Do Golfers Live Longer?

You might not think about golf the same way as other sports when it comes to longevity. But golfers’ careers are an ever-ticking clock toward the end. Some defy these odds by playing professionally into their 40s and 50s, but most golfers have a shorter career than you’d think.

With several of the biggest names, from Tiger Woods to Phil Mickelson, entering the latter stages of their golfing careers, it’s time to look at the length of the average golf career.

How long is the average golf career?

When one thinks about a pro golfer, they likely think only of the golfers who are at every tournament competing for the title. However, for the average golfer to even make it into a tournament is astonishing. Most are not Woods or Mickelson but unknowns who may not make it into more than one or two events.

In a Quora post, user David Nettleton broke down why the average golf career is much shorter than most would suspect. “If anyone were to ever compute the true average length of every golfer who ever considered themselves a tour pro, I suspect it would be a very low number, maybe even as low as 1-2 years,” he wrote. 

Golf is different

Golf operates differently than most sports. A golfer is never guaranteed another tournament berth. They consistently must earn it by golfing better than ever. After all, even the best golfers sometimes miss the cut in major tournaments, so those who are a few levels below must play better than the best golfer’s worst output. 

Bleacher Report broke down how much age can factor into a player’s decline. Athletes, just like normal humans, break down in their 40. Their strength is harder to keep and simple things like endurance can become a chore if they are not careful. 

Golfers have seen success in their 40s, just like Tom Brady, Vince Carter, and other athletes who defy age. But most cannot cut it as their bodies begin to decline. Just like these athletes, golfers who can play into their forties and beyond are often the same ones who focus on physical fitness and stay in shape.

People begin to decline as they get older, which is why most players can’t compete in their 40s. Some, however, defied it all and not only competed in older age but won. 

Golfers who defied age

Tom Watson hits a shot in 2009
Tom Watson hits a shot in 2009 | Jeff Gross/Getty Images

When Woods won the 2019 Masters at the age of 43, he was among the oldest to ever win a major. Even the greats, like Arnold Palmer, couldn’t achieve such feats as they got older. Golf is a harder sport than anyone gives it credit for. Palmer was only 34 when he won his last major despite competing into his older years.

Tom Watson was 33 when he won his last major, explains Bleacher Report. But at the 2009 Open Championship, he was within a few strokes of winning at 59 years of age. That’s nearly 10 years older than Julius Boros, who won the 1968 PGA Championship when he was 48, the oldest a golfer to ever win. Jack Nicklaus was famous for his long career, but his final major win was at 46 years old. 

Age eventually comes for everyone who lives long enough. The act of competing with the best is impressive enough for these golfers. But to win at that level requires even more dedication. If Woods, Mickelson, or somebody else starts breaking these records, future generations will analyze the work they put in to do so.