Nicklaus, Player & Palmer: The Greatest Group of All Time

by Jeff Skinner

As Gary Player carried on in the Masters Media Center yesterday he had the press rolling in the aisles.  He touched on a number of subjects related to golf and totally unrelated to golf.  But that’s Gary Player, more open and honest and rambling then anyone walking around Augusta this week.

I am Player fan and he usually doesn’t shock me.  But this time he did.  Talking about the quality of golfers today versus the quality of the best in his day he claimed that neither was the best group of all time.  Today’s group fall short of the big three of Jack, Arnie and Gary for sure but Player says you have to go back even further to find the strongest group of the greatest golfers that ever played the game.

Gary Player says that the trio of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson was better than that of his contemporaries Jack, Arnold and himself.  Maybe it’s Player’s reverence for Hogan as the greatest ball striker of all time that shades his judgment toward them.  Maybe he’s a bit too humble to include himself in the “greatest group of all time” discussion.  Certainly each golfer had their dominant years and all won their share of majors.  But Nelson retired while still in his prime and Hogan came late to the major championship party.

Jack, Arnie and Gary were beating each other up for fifteen years.  If you throw Tom Watson into the mix you have the greatest group of golfers that ever walked a fairway.  Both groups represent some dominating streaks.  Consider this: from 1942 to 1954, in ten Masters, (there was no tournament during 43-45) Hogan, Snead and Nelson won six Masters Championships.  In the ten years from 1958 to 1966 Nicklaus, Palmer and Player won eight green jackets.

If Player thinks he wasn’t part of the greatest threesome in the history of modern golf, he’s wrong.  With all due respect Mr. Player, it was Nicklaus, Palmer and Player. Period.



  1. Great article and photo. This threesome can play any place in the world and the crowds will be huge. We and our kids and your can still see them walk the fairways together and enjoying this great game of golf. My hope it they decide to do more of it.

    The greatest golfers of all time still have things to teach us long after their prime competitive years have pass. Only now, when their golf skills are a little less sharpen can they teach us what the game of golf is truly about.

  2. You’re so right Ken. These three certainly “walked the walk” in their day and as far as I am concerned they still do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *