Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands

60 Most Famous Golfers

February 07, 2010

For our 60th birthday, we wanted to present an all-time list of the world's 60 most well-known people who were also golfers -- those who managed to squeeze the game into lives that were remarkable and replete.

It was a daunting task. Who to include -- and who to leave out? Almost everybody who's anybody has played golf. Fifteen of the last 18 presidents of the United States were golfers -- do they all get into our exclusive club? Just Sinatra -- or the whole Rat Pack? How about double acts: Hepburn and Tracy? Laurel and Hardy? Gates and Buffett? Is one tennis player enough -- or too many? At Golf Digest Towers, the debates ranged long into the night.

Our final 60, from Astaire to Zaharias (the only pro golfer on the list -- she first found fame away from the game), from Mary Queen of Scots (born 1542) to Justin Timberlake (born 1981), includes the loved and the loathed. Eighteen movie stars, eight sports legends, six presidents, five writers, five tycoons, five singers, two monarchs, two aviators, two inmates and an eclectic assortment of others: an evangelist, a statesman, a radio ranter, a stunt rider, a cartoonist, an astronaut, a gangster. Meet the GD 60.

1. Fred Astaire | 1899-1987

The multi-talented dancer, singer and actor learned to play golf as a boy during a 1914 vacation in Delaware Water Gap, Pa. "I was so crazy about golf I couldn't sleep nights," he later wrote in material for his autobiography. "I had a terrific desire to be a golf pro." In his 1938 movie "Carefree" -- with fellow golfer Ginger Rogers -- Astaire hit balls while tap-dancing, an incredible routine (it's on YouTube, click here to view) that he devised on the first tee at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, where he played to a 10-handicap, and where he made an ace at the 13th.

2. Humphrey Bogart | 1899-1957

The sensitive tough guy was a single-digit player at the Lakeside Golf Club, not far from the Warner Brothers Studios in Los Angeles, and he would often cycle over between takes to squeeze in a quick game. Bogie was a frequent spectator at the Los Angeles Open at Riviera, watching from under a tree by the 12th green, wearing a trench coat and a fedora, quaffing bourbon from a thermos.

__3. George Bush Sr. | 1924 - __

"41" and his son, George W. Bush (aka "43," a 15-handicapper) come from a golf dynasty that includes two past presidents of the United States Golf Association. George Herbert Walker, maternal grandfather to Bush Sr., was USGA president in 1920 and donated the Walker Cup for which the international team matches are named. Prescott Bush, 41's father, was the USGA president in 1935 and a scratch golfer. Dan Jenkins described his first round with 41 in a 1990 Golf Digest article: "He had a good swing. A natural left-hander who plays right-handed -- like Ben Hogan. ... By my scoring, the president shot a three-mulligan 86 or a two-mulligan 88."

4. Al Capone | 1899-1947

The most famous gangster in U.S. history wasn't much of an athlete, but he loved to play golf, sometimes twice a week at Burnham Woods, then a nine-hole course on Chicago's South Side. He favored a white silk shirt, monogrammed. Gray plus fours. Diamond belt buckle. Whiskey flask on his hip, clinking between drinks. "Capone had 20, 25 guys walking around the course with him," PGA pro Harry Pezzullo told Golf Digest in 2003. "Decent player, shot in the 80s." Perhaps Pezzullo was being kind.

In a 1972 story for Sports Illustrated, Tim Sullivan, who as a 12-year-old caddied for Capone, wrote, "I don't think he broke 60 for the nine holes. He could drive the ball half a mile, but he always hooked it, and he couldn't putt for beans."

5. Andrew Carnegie | 1835-1919

It was over a chilly round at St. Andrew's in Yonkers, N.Y., in late January 1901, and afterward over drinks at Carnegie's cottage on the course, that Charles M. Schwab, president of the Carnegie Steel Company, mooted J.P. Morgan's offer to buy out Carnegie: $480 million, with $225,639,000 going to Carnegie, making him the world's richest man. He spent his retirement disbursing the money, mostly to fund libraries and schools. (Famous quote: "The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.") His home away from home was Skibo Castle, Scotland, which he bought in 1898, refurbished, and had a golf course laid out on the grounds. Carnegie once said: "I never found my business anything more than mere play. Golf is the only serious business of life."

__ 6. Winston Churchill | 1874-1965__

Churchill's never-say-die bulldog spirit during World War II defines Britain's national psyche. Less known is that the half-American master politician, war hero, orator, writer and painter was once a keen golfer. In the run-up to World War I, Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, was a regular at Walton Heath Golf Club, outside London, and a frequent playing companion of then-Prime Minister H.H. Asquith. Violet Bonham Carter, Asquith's daughter, recalled that discussion of weighty matters on the course would often put Churchill off his game -- much to Asquith's delight. Churchill played on his travels; in 1913, he was photographed during a round in Cannes, France, with close friend Maxine Elliott, the American actress. A caption to one of these photos in a book by Churchill's son, Randolph, says: "He fails to keep his head down and foozles his drive. Mr. Churchill had little aptitude for golf, and so he abandoned it."

