The tallest professional golfers

Great golf has been played by golfers of every size and shape, including golfers with severe handicaps. However, very tall yet successful golfers are a rarity.

Great golf has been played by golfers of every size and shape, including golfers with severe handicaps. However, there is a rather limited number of very tall golfers who have found consistent success in the professional game.

Historically, tall golfers were handicapped by a lack of appropriate equipment adapted to their height.

Although theoretically height gives a golfer the advantage of a bigger swing arc, timing and control become more difficult. The two most successful golfers in history are by modern standards of average height: Jack Nicklaus is 5ft 10in (1m.78) and Tiger Woods stands 6ft 1in (1m.85).

However, that is not to say that several tall golfers have not enjoyed impactful success on tour.

American George Bayer won three PGA Tour titles in the late ’50s and early ’60s, stood 6ft 5in (1m.96), and was a phenomenon of power. He regularly drove the ball over 300 yards with standard length clubs, and did so in the era of laminated or persimmon woods and golf balls with often inconsistent rubber windings. Were Bayer to play today with modern customised equipment and golf balls, it is probable that he would be the longest driver in the game.

So here is the (rather short!) list of extremely tall professional golfers:

George Archer

Standing at 6ft 5½in (1m.97), Archer won the 1969 Masters and a total of 12 US PGA Tour titles in his career, to which he added another 19 Champions Tour victories. For a big man, Archer possessed a superb putting touch, and held the PGA Tour record for the fewest putts over four rounds with only 95 putts at the 1980 Sea Pines Heritage Classic. His record stood until 1986 when another tall major champion, Bob Tway (see below) reduced it to 94.

Bob Tway

At 6ft 4in (1m.93), Tway won the 1986 PGA Championship, famously holing a bunker shot on the 18th in the final round at the Inverness Club in Ohio to defeat Greg Norman by two shots. That victory helped him spend 25 weeks in the top ten of the Official World Golf Ranking in 1986-7. Less gloriously, Tway also holds the record for the worst recorded score at the Sawgrass Stadium Course’s infamous island green 17th. During the third round of the 2005 Players Championship he put four balls in the water, found the green with his fifth and then three-putted for a 12. In total, Tway won eight PGA Tour titles in his career.

Stewart Cink

Cink, towering over most of his tour colleagues at 6ft 4in (1m.93), won the 2009 Open Championship in a playoff with 59 year old and five-time Open Champion Tom Watson. He has also finished third in each of the other three majors, doing so at the 2008 Masters, the 2001 US Open and the 1999 PGA Championship. He has a total of six PGA Tour wins to his credit.

Sir Nick Faldo

At 6ft 3in (1m.91), Faldo is easily the most successful tall golfer in terms of major championships won, boasting a total of six. He claimed the Open Championship in 1987, 1990 and 1992, and the Masters in 1989, 1990 and 1996. He also finished second in the 1988 US Open and tied for second in the 1992 PGA Championship. He won 30 European Tour titles and 9 times on the PGA Tour, winning the European Order of Merit in 1983 and 1992.

He is also the most successful Ryder Cup player of all time, having won 25 points from 46 matches in 11 appearances.

Although not a particularly long hitter, the swing changes he made
with coach David Leadbetter in the mid-80s saw him become one of the game’s most controlled and composed golfers, famously winning his first major, the 1987 Open at Muirfield, with a final round composed of 18 straight pars.

Sir Nick was knighted for services to golf in 2009.

Ernie Els

Also 6ft 3in (1m.91), Els is second among tall golfers to Faldo in major championship victories with two US Opens in 1994 and 1997 and an Open Championship in 2002. In addition, he was runner-up in the Masters in 2000 and 2004, and third in the PGA Championship in 1995 and 2007. He has a total of 16 PGA Tour wins and 24 European Tour titles. Ernie won the European Order of Merit in 2003 and 2004, and has won many more titles around the world. Els epitomises the seemingly effortless power of the tall golfer, earning the nickname ‘The Big Easy’ for his smooth, rhythmical swing.

Tom Weiskopf

Weiskopf (6ft 3in) took the 1973 Open Championship, as well as six other tournaments around the world that year. He ended 1973 ranked world number two. Despite that, and despite a career total of 16 PGA Tour wins and four Champions Tour titles (including the 1995 US Senior Open – a senior major), he is often considered one of the game’s great under-achievers, frequently preferring to go hunting rather than play golf. This earned him much criticism in 1977, when he passed up a Ryder Cup place after playing in the winning 1973 and 1975 US sides.

