RUTHERFORD COUNTY, TN - The game of Golf... It can be a relaxing hobby, a tool for nonprofits to raise funds, a fiercely competitive sport, or the perfect backdrop to land a business deal. That said, how does Tennessee stand up or stand out when it comes to advanced-level golfers?
The Volunteer State ranks at number 20 on the list of where top golfers come from. To earn that ranking, Tennessee has produced 9 golfers who have been a part of past PGA tours and 6 golfers who have had PGA tour wins in the past 10-years. Keep in mind, these are numbers that represent golfers who were actually born in Tennessee.
If you look to the North of Smyrna and LaVergne and set your putter on the Music City, you’ll find a minimum of 34 golf courses within 15-miles of Nashville. About 20 of those courses are open to the public, as opposed to pricey members-only clubs. And of the 34-courses within 15-miles of Nashville, 24 are 18-hole layouts, while 9 are 9-hole courses.
MORE ON GOLFERS and WHERE THEY ARE FROM - While the recent British Open wrapped up golf’s slate of traditional major tournaments for 2023, the season is still in full swing. The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs will be held at events throughout August, while the biennial Ryder Cup will pit America and Europe’s best pros against one another this September, and the LIV Golf Tour will end its season in late October. Fans of the game still have plenty of high-level events to look forward to before the quieter fall and winter portions of the calendar.
The past few years have been transformational for golf’s reach and popularity. A desire for socially-distanced recreational activities during the COVID-19 pandemic brought millions more golfers onto courses around the world. The upstart LIV Golf tour, backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, introduced new formats to increase fan engagement and lured stars like Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson to the league. In response to LIV’s emergence, the PGA Tour made changes to its tournament schedule that have produced a boost in broadcast ratings so far in 2023. And with the recent surprise merger between the PGA, LIV, and the European Tour, all of the sport’s top players and tournaments will now be housed under the same organization with a truly global reach.
Even before these recent developments, the global nature of the game has been evident in the geographic diversity of golf’s top players. Of more than 1,100 golfers to make the cut at a PGA Tour event in the last decade, more than half now come from outside the United States. England—one of the first places where golf took hold after the sport originated in neighboring Scotland—has produced the most competitors after the U.S. at 6.29% of the total. But the sport’s reach also extends to Australia, Asia, Africa, and beyond. A total of 50 countries have had at least one native golfer make a cut on a PGA Tour event in the last 10 years.
But with nearly 50% of PGA Tour golfers hailing from the U.S., America is the largest single producer of the world’s elite golf talent. And within the U.S., top golfers frequently come from a limited number of locations. For instance, the Los Angeles metro alone has produced more PGA golfers than all but six countries, and four other California metros—Sacramento, San Diego, Riverside, and San Francisco—rank in the top 15. Many of the other top golf producers are major population centers like New York and Chicago and/or warmer-weather places where golf is easier to play year-round, like Dallas and Miami.
Given how many of its big cities churn out a high number of pros, California unsurprisingly leads all states in the number of PGA golfers over the last decade with 85. But outside of California, states in the South tend to lead the way. Texas ranks second at 58 golfers, with Florida just behind at 54. And relative to their populations, states like Alabama (20), South Carolina (18), and Kentucky (17) have produced particularly high numbers of PGA pros.
To identify the U.S. states where the best golfers are from, researchers at Golf Workout Program ranked states according to the total number of golfers to make at least one cut at a PGA Tour event in the last decade. This includes those who made the cut, but didn’t finish (MDF). Players who never made the cut or who received designations of only did not start (DNS), disqualified (DQ), or withdrawn (WD) during the study period were not included. Due to limited birthplace data availability, some golfers with incomplete data may have been excluded. In the event of a tie, the state with the most PGA Tour wins during the study period was ranked higher. Further ties were broken according to the total number of golfers ranked in the top 50 all time on the PGA Tour career wins list.
BACK TO TN - The analysis found that nine Tennessee-born golfers have made at least one cut at a PGA Tour event in the last decade. Among all 50 states and Washington, DC, Tennessee produces the 20th most pro golfers. Here is a summary of the data for Tennessee:
- Total PGA Tour golfers (past 10 years): 9
- Total PGA Tour wins (past 10 years): 6
- Golfer with most PGA Tour wins (past 10 years): Brandt Snedeker (5)
- Total golfers in top 50 career PGA Tour wins: 1
- Golfers in top 50 career PGA Tour wins: Cary Middlecoff (39)
For complete results, including data on all 50 states and Washington, DC, see Where Are the Best Golfers From? on Golf Workout Program.