__7. Bill Clinton | 1946- __

America's 42nd president played as a teenager growing up in Arkansas, quit at 17, then picked up his clubs again a decade later, playing with Hillary's brothers. Clinton recalls that once, as governor of Arkansas, feeling stressed, he canceled his appointments, played hooky and went to the golf course. "There was a 435-yard par 4," he told Golf Digest in 2000, "and I hit a drive to 175 yards -- about 260 yards, I guess -- but I was under a tree. I hit a 3-iron off my back foot into the hole. I had an eagle, and I couldn't tell anybody. It was like the minister who plays on Sunday morning. I couldn't tell a soul." Famous for his liberal use of mulligans, Clinton nevertheless is a decent 12-ish handicap. "Golf is like life in a lot of ways," he concluded. "The most important competition is the one against yourself. All the biggest wounds are self-inflicted."

8. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | 1859-1930

"The creator of Sherlock Holmes was a jock," Charles McGrath wrote in Golf Digest in 2006. "He was a boxer, a soccer and rugby player, an excellent cricketer (who once scored a hundred runs in a semi-pro match at Lord's), a pioneering skier, a hot-air balloonist and a very serious golfer."

A single-digit man, Conan Doyle played all over the world -- in Canada, America, South Africa, Egypt and throughout Europe. Once, while his sick wife was being treated at a spa in Switzerland, he laid out a golf course on the grounds. One of his best works was hatched during a winter-weekend golf trip at Royal Cromer, on England's east coast, in 1901 -- Conan Doyle had killed off Holmes eight years earlier; The Hound of the Baskervilles saw him rise again. Conan Doyle later became the club captain at Crowborough Beacon. By now a firm believer in spiritualism, fairies and the afterlife, he made a deal with his son, Kingsley, who was leaving to fight in World War I: If anything should happen to him, they would meet again on the fourth green. Kingsley died in battle; for years afterward, the lonely figure of Conan Doyle could be seen there, waiting.

9. Sir Sean Connery | 1930-

The man best known for playing James Bond, aka 007, was well into his 30s when he took his first golf lesson, on a course near Pinewood Studios, outside London, as preparation for the golf scene in the classic, third Bond film, "Goldfinger." It was the start of a lifelong love affair with the game. "Soon," he wrote in a recent autobiography, "it would nearly take over my life." Connery visited golf courses all over the world while filming and became an R&A member. He won an Oscar for "The Untouchables" in 1987 but insisted that winning the Silver Jubilee event at St. Andrews that year gave him more pleasure.

10. Bing Crosby | 1903-'77

Nothing brought America's favorite crooner more peace than golf. He told Golf Digest in 1971, "In the battle against par or against your opponent, you can't think about much else, and the result, for me at least, is good therapy. For me, golf has been a kind of passport to relaxation and happiness." No casual player, however, Crosby won the club championship at celebrity-rich Lakeside Golf Club in Los Angeles five times and played in the U.S. and British Amateurs. Crosby started an annual golf get-together for pros and entertainer friends that came to be known as the Crosby Clambake. A television staple starting in 1958, it would serve as the template for all the celebrity pro-ams that followed.

Crosby died walking off the 18th green at La Moraleja Golf Club in Madrid. His last words: "That was a great game of golf, fellas."

11. Joe DiMaggio | 1914-'99

In 1954, three years after playing his final season with the Yankees and a few months after beginning his 274-day marriage to Marilyn Monroe, The Yankee Clipper told New York sportswriter Jimmy Cannon that from now on, golf was his game. "My best round has been 85," he said. "I'm improving every day." DiMaggio also said that he had recently purchased clubs for his bride, Marilyn. "She takes a hell of a cut," he said. "Hits a long ball when she hits it." Nearly a quarter-century later, at age 61, Joltin' Joe carried a 13-handicap and was playing 27 holes (or more) a day at Round Hills, Presidio, Marin and Half Moon Bay golf courses in the San Francisco area.

12. Amelia Earhart | 1897-1937

In 1935, the fearless, famed aviator, first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, friend of the stars, feminist icon and golfer, moved with husband and frequent golf partner, the flamboyant publishing magnate George Putnam, into a house abutting Lakeside Golf Club. Two years later, in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe solo, she vanished without a trace, somewhere over the Pacific.

13. Clint Eastwood | 1930-

As a 21-year-old serviceman at Fort Ord in Monterey, Calif., Eastwood occasionally played golf at Pacific Grove. But to celebrate a friend's return from the Korean War, the pair played their first-ever round at Pebble Beach. Forty-eight years later, Eastwood and a group of friends, including Arnold Palmer, bought the Pebble Beach properties for $820 million. "We just felt that an American resort like Pebble Beach should be owned by Americans," Eastwood told Golf Digest in a 2004 interview. The five-time Academy Award-winner turns 80 this year and still plays often at Tehama, the course he owns in Carmel, Calif.

__14. Dwight D. Eisenhower | 1890-1969 __

The former five-star U.S. Army general was far and away the most avid of America's golfing presidents. During his two terms, from 1953-'61, Golf Digest reported that he had more than 1,000 days of golf or practice, including almost 800 rounds.

He didn't start playing seriously until he was in his 40s. An old West Point football injury to his left knee inhibited his backswing. And he was an erratic putter. But Ike wasn't a bad golfer, and he managed plenty of decent scores. A 1964 Golf Digest story credited him with rounds of 77 at Cherry Hills and 79s at Augusta National, Burning Tree and Gettysburg. Eisenhower first visited Augusta in 1948 and became a member and a close friend of club co-founder and chairman Clifford Roberts. The Eisenhower Cabin, by the 10th fairway, became a home away from home. Ike had so many tussles with the tree to the left of the 17th hole that he unsuccessfully lobbied to have it cut down. ("The Eisenhower Tree" remains to this day.)

