More fascinating facts from the Royal & Ancient Game, this time in numbers.
Who had the Biggest Balls?
The actual size of the golf ball was not enshrined in the Rules of Golf up until 1990, when The R&A and USGA eventually agreed on the universal golf ball diameter being 1.68in (4.26cm) anywhere in the world.
Prior to then, in areas under The R&A’s jurisdiction the ‘British ball’ was 1.62in (4.1148mm), but under USGA rules the standard golf ball size was slightly bigger at 1.68in (42.67mm). Oddly, both parties had always agreed on an identical weight, 1.62oz (45.93g).
Ace in the Pack
The odds of an average club golfer achieving the ‘Holy Grail’ of golf, namely a hole-in-one, are said to be 12,500/1 or, in other words, very remote. But, move up to the professional ranks and the odds fall quite dramatically, down to 2,500/1.
Money, Money, Money
Back in the mists of time, when the likes of Willie Park Snr and his son Willie Park Jnr were regularly winning the Open Championship, their first prize would be just £5 or £6 out of a total prize purse of £10 to £12.
The first double-digit winner’s cheque came at the 13th Open Championship in 1873 when another Scot, Tom Kidd, won the princely sum of £11.
These prizes pale into insignificance in comparison with the £1,000 earned by Peter Thomson when he won the 1955 Open at St Andrews and the £10,000 and £100,000 won respectively by Tom Watson in 1977 and Greg Norman in 1993.
But even those sums are a mere pittance in comparison to the first £1 million first prize, won by Zach Johnson at St Andrews in 2015, while the winner of the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. Georges can be expected to top the £2 million mark.
Head for Heights
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the highest golf course in the world is the Yak Golf Course in Kupup, East Sikkim, India. The 6,025-yard course is situated 13,025 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Himalayas.
In second place is La Paz Golf Club in Bolivia, sitting almost 11,000 feet above sea level, with Copper Creek Golf Club in Colorado, USA, placing third with its 14th tee perching some 9,863 feet high.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the lowest-lying golf course on the planet is Furnace Creek Golf Course in Death Valley in California, which is measured at 214-feet below sea level.
Although there have been slightly longer drives recorded during specialist Long Driving competitions, the longest-ever tee shot during a professional tournament is thought to have been at the 1974 US National Seniors Championship staged at Desert Rose Resort in Las Vegas.
English-American professional Mike Austin, 65 years old at that time, drove the ball a remarkable 515 yards, overshooting the green on the 450-yard, par-four fifth hole. That prompted former PGA champion Chandler Harper, Austin’s playing partner, to say: “This is impossible, but there is a ball over here.”
For his part, Austin remarked that “it was like God hit it” and he may well have already found out if that was the case, having died and presumably taken up membership at the great golf club in the sky in 2005 at the ripe old age of 95.
By Mike Wilson