The greatest golfers are judged on major wins. You go through the list and you see incredible Americans. You see Jack Nicklaus, you see Tiger Woods, you see Walter Hagen...
Then Gary Player
The man standing just 5'6" travelled across the globe to not only compete with, but beat some of the greatest golfers ever, time after time, to stamp his name down as a bona fide legend of the game.
But now in a highpoint of his career he speaks to #GCWmag about all manner of things including rumours of him cheating, horse tips and how many he would beat us by at St. Andrews!
Hello Gary, you are an absolute legend and it is an honour to chat to you. Most of our readers were born in the 1980's or 1990's and our two features this month are yourself and Peter Alliss born in the 1930's!
What was better about golf when you first started? What was worse?
Golf has changed so much since I first started playing many years ago. Something that is
both good and bad is the difference in the technology surrounding the game. The equipment, from the club and the ball to the machines that take care of the course, has
become much more advanced.
The change is just remarkable. I always say to imagine if Bobby Jones or Ben Hogan were alive today.
Just think how far they would have been able to drive the ball with the new shafts and balls. And the greens now are so flawless they have completely changed the face of the short game.
I always had terrific conversations with Peter and his wife, Jackie, under the R&A Marquee
at The Open. He is so knowledgeable about the game, and is one of my favorite people to
talk to about golf.
Often we see you with Mr Palmer and Mr Nicklaus. You all have great nicknames, 'The Black Knight', 'The Golden Bear' and 'The King'. Do we need to start giving these new players cooler names?! Any ideas?
And how good is the feeling of spanking one past them two at Augusta?
Those two out-drove me my entire playing career on the PGA Tour. My fitness and healthy
lifestyle were the reasons I have played so well my entire life and was able to compete with
and beat the best.
I had to find an advantage because those guys were huge. I’ve kept up with my fitness regime, and as everyone saw it has paid off. My plan is to hit the ball further next year!
I am not sure of nicknames for these young players coming up. Tiger is certainly not a bad
one!! The public and media probably will help decide.
Do you still do 1000 sit-ups every morning? What does your wife think?! How important is this to you? (I don't think I've done 1000 in my life!)
Have you ever asked recent winner George Coetzee if he does it?!
Fitness always has been a big part of my life. It’s how I start my day unless I am travelling.
I have a daily fitness routine that I do around five times per week. The exercises include
lots of stretching, squats, sit-ups, crunches, core exercises, wrist roles and sprints on the
treadmill. And, yes, I still try to do 1000 crunches every day and add extra weights on my
chest during the last set.
Ha. I’ll be sure to ask George about his exercise routine the next time I see him.
You breed horses. Why? Is this a completive thing? Also, do you have any horses we should bet on?! And which golfer would you say is a thoroughbred?!
My passion for horses consumes my life now. No matter where I am in the world, I phone
the stud farm sometimes three or four times a day checking up on the horses. I think I was
very fortunate to discover a love for something outside of golf. So many great sportsmen
come to the end of their careers and then get bored because they have nothing else to
occupy their time. I can’t find enough time in the day for what I still want to do. I’m up at 5
o’clock in the morning starting to work with the horses. And I can be busy on the farm all
day. Vivienne always jokes that I am kind enough to sleep in the same room as her.
Any horse bred at the Gary Player Stud Farm is a good bet. The bones of the horses we
have bred are so much stronger than other thoroughbreds. Their feet, where you cut the
hooves, are much tougher. And because of the quality of the water there, the hearts of
these horses are much tougher than you would find in any other racehorse. The Karoo has
bred many champion horses.
I am not sure if there is a true thoroughbred out there right now. Rory McIlroy, Rickie
Fowler and Jordan Spieth sure do look the part, and they are going to be the ones to beat
for the next several years. Rory has the best all-around game on the PGA Tour, and Jordan
probably is the best putter in the world right now.
You famously have a real fighting spirit, knowing you were smaller than others and had to make up for it in other ways. Which modern golfer do you see out there who has this most?
After his victory at The Player Championship, I have to tip my hat the Rickie Fowler. He is
small in stature, but he works hard and respects the game. He was even at the Ceremonial
Tee Shot at The Masters to watch Jack, Arnold and myself tee off.
In 2014 he finished in the top five at all four Majors. It is only a matter of time until he
breaks through and wins his first. Having come so close to winning a Major, some believed
that he was an overrated player. I am proud he is proving the critics wrong. He has so
Tell us about The Gary Player Foundation, looks like an amazing project. How can we get involved and help?
I am proud to say we have raised more than $60 million through our efforts with The Player
Foundation. It was founded by my son, Marc, 30 years ago. We host a series of Gary Player
Invitational events around the world. We have tremendous support from our sponsors like
Berenberg, SAP, Rolex, Callaway and many others. They do a fantastic job helping raise
funds for underprivileged children around the world.
One of my biggest goals is to continue to grow our Foundation. We want to raise more than
$100 million and continue to help children long after I am gone. I want to leave a lasting
impact around the world.
We would love any charitable donations or additional media coverage for our GPI events this
What does golf need to do over the next 10 years? How can social mobility be better and do you agree with the likes of Donald Trump who say golf should be kept as aspirational and not for everybody?