A golfer to the end, Ike made his only hole-in-one at the age of 77, the year before he died.

15. William Faulkner | 1897-1962

Before he became a literary genius, Faulkner had an aimless youth, much of which was spent playing golf. As a 19-year-old, according to one biography, he was "known to drink heavily, write verse, and waste large amounts of time on the local golf courses." The favorite venue was the nine-hole university course in his hometown of Oxford, Miss., essentially a pasture which had oiled "browns" instead of greens, fenced off to keep the cows away. Working in the local post office from 1921-'24, Faulkner would often take off for afternoons of golf; on weekends he would drive 45 miles to Charleston, where better courses awaited. Later, he got a job selling drinks from a stand on the course.

His best-known work, The Sound and the Fury -- one of the finest American novels of the 20th century -- opens with a stream-of-consciousness passage that takes place beside a golf course. The opening line: "Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting."

16. W.C. Fields | 11880-1946

The misanthropic comedian, actor and writer lived next to Lakeside Golf Club, where he regularly broke 90 playing with his pal Oliver Hardy, drank heavily and provided entertainment for members by chasing ducks off his lawn in his pajamas.

Golf featured in many of his movies. "The Golf Specialist" was based on an earlier vaudeville act, and in "The Big Broadcast of 1938" -- Bob Hope's debut -- Fields tries to break the speed record for a round of golf using a motor scooter.

In a 1972 Golf Digest article, Lester A. Weinrott recalled his "18-martini round with W.C. Fields" in 1932: "The first six holes are a phantasmagoria in my memory. I remember much laughter at what Mr. Fields said and did. I remember with what artistry he juggled two, three, then four golf balls. I recall that he did wonderful tricks with a golf club. I remember that he won all the side bets. Mostly I remember many refills from one of the martini bottles. I had the remaining good sense to pour mine, or most of mine, onto the grass."

17. Clark Gable | 1901-'60

The one-time King of Hollywood, best known for his portrayal of Rhett Butler in "Gone with the Wind," started playing golf as a struggling actor on the public courses around Los Angeles. "I owned a putter, and Clark had an iron," fellow actor Paul Fix told one biographer, recalling visits to Griffith Park. "We'd look around the roughs for stray balls, then play golf all day with the two clubs."

After active service with the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, Gable joined Bel-Air Country Club, where he made an ace at the 13th hole. His regular caddie at Bel-Air was Robert Wagner, who one day confessed his desire to be in the movies; Gable introduced him to the head of talent at his studio, MGM.

Later, Gable bought a home with fifth wife and golf partner, Kay Spreckels, in Palm Springs, beside Bermuda Dunes Country Club, where during one round he suffered one of a series of heart attacks that would kill him. In the fall of 1959, on his way to make his penultimate film, "It Started in Naples," with Sophia Loren, he spent three weeks at the famous Villa d'Este hotel near Italy's Lake Como -- and he played every day.

18. Bill Gates | 1955-

The co-founder of Microsoft and richest man in the world, according to Forbes, has since 2002 belonged to Augusta National Golf Club, where he plays with close friend Warren Buffett, the second-richest man in the world. Gates took up the game in the early 1990s and was featured in ads for Callaway's Big Bertha driver in 1998.

In 2004, he told Golf Digest that he was improving rapidly. "Ever since my wife took it up, my golf addiction has increased," Gates said after winning a $2 match with Buffett in Sun Valley, Idaho. Gates broke 90 that day for maybe the fifth time. "Eighty-nine!" Buffett said. "I'd suggest that's a Golf Digest cover story."

19. Billy Graham | 1918-

When he wasn't proselytizing -- and sometimes when he was -- the preacher man was on the golf course. Graham started out playing cross-handed (left hand below right), but once he switched to a conventional grip he became a decent player who often shot in the 70s.

He has been a spiritual adviser and golf buddy to many leading lights and power brokers, including presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford. He played with John F. Kennedy at Seminole in January 1961, right before JFK's inauguration, and he was playing golf in North Carolina when he heard the news that his friend had been shot. (Five years later, Graham was playing golf in Australia when he heard his friend Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed.)

"Golf can turn an extrovert into an introvert, and vice versa," Graham wrote in an article for Golf Digest in 1961. "It brings out the boy in a man (and the man in a boy) -- for me, a golf course is an island of peace in a world often full of confusion and turmoil."

20. Wayne Gretzky | 1961-

Nicknamed The Great One while becoming the greatest ever hockey player, the 11-handicapper would never use the word great to describe his golf ability. "Canadian Open, quite a few years ago, I never had played in front of a lot of people," he told Golf Digest's Bob Verdi in 1998. "On the first tee of the pro-am, very nervous, I duck-hooked my drive, hit a kid maybe 60 yards away, and knocked him out cold." Another time, Gretzky hit a Secret Service man while playing with President Ford -- and that guy was hiding in a tree.

Gretzky, who caddied in his youth, wishes that he'd learned to play golf the way he played hockey -- left-handed. "When I was a kid, I was told you just don't play left-handed golf," he said. "That was before Phil Mickelson. Then I find out he does everything righty except play golf."

21.Oliver Hardy | 1892-1957

The man they called Babe first encountered the game in 1921, introduced to it by fellow comic actor Larry Semon. "I loved it right from my first day on the links," Hardy has been quoted as saying. "I loved everything about it -- golf was truly my game."

