What Are the Most Playoff Holes in Golf History?

Everyone loves a playoff in golf. It could go either way and adds extra excitement, given that it is not seen often.

Given how well-loved it is, thoughts wander toward the longest golf playoff there has been, and it certainly went on for a while.

So, what are the most playoff holes in golf history? We need to go back to 1931 for the US Open. After 72 holes of normal golf, Billy Burke took another 72 playoff holes to beat George Von Elm. The United States Golf Association (USGA) has recently brought in a two-hole aggregate playoff so that we won’t see anything like the 72 holes again.

That is, by quite a way, the most playoff holes ever played. But there are plenty more examples of long playoffs.

By the end of this article, you will have all the information you need to know to reel off stats about the longest golf playoff in history to show off to all your friends and family.

What Is the Longest Playoff in Golf?

Golfers in a play off - Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@andrewturfnerd?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Andrew Anderson</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/golfers?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

We are not short of options when looking at the most playoff holes in PGA history. There is one standout, though.

The record for PGA playoff holes is 11 holes which occurred at the 1949 Motor City Open. Using a sudden death format, Cary Middlecoff and Lloyd Mangrum tied for 11 holes before the night drew in, and they had to stop. They were both announced as co-winners that year.

That is, in fact, the longest PGA sudden death playoff, too, as after an aggregate 3-hole playoff, sudden death comes into play. That means 8 holes were played in sudden death, and the pair holds the title for the most playoff holes in sudden death on the PGA Tour.

Some of the other longest playoffs the PGA Tour has seen include:

  • 8 holes at the 2012 Mayakoba Classic – John Huh won his first PGA Tour after an 8-hole playoff which helped him beat Robert Allenby. After 9 pars in a row, he took the title on the 10th hole, aged just 21.
  • 8 holes at the 1983 Phoenix Open – Bob Gilder took home the PGA Tour title after taking on Rex Caldwell, Johnny Miller, and Mark O’Meara in a playoff. He just made the playoff thanks to a 30-foot birdie putt on the last hole. Miller and O’Meara fell short in the playoff after the second hole when Gilder and Caldwell got birdies. Then after 8 holes, Gilder won with a birdie putt.
  • 8 holes at the 1981 Quad Cities open – After not expecting a playoff, Dave Barr was brought into the fold after Victor Regalado missed his final putt. He also faced Woody Blackburn, Frank Conner and Dan Halldorson in a five-person playoff before Barr came up trumps on the 8th hole with a putt.
  • 8 Holes at the 1978 Greater Milwaukee Open – Lee Elder won after 8 holes against Lee Trevino. The latter putt from 18 feet to ensure he stayed in the game on the last hole of regulation play but after 8 holes of playoff, Elder two-putted for the title.
  • 8 holes at the 1965 Azalea Open Invitational – Dick Hart ensured he made the playoff by making a birdie putt on the last hole of regulation before beating Phil Rodgers on the 8th hole to win the Invitational competition.

How Do Playoffs Work in Golf and on the PGA Tour?

The format for playoffs has varied over the years, but for tournaments such as the US Open run by the USGA, there is a two-hole aggregate playoff on the 1st and 18th holes. Whichever golfer has the lowest score over the two holes would be crowned the winner. If there were still a tie, sudden death would come into play.

The US Women’s Open also uses a two-hole aggregate playoff.

For the PGA Tour and The Players Championship, the playoff works with a three-hole aggregate playoff format. The 13th, 17th, and 18th holes are used with the golfer who scores the lowest wins. If two golfers are still drawing after this, sudden death then ensues.

The Women’s PGA Championship and British Open also use the above format.

The Masters goes straight to sudden death, and The Open uses a four-hole aggregate playoff to decide the winner.

A recently enjoyed playoff was at the Travelers Championship, where Harris English beat Kramer Hickok in an 8-hole playoff to take the title.

Every shot from epic 8-hole playoff: English vs. Hickok at Travelers

The Longest Playoff in Golf for the US Open

The US Open actually holds the record for the longest playoff in golf when Billy Burke defeated George Von Elm after 72 playoff holes. That followed 72 holes of regulation golf and after the playoff, Burke brought home his only major golfing title.

The Most Golf Playoff Holes at The Masters

The Masters was blessed with 36 playoff holes in 1935. Gene Sarazen beat Craig Wood at Augusta National, and the record still stands with The Masters now adopting a sudden-death playoff format. During regulation play in this tournament, Sarazen hit a shot dubbed as one of the best the tournament has seen as he got an albatross on the 15th hole.

What Are the Most Playoff Holes at The Open?

Lots of golfers have made it to 36 playoff holes at The Open. The winners of a playoff at that score include Bob Charles (1963), Peter Thomson (1958), Bobby Locke (1949), Denny Shute (1933), Jack Hutchison (1921), Harry Vardon (1896), Willie Park Jr (1889), and Willie Fernie (1883).

The Most Playoff Holes Ever Played at the US PGA Championship

The longest golf playoff in history at the PGA Championship is shared between three golfers. Vic Ghezzi (1941), Paul Runyan (1934), and Gene Sarazen (1923) were all victorious after 38 holes in the competition and, therefore, all hold the title.

Read more: Match Play Golf Format Explained – Tips & Guides

Final Thoughts

Playoffs don’t come around too often, so if you see one, enjoy the spectacle and talent on show.

Now you know how playoffs work, what is the most playoff holes in golf, the longest sudden-death playoff in golf, and how it differs across competitions.

Make sure you make use of the statistics now!


What’s the Record Number of Playoff Holes in the PGA Event?

The record number of playoff holes at the PGA Tour is 11. That took place at the 1949 Motor City Open, where Cary Middlecoff and Lloyd Mangrum were neck and neck for 11 holes, and then due to it being too dark, the game came to a close. Middlecoff and Mangrum were proclaimed joint winners. This is the longest golf sudden-death playoff the PGA Tour has seen.

What Are the Most Sudden Death Playoff Holes in Golf?

If you wanted to know: what is the longest sudden-death playoff in golf? You are in the right place. The longest sudden-death golf playoff on a men’s professional tour dates back to 1976. On the Japan Golf Tour at the Ube Kosan Open, previously known as the Pepsi-Wilson Tournament, Peter Thomson won after 14 sudden death holes.

How Many Golfers Can Make the Playoffs in the Same Match?

The maximum number of golfers that have previously made the playoffs in the PGA Tour in one game was 6, and this has happened on 3 separate occasions. The most recent was the Nissan Open (2001), where Robert Allenby won.

Jack was inspired by his Grandad Ron’s golfing and grew up playing this great game. Jack has a handicap index in the 30s and plays with the PING K15 driver and irons. Jack has written more than 40 articles on GolfSpan since 2022. Jack is always looking for ways to find the edge on the course to share with readers and played monthly at High Legh Golf Club near his home in Warrington, Cheshire. You can connect with Jack on X and LinkedIn.

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