The balls and clubs today are very well made and the technology has improved so much.
Probably too much. Professionals are now hitting long Par 5s with a driver and gap wedge.
In turn, golf courses are becoming so much longer, which requires much more maintenance
and water for irrigation. It’s terrible for the environment. That’s my main concern. What
needs to happen sooner rather than later is officials should regulate and scale back the golf
ball to control the distance. Then we won’t have to lengthen courses.
I do believe golf is a game that everyone deserves a chance to play. Gary Player Design has
built championship courses that host professional tournaments, but we also build for those
trying to learn the game. For example, we are building a unique short course for Johnny
Morris at Big Cedar Lodge. It’s designed for junior golfers who are new to the game and
others who like to play but don’t have time for a five-hour round. Golf should be fun and
enjoyable for everyone.
What piece of advice would you give to a parent of a kid who is just starting the game? And where do you see people going wrong with their kids?
Every parent needs to know that the harder their child practices or works, the luckier they
will get. Not just in golf, but in every aspect of their lives. Instilling good values in them
early is key to a bright future.
Children today need to exercise more and eat properly to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That
starts from an early age with help from their parents. It is very concerning to see all the
food consumed that has absolutely no nutritional value. Without question, grains, fruits and
vegetables are the way to go. We all know the saying, ‘You are what you eat’ and it really is
true. Always remember that diet is King and exercise is Queen, and together they make a
You have famously travelled millions of miles. How do you stop yourself getting bored? Have you got yourself an iPad or are you happy with a good book?! Or anything else?!
Having travelled more than 25 million kilometres, I find that at this point in my life long trips
almost seem normal. Don’t get me wrong, I still get jet lag and have to adjust to the time
changes. That’s why I make sure to always eat properly and stay hydrated.
I always read the newspaper, but I do have an iPad and I love it. It helps me stay updated
on current events and of course check on my horses and their results in the races. I can
look at pictures of my children and grandchildren too. But mostly I enjoy resting on the
flights. I find myself on the road nearly six months out of the year, so I try to use that time
to catch up on sleep.
Who came up with the rumour about you and your brilliantly named caddy 'Rabbit' cheating in 1974? And why?! And why on earth would you six shots ahead?!
I don’t care to know who started that rumour. There are certain things that are possible and
certain things that are impossible. There were TV cameras on me during the whole incident.
For anybody to say that Rabbit dropped a ball is dreaming. I would put my life on the fact
that he wouldn't do something like that. It's inconceivable. Racism and jealousy played a
As we walked towards the green, I wondered whether we would ever find the ball. The first
thing I did was to ask an official to put the watch on me to observe the five-minute rule. I
was in full view of the cameras. It is a unique aspect of golf that anybody anywhere who
spots a rules infringement during play can report it and have official action taken. It was a
frantic search in which I even got down on my hands and knees looking for the ball. I asked
everybody around me to join in the hunt but it still seemed like a hopeless task. There was
barely a minute of time left when a marshal found the ball.
It's 50 years since your career Grand Slam. Looks like Rory will do it right? Who will be next after him?
I had hoped Rory McIlroy would win The Masters and join myself, Gene Sarazen, Ben
Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only golfers ever to win all four Majors.
Rory takes such good care of himself and was raised well by his parents. He is the type of person you want representing this sport. I am not sure people fully realize what a magnificent
effort it will be when Rory wins the career Grand Slam. When I completed my Slam at 29, I
said to my wife that you will never see that done again. Then along came Jack Nicklaus at
26 and then Tiger at 24. Rory is only 26, and I honestly believe he will do it.
It may be too early to pronounce him a future Grand Slam champion, but Jordan Spieth has
such an unbelievable future ahead. Right now, he is the best putter in the world. Everybody
always talks about the great swings of the Tour. The man with the great putting stroke is
always the man to beat in the end. Spieth may be one of the best putters the world has
ever seen, and his maturity is quite remarkable.
I'm a streaky 7-handicap. Fancy a game at St Andrews? How much do you reckon you'd beat me by?!
I am nearly 80, and always break my age when I play. It seems to get easier to do the older I become. I would coach you up before the round to give you a better chance.
Who is going to win The Open?
I am thrilled that this year The Open is back at St. Andrews, the home of golf. The field should be super competitive. I expect many players to be in the mix. I think it would be remarkable if Rory McIlroy could defend his title, but that is very difficult to do.
Who is the funniest person you have met in golf over the years? Story?
I’ve always been drawn to caddies with a good sense of humour, like Rabbit, who caddied for me for so many years. I’ll never forget taking him over to The Open in 1974. He was the first black man to ever caddie at The Open.
When Rabbit arrived at the golf course the first thing he said to me was, 'Gary, I stick out like a fly in a bowl of buttermilk over here.' I’ll never forget that story.
Rabbit could always make me smile, even if he felt like he didn’t belong.
Why do you love golf?
How does a person not love golf? Golf rewards you with the healthful side effects of long walks without high impact and the downside risks you take with your physical well-being in other activities. The game of golf challenges your mind every time you step out on the course or range. It presents you with the ultimate opponent: yourself. With golf, the rewards to the soul and mind are endless.
I'm the Managing Editor at The Club. I like putting and Rioja. I dislike my low slice.