Hardy, born just outside Augusta, Ga. (the city hosts a festival and lookalike contest each fall), joined Lakeside in 1931, where he would regularly shoot in the 70s, and where he played with W.C. Fields and with Bing Crosby -- they would sing duets as they strolled down the fairways. Hardy's comic sidekick, Stan Laurel, was a casual golfer; Hardy was avid, always eager to wrap things up at the studio so he could squeeze in at least nine. On the road, he always tried to find a game, playing at Gleneagles, for example, in plaid suspenders and tartan socks when touring with Laurel in Britain in 1932.

Golf featured in the silent Laurel and Hardy movie, "Should Married Men Go Home?"(1928), perhaps the pinnacle of golf slapstick: A putter to the shins, a clubhead to the face, a mix-up over a hairpiece and a divot, and a full-blown, on-course mud fight.

22. Jean Harlow | 1911-'37

The original platinum blonde played regularly at the default Hollywood golf club of the era, Lakeside, often taking lessons from tour pro and back-to-back PGA winner Leo Diegel. During the shooting of the 1936 movie "Riffraff," Harlow complained of back pain; the MGM studio doctor told her it was a muscle strain from too much golf. It was, however, symptomatic of the kidney failure that would soon kill the star, at 26.

23. Rita Hayworth | 1918-'87

Throughout her movie career, the screen goddess frequented the courses and driving ranges of Los Angeles. She was a longtime member at Riviera and would often work on her short game at the par-3 Armand Hammer course. In 1958, she took a monthlong golf trip to Scotland with fifth husband, golf pal and film producer James Hill, and, one foggy and rainy day, she birdied the 18th at Gleneagles, in front of a crowd of 500, for a round of 87 -- the first time she ever broke 90. In retirement, Hayworth moved to Palm Springs and played a lot of golf, becoming a regular at the Nabisco Dinah Shore each spring.

24. Katharine Hepburn | 1907-2003 The four-time Oscar winner started playing golf at age 5 during summers spent at the family retreat at Fenwick in Old Saybrook, in her native Connecticut, where there was a nine-hole course (it's still there). Hepburn would live in Fenwick on and off for the rest of her life. Home-schooled as a teenager, Hepburn would take daily golf lessons. "It looked as though I were going to develop into a pretty good player," she wrote in her memoir. "I could hit it a mile. And I was quite accurate with my irons. The only thing I just was lousy at was putting. Oh dear."

In Hollywood, Hepburn lived in a house off the 14th fairway at Bel-Air. One day, while she was playing the seventh hole with the club pro and teacher to the stars Joe Novak, Howard Hughes landed his plane on the fairway and asked if he could play along with them; she agreed -- an unusual first date. "Howard landed practically on top of us," she wrote. "Took his clubs out of the plane and finished the nine with us. He had to have a truck come in and practically take the plane apart to remove it from the course." The couple later lived together in Hughes' house at Wilshire Country Club, where they played a lot of golf -- Hughes was no longer welcome at Bel-Air.

Hepburn starred with longtime lover Spencer Tracy in the classic 1952 golf movie "Pat and Mike," hitting all her shots, but perhaps her greatest golf came in 1938. After a string of box-office flops and a romance with Hughes that seemed to be going nowhere, she fled Hollywood that summer and went back to her spiritual home, Fenwick, where she played 36 a day. One windy, late September morning, right before the infamous hurricane that would destroy the family home, she made an ace on the old ninth hole -- for a score of 31.

25. Bob Hope | 1903-2003

The wizard of the one-liner and star of theater, radio, film and TV is remembered with a golf club over his shoulder and celebrity friends at his side, performing for American troops from Berlin to Da Nang. But for Hope, the act was just a means to an end. "I tell jokes to pay my green fees," said the one-time 4-handicapper who played in the British Amateur. Hope appeared on the cover of Golf Digest in 1979, was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1983, and in 1965 lent his name to the Desert Classic, played in Palm Springs. His pro-am brought together celebrities, athletes and even politicos -- only a man with his flair could get three presidents to play together, as he did in a 1995 fivesome that included Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. For Hope, it was just another chance for fun on the golf course:

"Clinton had the best score, Ford the most errors and Bush the most hits -- me, I cheated better than ever."

__26. Howard Hughes | 1905-'76 __

When he was in his early 20s and already the richest man in America, Hughes was leading the life of a playboy in Hollywood. One day he sent a memo to his financial hatchet man, outlining his ambitions for the immediate future. "My first objective," Hughes wrote, "is to become the world's No. 1 golfer. Second, the top aviator, and third, I want to be the most famous movie producer. Then I want you to make me the richest man in the world." Before becoming a recluse, Hughes played regularly at scratch, even though a proper handicap would've been more like 3 or 4. He played for huge sums of money. And in 1929, when he was 23, he entered the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach but failed to qualify.

27. Michael Jordan | 1963-

In the winter of 1997, six months before he would win his last of six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, the greatest basketball player of all time spoke with Golf Digest about the sport he'd play for the rest of his life. "It's not my hobby, it's my passion. I'll be all golf and no basketball real soon." Last fall, while serving as an assistant captain for Fred Couples at the Presidents Cup, Jordan was still talking about the 86 he shot at Bethpage Black in the nationally televised Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge a few days before the Open last summer.

28. John F. Kennedy | 1917-'63

Kennedy began playing as a teenager and, a natural athlete, quickly became a good player, making the golf team as a freshman at Harvard. Though he was kept away from golf for long periods by chronic back pain, JFK went on to be the best player of all the presidents.

