10 Of The Best South African Golfers Of All Time

South Africa has produced a long list of exceptional golfers - but who are the best?

Gary Player and Ernie Els - two of the best South African golfers of all time
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South Africa has a long history of producing world-class golfers capable of winning all over the world. Bobby Locke paved the way for Gary Player, who paved the way for the likes of Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, and so on and so forth.

With a new generation of talent emerging onto the main tours in their droves, we take a look at 10 of the best South African golfers of all time...

Gary Player

Gary Player holding the Claret Jug after winning the 1974 Open

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Born: 1935
Tour wins: 163
Majors: 9

The most successful golfer ever from the nation of South Africa, Gary Player redefined what the term 'global golfer' really meant. He won tournaments all over the world, including 24 times on the PGA Tour, 63 times on the Sunshine Tour, 18 times on the PGA Tour of Australasia, and countless others in nations like Brazil, China, Japan and so on.

He is also one of the very few golfers to have completed the Career Grand Slam by winning all four Major championships. A proud South African, he also represented the country 16 times at the World Cup.

Ernie Els

Ernie Els with the Claret Jug after winning The Open in 2012

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Born: 1969
Tour wins: 74
Majors: 4

Theodore Ernest Els, the man with one of the most aesthetically pleasing swings in golf, had a hugely successful career - made even more impressive by the fact he played during the era of Tiger Woods' dominance.

In all, Els won 71 times as a professional including four Majors (two US Opens and two Open Championships), won the European Tour Order of Merit twice and got to World No. 1.

He also played for the International team in the Presidents Cup eight times, with the 2003 edition being of particular note. Both teams were tied on 17 points and Ernie battled Tiger in a sudden-death playoff to decide the winner. The pair halved three holes before a draw was famously agreed upon by captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player due to bad light.

Retief Goosen

Retief Goosen at the 2004 US Open

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Born: 1969
Tour wins: 38
Majors: 2

Another South African golfer who was at the top of his game during Tiger's dominance, Goosen was a player widely thought to be unflappable as shown by his 2004 US Open performance at Shinnecock Hills. As everyone complained about the unfairness of the set-up, Goosen kept ploughing along to win by two strokes from Phil Mickelson.

Goosen would go on to win multiple times on several different tours and made a stunning start to his PGA Tour Champions career, winning his first senior Major at the 2019 Senior Players Championship.

Like Ernie, Goosen played on several Presidents Cup matches and contributed three huge points to help the International team tie in 2003.

Louis Oosthuizen

Louis Oosthuizen walking up the second fairway during the 2012 Masters

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Born: 1982
Tour wins: 14
Majors: 1

The peak of Louis Oosthuizen's golf career undoubtedly came at the 2010 Open Championship where he destroyed the field to win by seven strokes at St Andrews. Then, five years later he nearly won the tournament again but narrowly lost in a playoff alongside Zach Johnson and Marc Leishman. 

In fact, Oosthuizen's record in golf's four marquee events is very impressive, finishing second is every Major at least once. The picture above is from the 2012 Masters where, despite his albatross on the second hole, he lost in a playoff to Bubba Watson.

Bobby Locke

Born: 1917 - 1987
Tour wins: 74
Majors: 4

Arthur D'Arcy 'Bobby' Locke was a hugely prolific winner during his playing career, especially at The Open Championship. In a nine-year stretch from 1949-1957, he won the Major four times, and that included four other top-10s.

Locke sits third all time for Sunshine Tour wins in his native South Africa with 30. Gary Player and Mark McNulty are the only players ahead of him. Indeed Player himself once said of Locke: “One six-foot putt, for my life? I’ll take Bobby Locke. I’ve seen them all, and there was never a putter like him.”

Charl Schwartzel

Charl Schwartzel celebrates winning the 2011 Masters

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Born: 1984
Tour wins: 15
Majors: 1

Charl Schwartzel became the third South African winner of The Masters in 2011 thanks to a final-round 66 that saw him overturn a four-stroke deficit. This included four birdies in a row from the 15th hole.

The victory has been the apex of a career that has also included 14 other professional victories.

David Frost

David Frost of South Africa hitting a drive

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Born: 1959
Tour wins: 29
Majors: 0

Another golfer who spent a lot of time playing internationally, Frost has won 29 times professionally, including 10 times in the United States. He also represented the International side at the Presidents Cup twice.

Trevor Immelman

Trevor Immelman receiving the Green Jacket for winning The Masters in 2008

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Born: 1979
Tour wins: 11
Majors: 1

Not many golfers can say they made a double-bogey during the final round of a Major, battled Tiger Woods and still emerged victorious. At the 2008 Masters Tournament Immelman did just that as he shot a final-round 75 to win by three.

To add to that he has won on multiple tours and represented his country on numerous occasions.

Branden Grace

Branden Grace after hitting a drive

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Born: 1988
Tour wins: 14
Majors: 0

Back in 2017, Grace became the first player to shoot a sub-63 round in a Major, posting a 62 at the Open Championship held at Royal Birkdale.

However, his finest season to date came in 2012 when he won four times on the European Tour, including two tournaments in a row at the Joburg Open and then the Volvo Golf Champions.

Tim Clark

Tim Clark holding the trophy after winning the Players Championship in 2010

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Born: 1975
Tour wins: 12
Majors: 0

Our final player on this list is Tim Clark. The 2010 Players champion has won 12 times to date despite niggling injuries that have often hindered his career. His best finish in a Major came the 2006 Masters thanks to holing out for birdie on the 18th hole. He finished two behind Phil Mickelson.

A golfer for most of his life, Sam started playing the game to prove he was the best player out of his father and two brothers.
He quickly became a golf equipment expert and has always been the one family and friends come to for buying advice, and spends a lot of his time putting golf gear, apparel and shoes to the test.  
He is a graduate of Swansea University where he studied History and American Studies, and he has been a part of the Golf Monthly team since February 2018. He also previously worked for World Soccer and Rugby World magazines.

A jack of all trades across print and digital formats, Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website. He also oversees all Tour player content as well. 

Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five. 

Sam is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TS3
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M5 (15 degrees), Nike Covert Tour 2.0 (19 degrees)
Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 54˚, 58˚
Putter: Scotty Cameron Circa 62 #6