Despite its rapid growth, golf was still considered a game of the elite through the first half of the 20th century. Then Arnold Palmer came along and took golf to the masses.
With his charismatic warmth and aggressive style, Palmer became the face of golf in the early television era. From 1958-64, he won seven major championships – including four Masters titles – and drew a rabid following called “Arnie’s Army.” Just as his contemporary, Elvis Presley, was the “King of Rock ’n’ Roll,” Palmer was the “King of Golf.”
A hotshot from Ohio named Jack Nicklaus would usurp Palmer’s throne, but Arnie’s mass appeal drove a golf boom. Millions of Americans, including vast numbers of the burgeoning middle class, took up golf and public-access courses became more prevalent. The number of U.S. courses more than doubled between 1950 and 1970, growing from 4,900 to 10,200.