In a world where sponsorships have contributed significantly to athletes’ wealth, and new courses are being built in remote destinations, the number of golfers who own private jets has only grown exponentially in the past few decades. Today, most of the top 50 pros are regularly skipping terminal lines and crowded planes to fly in their own mean machines, most of which have been acquired on their ascent to become the best in the game.
If Tiger Woods’ Gulfstream G550 is the benchmark of sporting excellence fused with opulent travel, then Rory McIlroy’s distinguished Bombardier Challenger 605 and Phil Mickelson’s Gulfstream V prove that golf and private aviation go hand-in-hand. Read on as we explore the exclusive fraternity of golfers with private jets. These famous athletes possess not only unparalleled skill on the fairways but also the power to traverse the globe in unparalleled style.
Tiger Woods’ Gulfstream G550 stands as a pinnacle of opulence when it comes to golfers with their own private jets. The American golfing legend spared no expense, investing a staggering GBP 48 million in this airborne marvel. With a top speed of 680mph and an impressive range of 7,767 miles, it not only ensures swift journeys but does so in utmost style. Inside, the luxurious interiors feature a lavish bedroom, a walk-in wardrobe, generously appointed bathrooms, and a dining area for him and his co-passengers. This flying sanctuary accommodates up to 18 passengers and seamlessly transforms into a high-flying office with satellite communications and full internet connectivity.
One of golf’s most prominent names, Rory McIlroy’s high-flying adventures are coloured with luxury and environmental consciousness. The Bombardier Challenger 605, a testament to McIlroy’s soaring stakes, was acquired in 2018 at a staggering cost exceeding USD 30 million. This sleek jet boasts a top speed of Mach 0.885 and an impressive range of 3,910 miles.
In a candid moment of reflection, the 32-year-old former world No.1 acknowledged the environmental impact of owning a private airliner, expressing “guilt” over his carbon footprint. He explained the epiphany he had after flying home following his WGC-HSBC Champions win in Shanghai in 2019. “I flew back home privately,” he explained. “It was just me on the plane and I just got this massive sense of guilt come over me, just because this can’t be good and all that sort of stuff.”
Subsequently, he committed to offsetting it by contributing approximately USD 150,000 annually to the GEO Foundation, aligning his passion for golf with a conscientious approach to sustainability.
“I wouldn’t self-profess to be an eco-warrior,” McIlroy said. “But I’m someone that doesn’t want to damage the environment, so how can I make my travel around the world neutral? How can I neutralise what I do?”
Phil ‘Lefty’ Mickelson’s erstwhile ownership of a Gulfstream V, valued at nearly USD 40 million, rightfully captures the kind of frills that come with being one of the world’s most celebrated golfers. With a seating capacity of 19, the Gulfstream V boasted a formidable top speed of Mach 0.885 and a remarkable range of 7,500 miles, ensuring unparalleled comfort and efficiency even on the lengthiest journeys. This airborne haven featured a lavish interior, replete with a dining area, plush couches, televisions, and opulent decorations, reflecting Mickelson’s penchant for luxury. The aircraft’s design catered to his multifaceted needs, including designated work and entertainment areas, bedrooms, bathrooms, and a kitchen to prepare in-flight meals.
However, in 2021, Mickelson made a pivotal decision to part ways with his private jet. In a move that reflected the environmental awareness which began to permeate the world of golf aviation a few years back, he told Forbes, “The greatest decision I made after owning a plane for 20 years was selling it and going with VistaJet because it has reduced my stress levels exponentially.” Lefty has a partnership with the global private jet provider whose acquisitive Dubai-based parent company, Vista Global, manages a fleet of over 160 on-demand jets with further access to 2,100 alliance aircraft.
“When Amy and I would travel to the mountains to go ski, I would need to know months in advance when I was going to go, so that I could get a hangar. Otherwise, if the plane sits outside, things freeze and there is a huge additional expense that always comes up,” Mickelson explained. “With VistaJet, they handle that problem. We don’t have to tell them months in advance. We can tell them hours in advance, and they drop us off wherever we want to go and they deal with all the logistics.”
Aptly nicknamed “The Shark,” Norman’s fascination with aviation began when he was still in school. In an interview with Business Jet Traveller, he revealed, “I lived next to a Royal Australian Air Force base where F-111s were taking off. I was probably 13 or 14, and I was infatuated by them. In high school, I was doing the preliminary training to join the Air Force and become a pilot. I was about to join the Air Force and decided not to for some reason — even though I didn’t even know I was going to become a professional golfer.”
Over the course of his illustrious golf career and into retirement, Norman has owned an astounding seven jets, showcasing his passion for high-altitude luxury. Among these, the Gulfstream V and Gulfstream G550 reflect his love for extravagance and aviation. However, it’s his inaugural private jet, a Lockheed JetStar, that adds a nostalgic touch to his legacy. “I had a relationship with Bell Helicopter for a long time. I also bought a Jetstar around 1988. I paid a million dollars for it. I flew it around the world thinking I was the king of the hill. And then I went into a GIII and I got a relationship with Gulfstream, very similar to the one with Bell Helicopter. I would acquire the aircraft, but they would lease back time at a retail rate. I would [arrive at a tournament] on a Tuesday and wouldn’t leave until Sunday, so my plane would sit idle in the Middle East or Asia or Japan for five or six days, and Gulfstream would use it as a demonstrator.”
