We are into the upper echelons of our 100 Most Influential People in Golf 2022, a brand-new ranking of the men and women who have made the biggest difference in the game in the last year. These are the people we ranked 25th-11th.
Influence Noun; The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.
According to the R&A, there are around 66.6 million golfers in the world – and every single one of them has, in some way, been influenced by people on this list – the first ranking of its kind.
Whether you’ve bought a dozen balls, a new driver, watched a clip on YouTube, shared a Tweet, liked an Instagram post or played a top course, the reach of the 100 people in this list is simply staggering.
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The 100 Most Influential People In Golf 2022: 25-11
25 GREG MCLAUGHLIN
Highly respected executive with links to Tiger and the PGA Tour
A former CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation, McLaughlin is an industry veteran of 30 years and holds a raft of high-profile and hugely influential roles. He had been in charge of the PGA Champions Tour prior to being asked to take on executive roles at the PGA Tour First Tee Foundation and World Golf Foundation.
He is also responsible for managing the World Golf Hall of Fame, into which Tiger was a recent inductee.
Over the years he has helped raise millions through various charitable initiatives in golf and now he is heading up the First Tee program, which works with 1,400 golf courses, 10,000 schools and 1,700 youth centres to introduce golf and life skills to 2.2 million kids across six countries each year.
He is one of golf’s unsung heroes and a man to have on your side in a crisis.
24 RICK SHIELS
The man behind the world’s No.1 golf YouTube channel, co-host of the Rick Shiels Golf Show Podcast and owner of Rick Shiels Media Ltd
Has anyone done as much to attract a new generation to the game as Rick Shiels? In 2020, eight years after uploading his first video on YouTube, he became the first golf creator to smash through the one million subscribers barrier. That figure now stands at 2.4 million after another blistering year. He has built a multi-million-pound brand, relationships with some of golf’s best-known companies, a team of staff and even a hit podcast.
The mix of challenges, big-name collaborations, reviews, instruction and high production values has seen Shiels’ 2022 videos gain more than 50 million views to date.
Countless golfers credit Shiels with fixing their game, while the 36-year-old’s influence over golfers’ buying decisions was highlighted when a positive review of Callaway’s Hex ball saw it sell out within hours.
He now boasts 2.3 million followers across his other social media platforms and attracted national headlines in June when he carried his golf bag 150 miles from Prestwick to St Andrews, raising more than £120,000 for Prostate Cancer UK. He is, in many ways, one of golf’s good guys.
BONUS CONTENT: Read our exclusive interview with Rick Shiels
23 BRIAN BAZZEL
VP of Global Product Creation at TaylorMade
A TaylorMade veteran who’s worked in every product department, Bazzel is now responsible for all of them.
He also runs the company’s secretive weekly Global Product Strategy meeting – where the equipment we’ll be using in five years is discussed.
22 ALAN HOCKNELL
Senior VP for Research & Development at Topgolf Callaway Brands Corp
Spurred on by his boss Chip Brewer, Hocknell – a Brit now in California – has been at the forefront of Callaway’s product renaissance.
He was responsible for the relaunch of the Big Bertha in 2013, a club he says “meant we weren’t always playing for second in the driver market, which was significant.”
Now he’s at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence in golf equipment design.
RELATED: Which Callaway iron is best for me?
21 JASON WESSELY
Head of Golf at Sky Sports
A silent star of broadcasting, Wessely oversees live golf coverage 50 weeks a year, including the men’s and women’s Majors.
Sky has become the ‘Home of Golf’ for viewers, who have been treated to ground-breaking innovations such as the 360 Augmented Reality Player Swings.
A vast increase in live women’s and amateur golf has been most welcome and a new rights deal means they’ll continue to show the DP World Tour until 2024.
20 MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN
Crown Prince and PM of Saudi Arabia – and the man funding LIV Golf
LIV may boast of being ‘Golf, but louder’, but the man with the keys to a war chest reshaping the professional game has his volume set very low. Bin Salman prefers his “finger puppet” Greg Norman to answer accusations of sportswashing, but the Crown Prince is signing off cheques that turn the heads of a growing number of PGA and DP World Tour defectors.
He is the silent Chairman of the PIF, the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, which is dedicating $2 billion towards an expanded schedule of LIV Golf events over the next three years. The first season reportedly cost around $784 million in total, but they still need to strike a TV deal.
