Golf is having a boom. The National Golf Foundation reported a surge in participation and rounds played throughout 2020, with 24.8 million golfers hitting the greens. That’s 500,000 more than the year before and the biggest net increase in 17 years. The same year also saw the largest increase in beginning golfers and youth golfers since Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters.
So why are so many people getting into golf? Several reasons. The pandemic has created a boom for sports like golf that people can play outdoors and alone. Then there’s the ever-growing popularity of online sports betting. Advances in technology enable sports betting sites to connect fans with premium live golfing content and great sports betting odds. Exciting times lie ahead! To whet your appetite for more golf, read our round-up of the greatest moments in the history of the sport.
1913: “The greatest game ever played”
Golf is one of the world’s most-watched sports because the games can reach epic levels of drama. One such game occurred at the 1913 US Open. Twenty-year-old former caddie Francis Ouimet caused a sensation when he took down British stars Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. The play-off took place on the exact same course where he used to caddy for club members. Ouimet’s caddy was a 10-year-old boy called Eddie Lowery. Twin Peaks co-writer Mark Frost turned the drama into a book, and in 2007 Disney adapted the book into a movie: The Greatest Game Ever Played.
1920: The start of the pro circuit
Gentlemen golfers treated professional golfers as second-class citizens in the early days of golf in America. Pros weren’t even allowed in the clubhouse during tournaments. This attitude changed at the 1920 US Open when Inverness Club founder SP Germain welcomed pros to the clubhouse and locker room of his Toledo club. When the US Open returned to Toledo in 1931, Germain was gifted an honorary cathedral clock. You can still see it in the clubhouse today.
1930: Bobby Jones’ Grand Slam
American golfer Bobby Jones achieved a first that’s never been repeated. His 8-and-7 victory over Eugene Homans earned him the 1930 US Amateur title, and it also won him the Grand Slam. At the time, this required winning the US Open and Amateur as well as the British Open and Amateur in the same calendar year.
Jones netted a total of 13 major amateur and pro titles that year. It was the most any golfer had ever won in a year, and nobody thought a player would ever surpass this peak. But there’s something you should never forget when you’re golf betting: Golf is full of surprises, and eventually, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods both broke Jones’ record.
1935: The greatest golf shot in history
They called it “the shot heard ’round the world” when Gene Sarazen scored a double eagle on the 15th hole at the 1935 Augusta National. As Charles Price wrote in A Golf Story, “The ball struck the far bank of the water hazard abutting the green, skipped onto the putting surface, and softly rolled into the cup for a two.” That swing put Sarazen in a tie for the lead after being three behind, and he beat Craig Wood in a play-off the next day.
1945: Golf’s longest winning streak
Byron Nelson is the golf counterpart of Cy Young and Wilt Chamberlain. He won 11 straight wins in a season of 18 victories in 1945. Many argue that Nelson has demonstrated the highest sustained level of performance that golf has ever seen. His margins of victory were incredible: Playoff, eight, five, nine, 10, two, seven, 11 and four. He might have had an even better year if he had played more majors: The PGA Championship was the only one played in 1945.
1960: The King is crowned
1960 had been a good year for Arnold Palmer. He’d won five times that season, including his second Masters title at the Augusta National, which he won with birdies on the 17th and 18th. But he was seven shots behind at the start of the final round of the 60th US Open at Cherry Hills CC. He then went and hit six birdies in his first seven holes. It was the kind of go-for-broke style that won him a legion of fans known as Arnie’s Army, who fondly gave him the title of “The King.” They also loved Palmer because he was a kind and thoughtful player who wore his heart on his sleeve. With his charisma and his epic style, Palmer was the first golfing superstar of the TV era.
1965: The Golden Bear’s finest round
Palmer’s rivalry with fellow legends Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus also made for great TV. Together they were known as the Big Three, and golf fans worldwide hung on their every stroke. Then came the 1965 Masters. Tied with Palmer and Player after two rounds, Nicklaus, dubbed the Golden Bear, pulled away from the field with a performance as powerful as Secretariat’s epic horse racing win at the Belmont Stakes. He effectively hit 18 greens with a three-iron, making three par fives in two. No bogeys, no fives. Three of his drives went 320 yards or further, and he holed a 25-foot putt. Nicklaus said later in life that it was the best round of his career. Bobby Jones said, “He plays a game with which I am not familiar.” From then on until the 1980s, betting against Jack Nicklaus was bad golf betting odds. His total of 18 major wins is still the most of any player in history.
2001: The Tiger Slam
Fast forward to 1997. Many solid golf players had come and gone since the heydays of the Big Three, but nobody with the star quality that fans adore. Enter 21-year-old Tiger Woods: The first man of color to take a major championship, which he did in grand style by winning the Masters at Augusta by a record 12 shots. It was the beginning of a brilliant career that made Woods the most famous athlete in the world. He was so charismatic that people who’d never watched golf before would tune into golf tournaments. The average TV rating for the Masters was 9.5 when Woods was winning, dropping to 7.4 when another player was ahead.
Woods became the world’s top-ranked golfer in June 1997, less than a year after turning pro. He’s the only player to win four consecutive major professional golf titles. He achieved this “Tiger Slam” when he held off David Duval by two strokes and Phil Mickelson by three to win the 2001 Masters.
2021: The best online sports betting content
Tiger Woods was the darling of television audiences, but golf has moved beyond television, thanks to online sports betting developments like IMG Arena’s Golf Event Centre. It’s the first official live betting product specifically for golf fans. 2-D and 3D interfaces allow you to follow golf tournaments and your favorite players in real-time, with shot-by-shot data and betting markets as well as interactive course visualizations. The best sports betting sites are already using the Golf Event Centre to connect bettors with the PGA Tour, the European Tour and the Ryder Cup.
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