Additionally, Norman made waves in the aviation world in 1988 with the purchase of a Boeing Business Jet 737, featuring an expansive 807-square-foot interior — nearly three times larger than any other corporate jet produced at the time. In 2019, he was roped in as the brand ambassador for Delta Private Jets, which only made sense given his commitment to being in the high-flying life.
“I spend an incredible amount of time in the air globetrotting for business and pleasure and partnering with Delta Private Jets allows me to have the luxury travel experience that I have come to rely on,”said Norman, who is also a golf course architect. “In my businesses, I aspire to provide my customers and fans with the highest quality and superior experiences, so teaming up with Delta Private Jets is a natural fit for my brand.”
A true golfing icon, the late Arnold Palmer not only left an indelible mark on the sport but also showed the world what a love affair with aviation looked like. Renowned as the original pro golfer, Palmer’s private jet collection was a testament to his deep-rooted passion, a journey that began with flying lessons in a single-engine Cessna 172. In 1961, Palmer took a significant leap, acquiring an Aero Commander 500 for his tour travels. The quest for greater sky power led to subsequent upgrades, including the Aero Commander 560F in 1963 and the Rockwell Jet Commander in 1966.
Arnie continued improving his flying skills and soon acquired “instrument and multi-engine ratings.” This meant he could now fly in all types of weather — anywhere. The golfer added, “After I got down the basics, I had the thrill of my first solo flight — a spin over the Allegheny Mountains during which I felt the power of having the controls of the airplane entirely to myself.”
Palmer’s dedication to aviation mirrored his prowess on the golf course, and each jet acquisition reflected his evolving needs for speed, range, and comfort. His final aircraft, the Citation X, offered intercontinental range, enabling him to traverse the globe effortlessly. Beyond personal indulgence, Palmer’s contributions to the Latrobe airport’s expansion showcased his commitment to aviation in Western Pennsylvania, culminating in the renaming of the airport to Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in 1999. Arnold Palmer’s story isn’t just of a golfer with a private jet, but a beacon of inspiration, reminding us that true greatness can transcend the boundaries of one’s chosen field.
Sergio Garcia’s aerial prowess extended beyond the fairways when he purchased a Hawker 4000 business jet, a testament to both luxury and functionality priced at USD 22.9 million in 2012. Playfully noting that the jet was spacious enough for “15- to 20-foot lag putts down the aisle,” Garcia acknowledged its advantage in meeting his demanding schedule and stood as a symbol of his meticulous approach to his professional life. In a strategic move inspired by observing fellow pros, Garcia entered the world of private aviation upon turning pro in 1999. The eight-seater Hawker 4000, with four flat beds spanning seven feet each, provided unmatched comfort during extensive journeys, making it an indispensable part for Garcia’s assets.
“We could have bought any plane we wanted, but with the 4000 we’re buying a midsize jet with the capability and systems and electronics that you get on a bigger plane and a range that [lets us] get anywhere in the U.S. from Spain with one stop. And it was a lot more affordable. We’re thrilled that we took that decision, because it’s been great. It’s an awesome plane,” he added in an interview.
Jack Nicklaus, the legendary golfer with an illustrious career, is not just renowned for his 18 Major victories but also for his passion for private jets. With career earnings totalling USD 1.15 billion, Nicklaus, the face of the PGA Tour, still indulges in the luxury of flying across the globe in his costly jets. Inspired by Arnold Palmer, who piloted an Aero Commander, Nicklaus took to the skies himself in 1964.
From a Grand Commander to Learjets, Cessnas, Sabreliners, and JetStars, Nicklaus gradually elevated his aerial fleet. His journey culminated in acquiring larger jets like the GIIB Gulfstream, GIII, GIV, and GV, enabling him to explore the world luxuriously. “I’ve got a GIV-SP with tail number N1JN that we call ‘Air Bear,'” the 73-time PGA Tour title winner told BJT.
Which of these top golfers with private jets inspired you the most?
(Main image: Arnold Palmer; Featured image: CNN)
1. Which golfers have their own private jets?
Many top golfers own a private jet. Some of the names include Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, and Jack Nicklaus, among others.
2. Does Rory McIlroy own a private jet?
Yes, Rory McIlroy did own a private jet — the Challenger 605. However, in 2021, he expressed the massive “guilt” he harboured knowing about the jet’s carbon footprint and decided to part ways with this valuable asset.
3. Why did Phil Mickelson sell his private jet?
Phil Mickelson used to own a jet, the Gulfstream V, before selling it in 2021. Although he maintained that it was the “greatest decision” he made, it came amidst rumours that the sale was in lieu of gambling debts he had acquired.
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