined, and strong-minded and on one occasion commented,

Nobody ever remembers who finished second at anything.

But being the true sportsman he is also added,

It’s great to win, but it’s also great fun just to be in the thick of any truly well and hard-fought contest against opponents you respect, whatever the outcome.

Jack had great respect for Arnold Palmer and credited him for much of the growth in popularity of the game of golf and had this to say about his fellow competitor:

I first saw Arnold Palmer when I was just a kid and he came to Columbus to play in a tournament. I watched him on the driving range hit balls that day. We went on to become great friends”.

Arnold Palmer

The gentleman golfer, nicknamed “The King”. Arnold set the standard for manners, etiquette, and sportsmanship in golf, but was also known as a fierce competitor as in this quote,

You must play boldly to win.” Another one that illustrates his competitive nature is, “I never rooted against an opponent, but I never rooted for him either.

His philosophical outlook on life and golf are best expressed by the following quotes:

Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.

Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character.

I’ve always made a total effort, even when the odds seemed entirely against me. I never quit trying; I never felt that I didn’t have a chance to win.

Arnold did not however lack a sense of humor,

I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s golf game: it’s called an eraser.

Golf is a game of inches. The most important are the six inches between your ears.

Jack (Nicklaus) navigates more by brain. I go more by heart. Intellect versus instinct. Jack versus Arnie.

Here are some more pearls of wisdom from the great man:

I’ve learned the great value of diplomacy and seeking an honorable peace. But part of that wisdom is knowing when to fight and another part is knowing when to fight even harder.

When you play by the rules, defy mental demons, overcome every challenge, and enjoy a walk in the country at the same time—that’s being alive.

To illustrate the humility of the man, this must be one of his best quotes:

There is no king of golf. Never has been, never will be. Golf is the most democratic game on Earth… It punishes and exalts us all with splendid equal opportunity.

Gary Player

Nicknamed ‘The Black Knight’ or ‘Mr. Fitness’. Compared to Jack and Arnie, Gary was quite small and worked very hard on his fitness and strength and was also fanatical about his diet.

Being South African he not only played the American circuit but traveled the world and is reputed to be the sportsman with the most air miles. Gary is the only non-American to win the “Grand Slam”, the four majors of golf. Gary had a strong mind and a positive philosophy about facing adversity.

To succeed in life one must have determination and must be prepared to suffer during the process. If one isn’t prepared to suffer during adversities, I don’t really see how he can be successful.

Simply by making the effort to start something, you will be miles ahead of almost everyone else.

I played with many golfers who were way better than me, but I won majors and they didn’t. The swing is not the thing. The mind gets you out of a bind. Attitude and determination are more important than your swing.

Golf is a puzzle without an answer. I’ve played the game for 40 years and still haven’t the slightest idea how to play.

When you play the game for fun, it’s fun. When you pay the game for a living, it’s a game of sorrows.

It is not quite clear how this quote came about, apparently a fan in the gallery said “Lucky shot” after Gary had hit a great recovery. Gary’s response was, “The more I practice the luckier I get”. He might not have been the first person to use this quote but most people still attribute it to him.


In the days before professional coaches, personal trainers, psychologists, and dieticians, these guys did it on their own and developed a strong set of life skills and values. The same can be said of the following ‘oldies’.

Reverse every natural instinct and do the opposite of what you are inclined to do, and you will probably come very close to having a perfect golf swing.

As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.

One reason golf is such an exasperating game is that a thing we learned is so easily forgotten, and we find ourselves struggling year after year with faults we had discovered and corrected time and again.

Ben Hogan

Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots–but you have you have to play the ball where it lies”.

Bobby Jones.

You don’t have the game you played last year or last week. You only have today’s game. It may be far from your best, but that’s all you’ve got. Harden your heart and make the best of it.

Walter Hagen.

Forget your opponents, always play against par.

Nobody asked how you looked, just what you shot.

Of all the hazards, fear is the worst.

If a lot of people gripped a knife and fork the way they grip a golf club, they’d starve to death.

Sam Snead.


Don’t play too much golf, two rounds a day are plenty

Harry Vardon

There have been some real characters over the years, like Chi Chi Rodriguez. He learned not to take life too seriously and enjoyed making fun of his Puerto Rican origin. Famously remembered for his sword dance on the 17th in the 1984 PGA Heritage.

I read the greens in Spanish, but putt in English.

After all these years, it’s still embarrassing for me to play on the American golf tour. Like the time I asked my caddie for a sand wedge and he came back ten minutes later with a ham on rye.

Golf is the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off.

I’ve heard people say putting is 50 percent technique and 50 percent mental. I really believe it is 50 percent technique and 90 percent positive thinking, see, but that adds up to 140 percent, which is why nobody is 100 percent sure how to putt.

Then there is the loveable Texan Lee Trevino with the nickname Supermex or The Merry Mex.

You can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.

My swing is so bad, I look like a caveman killing his lunch.

Pressure is when you play for 5 dollars a hole with only 2 in your pocket.

How can they beat me? I’ve been struck by lightning, had two back operations, and been divorced twice.