19 JOHN K. SOLHEIM
President of Ping and the third generation Solheim to run the company
When Karsten set up Ping more than 60 years ago, it was because he could not find a decent putter. But in the last 30 years, Ping have firmly established themselves as an iconic driver brand and a leader in custom fitting.
The G425 Max was named the most forgiving driver of 2022 in our testing, while the new G430 LST was the most-played model in the season opener on the PGA Tour.
The Solheim family were also behind the introduction of the Solheim Cup, which will precede next year’s Ryder Cup by a week and take centre stage at Finca Cortesin for the first time.
18 JACK NICKLAUS
One of the two greatest golfers of all time, now owner of one of the biggest golf course design and construction companies
Whether you’re Camp Tiger or Camp Jack probably depends on your age and whether you believe Major titles trump all else. Either way, it should be no surprise that everything the Golden Bear has touched since hanging up his MacGregor sticks has turned to, well, gold.
Nicklaus Design have 425 golf courses open for play, meaning around one percent of the world’s courses were designed or redesigned by Jack and his company. Some of the standouts include Gleneagles, Hilton Head, Harbour Town, Killeen Castle, and Muirfield Village, where Jack hosts the PGA Tour’s Memorial Tournament every year.
One of his latest developments is the Ury Estate in Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, set to open in 2024. It’s the first Nicklaus-branded residential golf community in Europe and looks absolutely stunning, with a top-drawer course wrapped around Ury Castle.
Jack’s instruction book, Golf My Way, is one of the classics of golf instruction and has sold more than two million copies and its influence shows no sign of fading. He has his own apparel line, as well as partnerships with countless leading brands, including Miura, E-Z-GO, and Golf Magazine.
Jack was even approached to become LIV Golf CEO, with an offer in excess of $100 million, but turned it down twice due to his loyalties with the PGA Tour.
As one of the most revered statesmen in golf, the 82-year-old’s opinion carries serious weight. It’s good news, then, that he feels golf is in a strong spot.
“There are more good players in the game than we’ve ever had,” he insists. “From a television standpoint, good gracious. You can watch almost any golf tournament in the world today on television. You can turn it on and say, ‘I’m going to watch something in Africa or I want to watch something in Europe’. No matter where you are, you’re going to be able to watch it. That will continue to popularise the game of golf.
“Covid has really seen people flock to the game. I think golf is probably in as good a state as it’s ever been as far as the growth of the game and seeing the number of good players that there are today. I think it’s really fantastic.”
RELATED: Our exclusive interview with Jack
17 NIALL HORAN
Popstar and self-confessed golf fanatic who set up a management company, Modest! Golf, in 2016
The 29-year-old has gone from being part of One Direction to revolutionising how golf is perceived by minority groups.
Besides managing a wealth of stars, including Tyrrell Hatton, Leona Maguire and disability golfer Brendan Lawlor, Horan has set out to change the face of golf by making it more diverse and inclusive.
He was instrumental in the birth of the ISPS HANDA World Invitational, presented by Modest! Golf, which sees men and women compete side by side for equal money. The event broke ground as the first event of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere and is now tri-sanctioned by the DP World, LPGA and Ladies European Tours.
His stock is so great that his agency have been appointed by the R&A to help develop a series of grassroots programmes aimed at getting young people into golf.
It probably helps that he has 41.1 million followers on Twitter and 30.7 million on Instagram as well.
16 JUSTIN ROSE
Major winner, Olympic gold medallist and force for good
At a time when the morals of his former Ryder Cup teammates are being questioned, Justin Rose has emerged as one of the biggest advocates for equality and inclusivity in golf, breaking down barriers and becoming a force for good in a sport which desperately needs it.
While the rest of the industry were in caretaker mode during the pandemic, Justin and wife Kate put their name and money behind the Rose Ladies Series and offered eight playing opportunities for stars of the LET. It was such a success that the series extended to 11 events last year, and even filled a four-week gap in this year’s LET schedule with five more tournaments.
Their attention has since turned to hosting the first-ever Rose Ladies Open on the LET Access Series and promoting a new Justin Rose Academy, spread across six American Golf sites in the UK.
It’s early days but the Roses hope to bring 18,000 young people onto the Justin Rose junior programme in the first five years.
