What Is The Longest Playoff In Pro Golf?

What Is The Longest Playoff In Pro Golf?

A playoff or sudden-death playoff is something we don’t get treated to often enough in golf. A playoff is often the final method of determining the winning of a golf tournament when players are locked on the same score after all the rounds are completed. Leaving the game at a tie does not seem to be the preferred option for golfers.

To win a game of golf, you will need to complete all 4 rounds in fewer shots than your competition. However, most players on this level are matched pretty equally and this means they often end up with a tie. In most cases ties, often resolve themselves in the final round and some players seem to cope better with pressure.

The question remains what happens when two players have nerves of steel and the ability to deal with the pressure to step up to the next level to become the champion. This often leads us to the playoff that can make or break a golfer. In this article, we will look closer at the playoff and the playoff formats of golf:

What Is The Playoff Rules In Golf?

The PGA tour has changed and dabbled with the playoff rules over the last couple of years and the main method was first using three holes. After the final round, the players tied on the same score would play three additional holes that are randomly selected. After each of these holes has been played, the final aggregate score determines the winner.

However, if the scores are still tied after three holes, the players will continue playing one hole followed by the next. Once a player wins a hole outright, they will be crowned the winner of the tournament and take home the prize money.

However, the rules have slightly changed in recent years. In 2018, the USGA announced a new format that would only include two holes to be played, and the aggregate score after this is taken to determine the winner. If both players remain tied after these two holes, the game would continue until one player wins a hole.

What Is The Longest Playoff In History?

As you can see, the rules make it easy for players to continue for plenty of holes until someone makes a mistake or pulls out a few brilliant shots. This has led to incredible playoff battles over the years. Back in 1931, the game between Billy Burke and George Von Elm went to the playoffs and the playoffs were at the time another 18 holes.

Back in 1928, the USGA upped the playoff to 36-holes, which significantly lengthened the time it would take to break a tie. The first 36-holes were by no means the best golf you would see and nowadays, players would never make it that long with these shots. However, the game continued with Burke taking a significant lead to start with.

Eventually, Burked bogeyed three shots in a row, which allowed Von Elm to get back into the game. With a few mistakes from both players, they eventually finished the first 36 holes tied on  149 shots each. With the rules already in play, it meant that both players needed to go again the following day to determine the winner.

The game was relatively even the following day, especially during the morning session, with both players exchanging the lead and being close to one another on the scorecard. The nerves had to give way to a few mistakes and Von Elm eventually botched an easy put to give Burke a significant buffer to the end.

While Burke won the game, the statistics for the game were impressive. It took both players a combination of 1179 strokes on 144 holes to determine the winner and this would stand in the record books as the longest ever playoff game in golf. It would also encourage the USGA to think of a better method of settling ties between players.

How It Shaped The Rules Of Sudden Death In Golf

The USGA could not afford to have another game go for an additional 72-holes and the following year, the playoff rule was moved back to 18-holes, followed by an additional 18-holes if the players are still tied. They eventually changed this to 1 extra hole after a tied, which would continue until someone made a mistake.


Nowadays, the game is much faster and with significant time constraints and specific schedules, these tours cannot afford to have players play as many rounds for settling ties. We don’t believe that in the modern era, we would ever bear witness to another 144-hole game that could take an additional 2 or 3 days to complete.

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