But Kennedy was secretive about his love of the links. After Eisenhower's very public embrace of golf during his presidency -- and the criticism Ike attracted for devoting so much time to what was considered a rich man's sport -- Kennedy took great care to avoid being noticed or photographed when he played, teeing off on quiet summer evenings, with minimum security, often avoiding the first or 10th tees, rarely completing 18 holes.

Before his inauguration, Kennedy played almost daily at the Palm Beach Country Club, near his father's Florida home. "He can go nine holes in anywhere from 36 to 39," the pro there, Bert Nicholls, told Golf Digest in 1961. "However, I won't say what he'll shoot on the next nine. I'd guess he has trouble concentrating on his game. He'll play two or three wonderful holes in a row and then start doing things with his swing that he shouldn't."

Kennedy had that swing committed to film at Hyannis Port, Mass., in the summer of 1963, and planned to invite Arnold Palmer to the White House that winter for a critique. The meeting never happened; JFK was assassinated in November.

29. Rudyard Kipling | 1865-1936

The British author of The Jungle Book and the poem "If" was a sporadic golfer throughout his life. He almost certainly took up the game in his youth, perhaps while at school in Westward Ho!, Devon, on England's south coast. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a close friend -- both men would lose a son in World War I -- and in the fall of 1894, the pair met near Brattleboro, Vt., where Kipling was living with his American wife. (In a memoir, Conan Doyle later recalled: "I had brought my golf clubs and gave Rudyard lessons in a field while the New England rustics watched from afar, wondering what on earth we were at, for golf was unknown at the time.")

Kipling invented snow golf -- in the Vermont winters, he would paint balls red and play to tin cans sunken into the snow.

30. Evel Knievel | 1938-2007

A golfer since the age of 12, when his grandfather bought him a set of clubs, the daredevil motorcycle rider became a single-digit, high-stakes player who once managed to practice in a field while serving jail time. He became friends with many of the greats of the game. Knievel told Golf Digest in August 2005: "Golf brings out the best in a good man and the worst in a bad man."

• READ MORE: My Shot: Evil Knievel

31. Sugar Ray Leonard | 1956-

One of the greatest boxers of all time earned international acclaim by winning the light-welterweight gold medal at the 1976 Olympics. In an interview with Golf Digest in 2008, Leonard talked about growing up in northwest D.C. "You didn't dare go on a golf course," he said. "In my neighborhood, you didn't watch golf. You watched football and boxing."

In 1991, after moving to Los Angeles, Leonard was bitten by the game. "My friend [R&B singer] Johnny Gill said, 'Ray, let's play golf.' I said, 'Golf? Brothers don't play golf.' But from then on, it was, 'Holy cow, where have I been? I love it.' " A 16-handicapper, Leonard figures he'd be a lot better golfer if he had started a little sooner. "If I'd discovered golf when I was fighting Duran, Benitez and Hagler, I'd have been on the golf course all the time."

__32. Rush Limbaugh | 1951- __

Limbaugh, the conservative radio talk-show host, is a 15-handicap player at the Everglades Club near his home in Palm Beach, and at Seminole, Pine Tree, The Floridian and The Dye Preserve. His carefully crafted brand, which earns him tens of millions of dollars every year, is popular among the rank-and-file millionaires of the PGA Tour. Limbaugh told Golf Digest in 2007: "I'm not surprised tour players are Republicans. They're the best example of entrepreneurialism in professional sports."

33. Joe Louis | 1914-'81

Not only was he heavyweight champion from 1937-'49, Louis was considered America's first black hero. He also was a passionate golfer. The Champ hired Teddy Rhodes, the best black golfer of the era after World War II, as his personal pro and partner, especially for money matches. Louis didn't always play as well as he thought he should, and he was easy prey for hustlers.

Smiley Quick bragged that he won enough cash from Louis to buy two Los Angeles apartment houses. Louis' son Joe Louis Barrow Jr. is the CEO of The First Tee, the golf youth-development organization.

• READ MORE: The Champ Remembered

__34. Bernard Madoff | 1938- __

The perpetrator of the largest fraud in Wall Street history, "Bernie" isn't getting to play much these days after beginning a 150-year prison term in 2009 for his breathtaking Ponzi scheme that went undetected for two decades and defrauded clients of an estimated $65 billion. Among his many victims were fellow golfers at swanky clubs around the country, especially the exclusive Palm Beach Country Club. Some reports say he reeled in about a third of the membership as clients.

The former chairman of the Nasdaq stock exchange was said to be an able player with an easy, natural swing. But perhaps his suspiciously consistent scores and his 9.8 Handicap Index were, like his career, to use his words, "one big lie."

35. Harpo Marx | 1888-1964 The Marx Brother -- he's the wig-wearing, harp-playing silent clown -- didn't pick up a club until well into adulthood, but soon, after joining Hillcrest in L.A., was playing lots of golf, usually with pal George Burns, and regularly shooting in the low 80s. Famous for his props, Harpo had an oversize driver with a hinged lid. To the amazement of onlookers, he'd sometimes open it up and pull out a sandwich.

A group of investors including the Marx Brothers, Burns, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye and some Hillcrest members bought land to start a club near Palm Springs. This was the start of Tamarisk Country Club, opened in 1952. Harpo selected 10 acres in one corner where he would live until his death: El Rancho Harpo. One August afternoon, with the temperature above 110 degrees, Harpo decided to celebrate his new home in an unusual way. He drove his cart onto the deserted course, to a nearby par-3 tee, with his clubs and 50 balls. "Before teeing up I took off my shorts and shoes," Harpo wrote in his memoir. "I was determined to be a Famous First -- the first naked man in history to fire a hole-in-one. I didn't make it, but I came damn close. I came within six inches, to be exact, of immortality." After he died, his ashes were supposedly scattered in a bunker on the seventh hole.