I’m going to win so much money this year, my caddie will make the top twenty money winner’s list.

If your caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightening, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.

Lee was once struck by lightening at the Western Open near Chicago in 1975 and suffered spinal injury.


Which brings us to a golfing preacher, Billy Graham who was heard to comment,

The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course.

Some more classics from the past:

Golf is a compromise between what your ego wants you to do, what experience tells you to do, and what your nerves let you do

Bruce Crampton.

One of the most fascinating things about golf is how it reflects the cycle of life. No matter what you shoot- the next day you have to go back to the first tee and begin all over again and make yourself into something.

Peter Jacobson.

Golf is the loneliest sport. Your completely alone with every conceivable opportunity to defeat yourself. Golf brings out your assets and liabilities as a person. The longer you play, the more certain you are that a man’s performance is the outward manifestation of who, in his heart, he really thinks he is.

Hale Irwin.

If you wish to hide your character, do not play golf.

Percey Boomer.

I don’t think it’s healthy to take yourself too seriously.

A bad attitude is worse than a bad swing.

Payne Stewart, who died tragically in an aircraft accident.

The golf swing is like a suitcase into which we are trying to pack too many things.

Golf appeals to the idiot in us and the child. Just how childlike golfers become is proven by their frequent inability to count past five.

John Updike.

Golf tips are like Aspirin. One may do you good but if you swallow the whole bottle, you’ll be lucky to survive.

Harvey Penick.

You’ve got to have the guts not to be afraid to screw up.

Fuzzy Zoeller.

Golf is the hardest game in the world. There is no way you can ever get it. Just when you think you do the game jumps up and puts you in your place.

Ben Crenshaw.

They call it golf, because all the other four letter words were taken”.

Raymond Floyd, this must have been a quote after a particularly bad day at the office!

A great shot is when you pull it off. A smart shot is when you don’t have the guts to try it.

Hit the shot you know you can hit, not the one you think you should.

I believe nicotine plus caffeine equals protein.

Phil Mickelson is known to be a bit of a gambler, his great shots versus smart shots are probably 50-50.

Golf is my passion, so is a great barbeque.

John Daly.

A golfer has to train his swing on the practice tee, then trust it on the course.

Dr. Bob Rotella.

Here’s one for the ladies,

Keep your sense of humor. There’s enough stress in the rest of your life not to let bad shots ruin a game your supposed to enjoy.

Amy Alcott.

Writers and authors have also added their literary talent to comment on the game

The uglier a man’s legs are, the better he plays golf. It’s almost a law.

H. G. Wells.

I regard golf as an expensive way to play marbles.

G. K. Chesterton.

Golf, like measles, should be caught young.

Golf, it’s the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well.

P. G. Wodehouse.

It’s good sportsmanship not to pick up lost balls while they are still rolling.

Golf is a good walk spoiled.

Mark Twain.

Golf combines two favorite American pastimes, taking long walks and hitting things with sticks.

P.J. O’Rourke.

The Presidents and politicians

I know I’m getting better at golf because I’m hitting fewer spectators.

Gerald Ford.

My golf-loving friend Bob Hope asked me what my handicap was, so I told him – the Congress.

Ronald Reagan.

I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now watch this drive.

George W Bush.

Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.

Winston S. Churchill.

Some of the best quotes come from the entertainers, especially the comedians, here are just some of them:

If you think it’s difficult meeting people, just pick up the wrong ball.

Jack Lemon.

Give me the fresh air, a beautiful partner, and a nice round of golf, and you can keep the fresh air and the golf.

Jack Benny.

If you drink, don’t drive, don’t even putt.

Dean Martin.

Bob Hope was a great lover and patron of the game, he played a lot of golf himself and hosted the Bob Hope Classic on the PGA tour, from 1960. As a comedian, he had many wise cracks about golf, many targeting himself and fellow players. This last section is dedicated to his memory.

Golf is my real profession. Entertainment is just a side line. I tell jokes to pay my greens fees.

If you watch a game, it’s fun. If you play it, it’s recreation. If you work at it, it’s golf

I’ve been playing the game so long that my handicap is in Roman numerals.

Golf is a funny game. It’s done much for health, and at the same time has ruined people by robbing them of their peace of mind. Look at me, I’m the healthiest idiot in the world.

If you think golf is relaxing, you’re not playing it right.

If you watch a game, it’s fun. If you play it, it’s recreation. If you work at it, it’s golf.

I’ve been playing the game so long that my handicap is in Roman numerals.


If I’m on the course and lightning starts, I get inside fast. If God wants to play through, let him.

There are many more notable quotes, and as the game continues to grow and attract people from all walks of life, so the advice, jokes, inspirational tips and fun will continue. As a parting shot, remember this one from Paul Harvey,

Golf is a game in which we shout, ‘Fore’, shoot six and write down five.

Enjoy and keep swinging.

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Nick is the founder of GolfSpan and an avid golfer. He's not quite a pro but has over 15 years of experience playing and coaching golfers worldwide. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience when it comes to choosing the right golf gear and finding the right setup for your game.

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