He already has his name attached to the Telegraph Junior Golf Championship, and last year he was presented with the PGA Tour’s Payne Stewart Award in recognition of his character, sportsmanship and commitment to charitable giving.
So far, the Justin and Kate Rose Foundation have raised more than £3 million since 2009, providing more than 500,000 hunger-free weekends, and over 300,000 books to 29,000 children in Central Florida.
RELATED: WITB Justin Rose
15 PHIL MICKELSON
The most polarising figure in our sport; golf’s greatest showman and its master manipulator
Since becoming the oldest man to win a Major, aged 50, Phil has done his best to tarnish a legacy which has (so far) delivered six Majors, 12 Ryder Cup appearances and Hall of Fame status.
This year he’s been banned – and then stripped of his lifetime membership – from the PGA Tour, joined LIV Golf for a reported $200 million, and given up the chance to ever captain the US Ryder Cup team.
His licence to thrill has fallen in line with his Twitter game and reputation, yet Forbes still named him as the highest-paid golfer of 2022 after he crossed the $1 billion mark in career earnings. And that’s despite three sponsors dropping him over his criticism of the PGA Tour and his “scary motherf***ers” outburst about the Saudis.
He remains one of golf’s greatest enigmas.
14 FRED RIDLEY
The most powerful man wearing a Green Jacket
You can’t so much as set foot on the property at Augusta National without Ridley’s say so, which may yet be a problem for LIV golfers with ambitions of playing at next year’s Masters.
Since succeeding Billy Payne in 2017, he has dragged Augusta National out of the Dark Ages and into the 21st century. He’s made some big calls, most notably announcing an Augusta National Women’s Amateur and honouring Lee Elder with two scholarships in his name at Paine College.
More recently he’s given the green light for Augusta’s re-entry into the video game space with EA Sports, and overseen major alterations to the 11th and 15th. The par-5 13th is rumoured to be next.
RELATED: The story of the Green Jacket
13 SETH WAUGH
CEO of the PGA of America, which serves almost 30,000 professionals
A mentor to PGA Tour chief Jay Monahan and a former colleague of Martin Slumbers, Waugh is well-connected and well-respected as the leader of the PGA of America.
It is his job to oversee more than 30 tournaments for their members, while also controlling operations for Team USA in the Ryder Cup.
He has a seat on the board of the OGWR and won praise for stripping Trump Bedminster of hosting duties for this year’s PGA Championship and taking it to Southern Hills.
He has just overseen another seismic move after relocating the PGA of America HQ to a new $600 million estate, dubbed the ‘Silicon Valley of Golf’. The 600-acre campus in Dallas aims to be a “first-of-its-kind golf laboratory”, with two golf courses, a 510-room resort, a practice area totalling 45 holes, and a PGA District, featuring indoor and outdoor golf entertainment areas.
From the start of next year, the site will host 26 championships up until 2034, including the men’s, Women’s and Senior PGA Championships.
12 DAVID MAHER
President and CEO of Acushnet, which owns Titleist, FootJoy, Scotty Cameron and Vokey, among others
Valued at over $3.1 billion, Maher’s Acushnet Holdings Corp is the largest manufacturer of golf equipment in the world and posted a record 33% increase in net sales in 2021. A pure ‘golf’ company – clubs, balls, shoes, gloves, apparel – with half its sales coming from outside the USA, Acushnet has been well placed to capitalise on the growth of the game since the pandemic.
Last year they opened a Titleist Performance Centre at Woburn, featuring two fitting bays and a bespoke club-building workshop. The 10-acre site replicates most of what is on offer at the advanced Titleist Performance Institute in California and promises the “best fitting experience available in Europe”. Even Adam Scott is a fan. “What Titleist has done here is amazing,” he says.
11 DAVID ABELES
CEO and President of TaylorMade
Once described as “the man with the Midas touch”, David Abeles has turned TaylorMade into a global powerhouse and recruited some of the biggest names in golf as brand ambassadors. Now he’s looking to topple Titleist as the leading golf ball manufacturer.
Stealth drivers, P-Series irons, TP5 balls… just three of the products that have been huge successes under Abeles’ watch. He’s successfully steered TM out of its ownership by adidas, put the focus back on product, and then spent big money on big names (Tiger! Rory! DJ!) to show the world how good it is.
BONUS CONTENT: Read our exclusive interview with David Abeles