American golfer Jack Nicklaus, fondly referred to as “The Golden Bear,” is widely regarded as one of the greatest golfers to have ever graced the game. Because Nicklaus holds the record for winning the most number of major championships, many golfing fans are curious to know what his handicap was.
Few people would be surprised to know that Jack Nicklaus has a handicap of 5.2, which is one of the lowest handicaps ever. For comparison, Tiger Woods has a handicap of 7.1 while Phil Mickelson has a handicap of 6.0. It’s no wonder Nicklaus’ record remains unbeaten even though he retired in 2005.
Nicklaus’ impressive handicap of 5.2 can be attributed to his unique style of playing, which has helped him weather competition over the years as the sport evolved.
Nicklaus’s Playing Style
Born in Upper Arlington, Ohio, Nicklaus started his professional career on the PGA tour in 1962, back when he was just 22 years old. Throughout his career, he would go on to win a record of eighteen major championships, which is three more than second-ranked Tiger Woods.
Of course, he stands apart from his friendly rival. Tiger Woods’ long drives are undoubtedly what has made him such an icon of the sport. For Rory McIlroy, on the other hand, it was his use of interlocking grips when holding his equipment that made him stand out.
What was it about Nicklaus’ style that has helped him attain one of the lowest handicaps the sport has ever seen? You just have to see some of his best shots to know that he hit the ball longer and straighter than any of his opponents — and methodically planned every single round.
Even as an amateur, Nicklaus had an uncanny ability to hit the ball high and long. Nicklaus’s career has plenty of notable examples that show just how good he was at this, especially when it came to long drives.
For example, when he won the long drive contest at the PGA tournament in 1963, it was through a belt that was 341 yards and 17 inches. What’s more, it would take another twenty years before his record was broken.
His long drives were largely in part due to his use of the fading technique for the flight of the ball. What made this technique so different is the fact that the ball’s flight has a left-to-right shape.
He was often able to reach long par fours and fives in just two shots using this technique. The years of intense training and meticulous planning he put in also meant that his swings had a lot more power than his opponents.
Nicklaus Was Way Ahead of His Time
Nicklaus’s golfing technique was only part of what enabled him to consistently outperform his opponents. Over the years, experts of the game have hailed his course management skills as the best in the game.
Nicklaus would meticulously plan every single shot based on the best position he wanted the ball to land in for his next shot. Furthermore, he had a strong preference for clear approach lines and level lines to make sure his shot achieved the shape he intended it to.
Furthermore, Nicklaus was also the first professional golfer to consistently and diligently record his yardages. Over the years, this would become the norm for all golfers.
A Legendary Career
While players like Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, and Rory McIlroy are often the first golfers that younger fans mention when asked about who the best is, the statistics indicate that it’s none other than Jack Nicklaus.
Nicklaus’s first major trophy was the U.S. Open, which he won in 1962 with a deficit of two shots. Nicklaus would go on to win seventeen more major championships, with the 1986 Masters Tournament being his last.
While his technique and course management skills were phenomenal, a large part of his success was also because he simply competed more often than others. Throughout his prolific and impressive career, Nicklaus would participate in a staggering 164 tournaments.
As of December 2020, this is still the highest number of tournaments any player has participated in. He was also inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 and received a Congressional medal of honor in 2015.
While Nicklaus retired in 2005, he is still involved with the sport and currently designs golf courses. With his hard work and methodical approach to the sport, he remains a legend of the game.
The golfing community has yet to see another athlete who can beat Nicklaus’ impressive handicap of 5.2.