36. Bill Murray | 1950-

For golfers, Murray's resonating high point is unquestionably his creation of Carl, the demented greenkeeper he portrayed with such oafish élan in the 1980 cult classic "Caddyshack." That's what Alex Shoumatoff wrote for Golf Digest in 1998, after he'd spent an entire week in Pebble Beach trying in vain to get an interview with the clown prince and course jester at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Murray still plays the occasional AT&T and partners with Scott Simpson in Champions Tour events each year, but he mostly likes to play away from the public, with his six sons, who range in age from 8 to 27.

37. Willie Nelson | 1933-

Almost everybody dreams of having his own private golf course, wrote Golf Digest in 1988, but few can actually afford such grandiosity. Nelson, the country singer-songwriter, actor, activist and icon, combines his course and recording studio on the same property, Pedernales Golf Club, in Spicewood, Tex. In his autobiography written with Bud Shrake, Nelson said, "Golf is not only a game, it is an addiction. You cannot explain the addiction of golf to someone who does not play golf. I have tried, but they simply cannot understand -- Since getting my own golf course, I have had a hard time finding an excuse why I can't play golf every day when I am in Austin. I look upon it as going to the dogs with dignity."

38. Jack Nicholson | 1937-

To prepare for his role in "The Two Jakes" in 1989, the acting legend, then 52, decided to take a few golf lessons at the Studio City range. "The guy warned me, 'Jack, you're gonna get bit. And when you're bit, that's it.' He was right." Since then, Nicholson told Golf Digest in a 2007 interview, he has spent more time playing golf than anything else. But he has never played on television, even in his friend Bob Hope's tournament or for pal Clint Eastwood at the AT&T at Pebble Beach. "I'm too expensive for TV," he says. Nicholson says his game peaked in 2000, when he shot 64 at Lakeside. "It might've been 65," he said. "With witnesses, fortunately." Of course, he admits to playing by his rules -- like no double bogeys on the first six holes, and the second putt is always good on a green hit in regulation.

"Once you get to your peak, you can't get better without playing three or four times a week," he says. "So I came to an accommodation with the game. If I could shoot in the 80s and not hold anybody up, well, that would be good enough. And it's pretty much a breeze to shoot in the 80s -- you just stay out of the woods. Which I can do, partly because I'll kick it out of the woods.

39. Barack Obama | 1961-

It was Michelle Obama who first suggested her husband take up golf, in 1997. Barack had played a little in high school, but as an adult, the newly elected Illinois state senator got hooked. In a year he had a 24-handicap, and now the 15th of the last 18 presidents to play the game shoots in the low to mid-90s.

40. Sir Sidney Poitier | 1927-

The pioneering black movie star, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1963, always had a golf club with him on movie sets so that he could work on his grip and swing between takes. A member of Hillcrest, Poitier no longer plays, but in the mid-1950s, according to one biography, he "indulged his mounting obsession with golf, leaving early in the morning and not returning until dusk." Said the star of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" in his heyday: "I dig my work, I love my family, I booze with my friends, I go to church, I play a lot of golf. What else is there? I mean, what else?"

41. Smokey Robinson | 1940-

The Detroit native and Motown legend was introduced to the game by Ronnie White when both were part of the Miracles. Robinson has played golf all over the world; he was particularly perturbed in 2007 when an airline took almost a month to reconnect him with his golf clubs that were lost during a world tour. "I've played all sports in my life -- basketball and football in high school, summer-league baseball. I had aspirations of being a pro baseball player. But golf is the heroin of sports," says Robinson, a 15-handicapper who belongs to MountainGate and Pacific Palms in Los Angeles but also plays public courses.

"If you call me at 4:30 a.m. and say, 'Smokey, let's get up and shoot some hoops or play softball,' I'd hang up on you. But if you call at 4:30 and say, 'Let's go play some golf,' I'll say, 'Where?' "

42. John D. Rockefeller| 1839-1937

The man who founded Standard Oil, America's first billionaire, ruthless monopolist and generous philanthropist, was retired and almost 60 when he took to golf. Wrote Lewis Lapham in a 2002 Golf Digest profile: "The grandest of America's grand acquisitors played almost every day for the next 33 years, in all and any weather, sometimes alone but preferably in company, convinced that he would live to be 100 if he could only prolong his steadfast search for par."

Rockefeller built a 12-hole course on his Tarrytown estate, outside New York City, where he would play with friends and colleagues, the likes of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford. Deliberate in life and in golf, he studied the game with rigor; his backswing, according to a friend, "seemed to last for minutes." When he became too frail to walk the course, his caddies would mount him on a bicycle and push him between shots.

43. Franklin D. Roosevelt | 1882-1945

The Roosevelts were based in Hyde Park, N.Y., where FDR's father had laid out a six-hole course on the grounds. But it was on the small Canadian island of Campobello, two miles off the cost of Maine, where the Roosevelts summered for decades, that FDR first learned the game, as a teenager, on a rudimentary course where sheep grazed. The young FDR won a tournament there at age 16, and at 18 he was invited to serve as secretary and treasurer, during which time he improved the course and enlarged the tees and greens. In 1904, having graduated from Harvard, FDR won the club championship. (The golf course was abandoned shortly thereafter.)