Davis Love III

Coming in at 6ft 3in, Love III won the 1997 PGA Championship and a total of 20 PGA Tour titles, giving him a lifetime Tour exemption. He also won the Players Championship in 1992 and 2003, and rose to world number 3. The son of a famous teaching pro, Love was an exceptionally long hitter in his amateur and early professional days, and although he preferred to reign in his power in favour of accuracy as his career developed, he remained among the longest drivers in the game when he chose to be.READ NEXT 

Craig Smith

Standing at a mammoth 6ft 8in (2m.03), Smith is unsurprisingly nicknamed ‘The Giant’, and is believed to be the tallest ever touring professional. Although without a major professional success to date, he has won two smaller pro tournaments, the West Wales Open on the 2006 Dragon Tour and the Carmarthen Open on the 2007 Celtic Pro Tour. Turning pro in 2005 at the late age of 25, it remains to be seen if he can join the ranks of successful, extremely tall pros.

Phil Blackmar

At 6ft 7in (2m.01), Blackmar was the tallest touring pro until Craig Smith appeared in 2005. He played the PGA Tour from 1985-2000, winning three tournaments. In 2007 Blackmar turned 50 and moved to the Champions Tour, where he has won once. He also works for American TV as a golf commentator.

George Bayer

As detailed above, Bayer won three PGA titles between 1957 and 1960. He had a long career spanning 1955-97 on the PGA and Champions Tours, and was known for the astonishing length of his drives, using woefully inadequate equipment for a man of his build. His first PGA victory was the 1957 Canadian Open, which strangely has also been won by a host of tall pros – Tom Weiskopf in 1973 and 1975, 6ft 5in Peter Oosterhuis in 1981 and Bob Tway in 2003. Bayer died in 2003 at the age of 77.

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Robert Karlsson

Karlsson is 6ft 5in (1m.96) and has nine European Tour wins to his credit. He was the 2008 European Order of Merit winner and his best performance in a major championship was a tie for 4th in the 2008 US Open.

Chris Wood

Wood (6ft 5in) burst on the scene as an amateur when he finished tied 5th in the 2008 Open Championship, winning the Silver Medal for Low Amateur. He immediately turned pro, gaining his European Tour card for 2009 after finishing fifth at Qualifying School. His superb rookie season in 2009, in which he finished tied third in the Open Championship and made him €679,559 from 25 starts, saw him win the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award.

Peter Oosterhuis

Also 6ft 5in, Oosterhuis had a very successful career on the European Tour in the early 70s, amassing seven titles and winning the Order of Merit four consecutive times from 1971-74. This record stood until 6ft 1in Colin Montgomerie overtook him in 1997 with a fifth consecutive title – Montgomerie would go on to win seven Orders of Merit in a row from 1993-99.

Oosterhuis then played on the PGA Tour from 1975-86, where he won just the one tournament, the 1981 Canadian Open. He came close to winning a major championship three times, finishing runner-up in the Open Championship in 1974 and 1982, and leading the Masters in 1973 after three rounds before a costly 6 at the 15th in his final round dropped him out of contention.

Oosterhuis’ height caused him to develop a very abbreviated backswing, which would occasionally get him into trouble, but he possessed a superb deft touch around the greens. He played in the Walker Cup in 1967, and made six Ryder Cup appearances from 1971-81, claiming memorable singles victories over Arnold Palmer and Johnny Miller. He has worked as a commentator for CBS and for Sky Sports.

Carol Mann

At 6ft 3in (1m.91), Mann is easily the most successful golfer among tall women. Playing in the ’60s and ’70s, she won two women’s major championships – the 1964 Women’s Western Open and the 1965 US Women’s Open. In her career she lifted 38 LPGA Tour titles. She won the 1969 LPGA money list and the Vare Trophy, awarded for the best scoring average. Mann was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977.

Michelle Wie

Standing at 6ft 1in (1m.85), Wie had a fine amateur career which included victory at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in 2003 – this saw her, at the age of 13, become the youngest ever player, male or female, to win a United States Golf Association adult event.

While still an amateur, she finished tied for second in the 2005 LPGA Championship behind Annika Sörenstam, and tied for third in the 2005 Women’s British Open. Turning professional one week before her 16th birthday in 2005, she finished tied third again in two women’s majors in 2006, the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the US Women’s Open. Her subsequent professional career has been difficult, and she had to earn a place on the 2009 LPGA Tour by finishing tied 7th at Qualifying School.

She finally broke through with her first professional victory at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico in November 2009, having also won 3½ points out of a possible 4 in the Solheim Cup.

Photos courtesy of The Canadian Open and Craig Smith

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