When they aren’t sinking birdies and eagles, the world’s best golfers are flying amongst them – many in their own luxurious private jets. On the course, these golfers are always below par. In the air, their jets are anything but. Today we list 10 golfers who can afford to travel in private jets.
Golf is a sport that paradoxically celebrates humility and reserved-ness, yet requires big personalities. Most of us wouldn’t tune in to see a bunch of nameless nobodies hit a ball and walk around the green.
We tune in for Tiger, Phil, Ricky, and Rory, just like it was all about Arnie and Jack back in the day.
Add the focus on personalities to the fact that golf is an expensive game (those putters, drivers, and club memberships are expensive) and private jets seem an all the more obvious outgrowth of pro golf culture.
Private jets are a way to get from tour to tour, but they’re also an essential status symbol. People may not be able to name every British Open winner, but they can connect with the idea of Arnie or Tiger flying high in a flash private jet.
Mark Twain famously called golf “a good walk spoiled.” Even so, it’s hard to call any flight on the private jets these golfers call their own a good trip spoiled – even if they don’t come inexpensively.
Still, as these 10 private jet-owning golfers can attest, when the stakes include big prize money, trophies, and snazzy green Master’s jackets, it’s all worth it.
Table of Contents
- 1. Arnold Palmer: Citation X
- 2. Jack Nicklaus: Gulfstream III
- 3. Tiger Woods: Gulfstream G550
- 4. Phil Mickelson: Gulfstream V
- 5. Greg Norman: Lockheed JetStar
- 6. Ernie Els: Gulfstream IV-SP
- 7. Payne Stewart: Learjet 35
- 8. Sergio Garcia: Hawker 4000
- 9. Rickie Fowler: Gulfstream V (Puma)
- 10. Rory McIlroy: Bombardier Challenger 605
1. Arnold Palmer: Citation X
While he wasn’t necessarily the “original” pro golf superstar (hi, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead) there’s no denying Arnold Palmer popularized the sport more than anyone not named “Tiger.”
Part of that popularity was his blend of down-to-earth accessibility and lust for life, as exemplified by his love of private jets.
In fact, the official Arnold Palmer website lists a love of flying as Palmer’s greatest passion behind his wife and golf. Palmer flew several private jets in his day, one of which being a Citation X.
This type of private jet ceased production in 2018, but it remains quite popular with owners today. A Citation X requires a crew of two, can hold up to 12 passengers, is capable of Mach 0.935, features a swept-wing design, and as of 2015 cost roughly $23.3 million.
2. Jack Nicklaus: Gulfstream III
“The Golden Bear” had the golden touch on the golf course, and his choice of private jets was likewise as good as gold. Gulfstream is one of the biggest names in private jets today, and Nicklaus owned several models, including the G-III from the 70s.
Fun fact: Nicklaus actually shared a pilot with fellow 70s icon and flight enthusiast John Denver. Like Palmer, Nicklaus has owned several jets, including other Gulfstream models.
As for the Gulfstream III, it’s reasonably roomy for a private jet, being able to comfortably fit as many as 19 passengers.
Prices for it range wildly, from a starting point of “just” 695K for a used 1982 model in 2018 to $37 million to the “$65 million” American evangelist Creflo A. Dollar boasted about spending for one.
3. Tiger Woods: Gulfstream G550
It there’s any name as synonymous with golf as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus it’s Tiger Woods. He’s tied with Sam Snead for the most all-time PGA wins (82) and second behind Nicklaus for most majors (15 to Nicklaus’ 18).
Just like Nicklaus, Woods loves the Gulfstream jet lifestyle, opting for a $53 million Gulfstream G550. His private jet is serviced by two pilots and attendants, can house as many as 19 passengers, has a cruising speed of 652 mph, and has a maximum range of a whopping 7,767 miles.
Woods’ Gulfstream is reported to be especially luxurious, with a walk-in wardrobe, comfortable bathrooms (something anyone who’s squeezed into a commercial airline loo can appreciate) and a spaciously sweet dining setup.
4. Phil Mickelson: Gulfstream V
Tiger and Phil have been together and defined their era in golfing history, and so it’s only fitting that Phil would match Tiger’s lavish Gulfstream G550 with a $40 million Gulfstream V of his own.
The Gulfstream V is capable of being able to reach Mach 0.885 and has a range of 7,500 miles. Those two facts combined make it excellent for quick turnaround times on even the longest of trips.