On Sept. 5, 1905, while honeymooning in Scotland, FDR played the Old Course at St. Andrews. Back home in New York, he was a regular at the St. Andrew's club in Yonkers, N.Y., and later, while living in Washington as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War I, FDR snuck onto the course almost daily -- often the Chevy Chase club in Maryland, with his oldest son, James, serving as caddie -- and earned a reputation as one of the biggest-hitting amateur golfers in the D.C. area.

Crippled by what was thought to be polio, FDR never played again. He won four presidential elections and steered America through World War II and the Great Depression -- his New Deal public-works programs included building more than 250 municipal golf courses.

44. Babe Ruth | 1895-1948

In 1941, several years after he had retired from baseball -- he won three World Series as a dominant pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and four with the New York Yankees as a home-run legend -- Ruth challenged former Detroit Tiger Ty Cobb to a best-of-three golf match. Ruth often shot in the mid to high 70s; Cobb was more of an 80s-shooter, although he once shot 71 at the Olympic Club's Lake Course in San Francisco. Cobb won the first match, 3 and 2, at the Commonwealth Club in Newton, Mass. Two days later, at Fresh Meadow Country Club on Long Island, Ruth won on the first extra hole after both shot 85. The deciding match was at Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club in Michigan, and Cobb took the match, 3 and 2, the title -- which he called the "Has-beens' Championship of Nowhere in Particular" -- and the trophy, put up by actress Bette Davis.

45. Pete Sampras | 1971-

Two years before winning his first Grand Slam title at the 1990 U.S. Open, this soon-to-be American tennis legend was already hooked on golf. He would spend the next 15 years perfecting a running forehand, one-hand backhand and overpowering serve that would produce a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles. Near the end of Sampras' career, along came another golf-playing tennis star, Roger Federer, who would surpass Sampras' record by winning his 15th, at Wimbledon in 2009.

Like tennis greats Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier and Ivan Lendl before him, Sampras has played in a handful of celebrity golf events, including the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. When he's home in Beverly Hills, the 1-handicapper plays at Bel-Air with Luke Wilson, the friend he jokingly calls "actor boy."

46. Harland (Colonel) Sanders | 1890-1980

Sanders was 65 when he started franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. LPGA star Laura Baugh told Golf Digest in 2004: "I played with Colonel Sanders once -- I was only 17, and what a weird experience that was. Talking to him was like talking to a Disney character. He looked odd in a golf shirt -- What shocked me was, the Colonel could flat hit it. He told me he loved golf more than chicken."

47. Adam Sandler| 1966-

Sandler learned the game playing alongside his late father, Stan, while growing up in New Hampshire. Today, he belongs to Hillcrest in L.A., where he plays 15 to 20 rounds a year. Sandler has watched "Caddyshack" more than 300 times; it inspired him and friend Tim Herlihy to write "Happy Gilmore" -- for some, the best golf movie ever made. In a 2006 interview with his mother for Parade Magazine, Sandler reminisced about his dad shooting in the 70s and making four holes-in-one. "I have zero holes-in-one and am happy if I can break 90. What's wrong with my swing?" To which his mother replied: "You probably inherited mine. And Dad practiced more than you do."

48. Charles Schulz | 1922-2000

The "Peanuts" comic-strip creator was an honorary member at five courses, including Oakmont Golf Club, near his home in Santa Rosa, Calif., and he played to a 2-handicap during his best years. He was a regular in the Bing Crosby pro-am and the pro-am at Dinah Shore's LPGA tournament in Palm Springs.

While growing up in St. Paul, Minn., the budding cartoonist worked as a caddie. He won the city caddie championship at 17, and named the "Peanuts" character Schroeder after a pal from those caddie days.

49. Alan Shepard | 1923-'98

On Feb. 6, 1971, the captain of Apollo 14 hit three one-armed shots with a makeshift 6-iron -- on the moon. Shepard flubbed the first two shots, then connected with his third. TV viewers saw the ball soar away and heard Shepard's words: "Miles and miles and miles." Neil Armstrong, the other famous golfing astronaut, was the first to walk on the moon. But Shepard is the only person to have played golf on the moon.

• READ MORE: Golf on the Moon

50. O.J. Simpson | 1947-

The Heisman Trophy-winner and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back started playing golf when he was 40, and by the summer of 1994 his Handicap Index was down to 12.4. On the morning of June 12, he played with his usual foursome at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Perhaps tellingly, Alex Shoumatoff wrote for Golf Digest in 1995, Simpson and one of his buddies, movie producer Craig Baumgarten, got into a violent argument, almost coming to blows on the second hole. That night, between 9:45 and 10:30, Simpson's ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman were murdered outside her Brentwood condo. Less than an hour later, Simpson was on a plane to Chicago, where Hertz had lined up a round with some clients. What was he doing when the killings occurred? Practicing chips on his lawn with his 3-wood, he told his attorneys. Simpson was famously acquitted of the murders in 1995 and spent much of the next 12 years playing golf and "looking for the real killers." Now he's serving a prison term in Nevada for armed robbery and kidnapping.