Add to that a capacity for a dozen passengers, and it’s no secret why players such as Mickelson, Nicklaus, and Greg Norman love the Gulfstream V, making it one of the most popular jets among big-time golfers.
5. Greg Norman: Lockheed JetStar
He may be nicknamed “The Shark,” but it’s Greg Norman’s high-flying jet-setting lifestyle we’re talking about here. Norman’s a huge jet enthusiast and has owned a whopping seven jets throughout his golf career and retirement, including a Gulfstream V and Gulfstream G550.
It’s his first private jet, however, that caught our eye. In a statement on his website, he mentions that his first private jet was a Lockheed JetStar – a true blast from the past which first debuted in 1961.
To get a sense of time, it’s the private jet used by Goldfinger in the James Bond film of that name.
In 1972, a few years before the start of Norman’s pro career, Lockheed JetStars cost $2.8 million on average. Adjusted for inflation, that would be roughly $17.35 million in 2019.
6. Ernie Els: Gulfstream IV-SP
The Gulfstream IV-SP itself is easily the most normal thing about what is undoubtedly the oddest entry on our list. It’s an all-around solid jet, is considerably lighter than the Gulfstream III, is piloted by a crew of two and, depending on the model, can hold anywhere from 12 to 19 passengers.
It’s what happened on Els’ personal Gulfstream IV-SP that makes this an intriguing entry. In 2018, he got into an exchange with fellow golfer Steve Marino, who mentioned he was several places ahead of Els on the money rankings.
Sometime later, during a boozed-up flight back from an event in Japan, Els declared, “Now we fight,” headbutted Marino, and it was on. Marino was more than a little shocked (and bloodied), but by all accounts the ordeal ended with laughter on both sides.
7. Payne Stewart: Learjet 35
It is with a heavy heart that we include Payne Stewart here, not because he didn’t deserve the private jets and grandeur of a pro golf lifestyle, but because he deserved so much more. Stewart was tragically killed in 1999 when his Learjet 35 crashed.
Two pilots and four passengers, including Stewart, boarded the Learjet 35 with an intended flight path from Orlando to Dallas. Things went very wrong, however, as the cabin lost pressure and everyone onboard suffered from oxygen deprivation. The plane veered far off course, crashing in South Dakota.
This wasn’t the first time this had happened with the Learjet 35, either. A Wall Street Journal article following the crash revealed that, while the model had a good safety record overall, there had been past instances of cabin pressure problems such as the one that befell Payne’s plane.
8. Sergio Garcia: Hawker 4000
For years known as both Spain’s most famous golfer as well as perhaps the most prominent active player to not win a major, Garcia reinforced the former and dispelled the latter by finally winning at the 2017 Masters. Throughout those ups and downs he’s had his Hawker 4000.
The Hawker could be quite expensive when it first came out in 2001, with it commanding as much as $22.9 million in 2012. Manufacturing ceased the following year, however, and nowadays many sales involving the Hawker are for the $4 million scrap value of its engine and related components.
That isn’t to say it’s a slouch by any means, however. The Hawker carries a crew of two pilots, can seat anywhere between eight and fourteen people, and has an operational range of more than 3,300 miles.
9. Rickie Fowler: Gulfstream V (Puma)
We’ve already talked about what a fantastic private jet the Gulfstream V is. That said, there are personal private jets and corporate private jets, and Rickie Fowler’s is a little bit of both.
Puma has been a sponsor of Fowler’s in the past, and so lent them their special Gulfstream V for his honeymoon with track and field star and fitness model Allison Stokke, who took a picture of their flight that included the Puma logo.
Entrusting anyone with a corporate plane is serious business. Still, Puma has sponsored Fowler for a decade, and in 2014 he posted a picture of himself boarding a private jet while flying to the BMW Championship while wearing (what else?) a Puma hat, so it seems like a fair deal.
10. Rory McIlroy: Bombardier Challenger 605
In the vacuum left by Tiger’s decade-plus dry spell, few among the new crop of champions has been more celebrated than Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy. Of course, if this list has taught us anything, it’s that being a big-time golfer means a big-time private jet.
As of 2018, more than a thousand Bombardier Challenger 605 series jets have been manufactured, making it the most produced plane on this list. A 605 like Rory’s has a maximum speed of Mach 0.885, and a maximum range of 3,910 miles.
They can be pricey, costing between $27 and $33 million, with upkeep costs of $3 million per year, but when you’re one of the most famous golfing stars on the planet, that’s nothing, apparently.