51. Frank Sinatra | 1915-'98

The Chairman of the Board loved the game, lent his name to celebrity pro-ams in the Palm Springs area and once hired Ben Hogan to be the teaching pro at his Palm Springs club. But he never really learned to make his swing as smooth as his voice. He and the Rat Pack made his compound near Tamarisk Country Club's 17th hole their desert retreat, but Sinatra remained a 90s-to 100-shooter, "leaning more toward 100," Riviera head pro Mac Hunter told Golf Digest in 1982. Ol' Blue Eyes "wouldn't solicit a lesson. He had a bad habit of straightening up at impact. Stay behind him, not even to the side of him, when he's hitting."

52. Will Smith | 1968-

Second to only Brad Pitt on Forbes' current ranking of the most powerful actors, Smith is an avid but very private golfer. There's video online of him playing in the pro-am at the 2006 Sony Open in Hawaii, and we've heard he has been working hard on his game. But the only time Golf Digest saw him at his home course, Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., he was playing chess in the locker room.

53. Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots) | 1542-'87

The infant queen learned golf during her formal education in France. Her grandfather, King James IV of Scotland, had played -- the first known golfing monarch -- and her son, King James VI of Scotland (later King James I of England), did, too. Mary's love of the game was to play a role in her downfall: Supposedly she was seen on the links just a few days after the murder of her second husband and frequent golf companion, Lord Darnley, when she should have been in mourning. Found guilty of treason against Queen Elizabeth I, Mary was beheaded. She wasn't the first lady golfer (Catherine of Aragon, the first of King Henry VIII's six wives, might have played), but Mary will always be golf's First Lady.

• READ MORE: History for the Taking

54. Justin Timberlake | 1981-

The international pop singer-songwriter-producer, film actor, celebrity-product pitchman and 6-handicapper at Lakeside, where he became a member in 2009, attached his name to a PGA Tour event in 2008 -- the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. Is this a lifetime commitment, Golf Digest asked in 2008? "I'd like it to be," he said. "It'll keep me from having to tour."

__55. Donald Trump | 1946- __

The real-estate mogul bought New Jersey's Pine Hill and New York's Branton Woods in late 2009, bringing his portfolio of golf properties to 11.

The 4-handicapper told Golf Digest's Ron Whitten in 2004 that he'd make more selling a New York apartment to Alex Rodriguez than he'd make all year from a golf course, "but I get a kick out of the golf thing."

56. John Updike | 1932-2009

Updike, one of America's finest authors, wasn't a great player, but he was a terrific commentator on the game and a longtime contributor to Golf Digest. He became interested in golf through reading P.G. Wodehouse and was a regular at the Myopia Hunt Club outside Boston. Golf's best short story is his "Farrell's Caddie," in which an American golfer vacationing in Scotland employs the services of an archetypal gruff local caddie, who turns out to be a clairvoyant sage. Updike paradoxically preferred to carry his bag. As he wrote in Golf Digest in 1993: "My golf is so delicate, so tenuously wired together with silent inward prayers, exhortations and unstable visualizations, that the sheer pressure of an additional pair of eyes crumbles the whole rickety structure into rubble."

57. Johnny Weissmuller | 1904-'84

The actor best known for his portrayal of Tarzan won five Olympic gold medals in swimming, and he was an excellent golfer. He made five holes-in-one and once shot 63 at Lakeside. He was also a regular at Bel-Air, where he would sometimes run up onto the rocks to the left of the fourth hole and deliver his trademark Tarzan roar. (The creator of Tarzan, author Edgar Rice Burroughs, was also a keen golfer who briefly acquired a course during the Depression -- what is now the El Caballero Country Club, in Tarzana, Calif.)

58. Edward Windsor (King Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor) | 1894-1972

After taking up the game at 13, the Prince of Wales was an always snappily attired single-digit player, who became captain of many British golf clubs, including the R&A in 1922 (as his grandfather, King Edward VII, had before him, and as would his brother, the future King George VI). Exiled from his homeland after his 1936 abdication of the throne (so he could marry Wallis Simpson -- a divorced, American "commoner"), the now-Duke consoled himself with golf.

59. Sir P.G. Wodehouse | 1881-1975

The English writer who collaborated on musicals with Cole Porter and Jerome Kern played at the now-defunct Sound View Golf Club in Great Neck, N.Y., finding inspiration for his still-sublime comic golf tales like The Clicking of Cuthbert. A 1994 Golf Digest profile was headlined: "The Funniest Golf Writer Who Ever Lived." In 1922, Wodehouse and his wife wintered in Aiken, S.C., where he played every day, got down to a 16-handicap and even won an umbrella in a hotel tournament, writing: "I went through a field consisting of some of the fattest retired business-men in America like a devouring flame."

60. Mildred (Babe) Didrikson Zaharias | 1911-'56

The Babe could seemingly dominate any sport of her choosing. In the 1932 tryouts for the Olympics, she competed in eight track-and-field events, winning five of them, three with world records. In the Games, in Los Angeles, she was restricted to entering only three events and won two gold medals, with world records, in the javelin and 80-meter hurdles. She shot 95 in her first round of golf; within a month she was scoring in the low 80s, and inevitably, she went on to become a star. (Zaharias is the only golf champion among the Golf Digest 60, included because her initial fame was achieved elsewhere.) She prevailed in 17 straight women's amateur titles, turned pro, and was the leading money-winner for four years in a row. Stricken with colon cancer in 1953, she came back to win the 1954 U.S. Women's Open -- her third -- just a month after surgery. Alas, the cancer returned. A story in Golf Digest in October 1960 concluded: "Tom-boyish in appearance and a real tiger on the golf course, Mrs. Zaharias had a heart underneath as soft and big as could be."