What Is The Most Playoff Holes In Golf?

Two golfers shaking hand when playing golf playoff on the golf course.

The playoff in golf is when two or more golfers go head to head over a few or 18 holes to determine a tournament’s winner. This is one of the most exciting parts of golf.

Playoffs are crucial for deciding tournament winners in golf and can be quite exciting. Typically, playoffs are used when the tournament cannot be decided by stroke play alone and are done to determine which team or individual is the champion. 

What is the most playoff holes in golf?

While the hole number for playoffs may vary depending on the event, hole 18 is one of the most common holes used to break a golf tournament tie. However, in the past, some events have gone as long as 72 holes to decide a winner.

Here is the list of top playoff holes in different formats of golf tournaments:

  1. U.S. Open tournament: 18-hole playoff
  2. British Open tournament: 4-hole playoff
  3. PGA: 18-hole playoff
  4. Masters Augusta Nationals: alternates between 18-hole and 10-hole
  5. Southern Hills PGA:  first aggregates 13, 17, and 18 holes and then moves to an 18-13-17-18 format
  6. TPC Sawgrass: holes 16, 17, and 18 in Gauntlet format

The longest playoff hole record in golf tournaments

There are many instances where tournament playoffs have gone on for multiple days and holes. The longest playoff hole record in golf tournaments was the 72-holes in 1931. However, that is not the only instance of long playoff holes.

Here is the list of the longest playoffs in golf tournaments:

1. 72 holes in the 1931 US Open Tournament

In the 1931 US Open Tournament, Billy Burke and George Von Elm tied for first place after 72 holes. The playoffs lasted two days, featuring a set of 36 holes each day. Burke won the tournament on the final hole of the 72-hole playoff. This is the longest playoff hole record in golf history.

2. 38 holes in 1941 Cherry Hills PGA

In the 1941 PGA championship at Cherry Hills, Vic Ghezzi and Byron Nelson played 38 holes to decide the winner. Ghezzi defeated Nelson in the playoff and became the champion. Both of them chipped three feet just before the 38th hole. Thus, they had to flip a coin to decide who should putt first. Nelson went first but missed to putt, allowing Ghezzi to win the tournament.

Here is a list of the other 38 holes played in the US PGA Championship:

  • 1923: Gene Sarazen defeated Walter Hagen at Pelham Manor, New York
  • 1934: Paul Runyan defeated Craig Wood at Park Club of Buffalo, New York.

3. 36 holes in the 1946 US Open

This is one of the most interesting playoffs in the history of golf. Three golfers- Lloyd Mangrum, Vic Ghezzi, and Byron Nelson – were tied for first place. After the tournament went on for 36 holes, Mangrum emerged as the champion. It was a thrilling match, and all three golfers fought hard till the last hole.

Here is the list of other popular playoffs of 36 holes:

US Open

  • 1928: Johnny Farrell defeated Bobby Jones at Olympia Fields, Illinois
  • 1929: Bobby Jones defeated Al Espinosa at Winged Foot, New York
  • 1939: Byron Nelson defeated Craig Wood and Denny Shute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Masters

  • 1935: Gene Sarazen defeated Craid wood at Augusta National. In this tournament, Sarazen had hit an albatross which was apparently the first one ever hit in a major tournament.

4. 20 holes in 1998 Women’s US Open

Se Ri Pak and Jenny Chuasiriporn played 20 holes to decide the winner in the 1998 Women’s US Open. They were still tied after 18, so they had to move on to the 19th and 20th holes, which resulted in Pak becoming the champion.

Seven weeks before this win, she won her first major LPGA championship. Thus, she has become the youngest woman to win two major championships in the same year.

5. 19 holes in the 2008 US Open 

In recent history, the longest playoff was the 19-hole one in the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines. Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate after a thrilling match that lasted for 19 holes. Woods won it with a par on the first extra hole to win his 14th major championship title.

However, there was another 19th-hole playoff that happened in 1990. Hale Irwin defeated Mike Donald in a thrilling match that lasted 19 holes.

Sudden death playoff

Sudden-death playoffs are sudden-decision rounds in golf tournaments used to break a tie between two or more players. This format dictates that the first golfer to win a hole wins the playoff. However, if the players tie on the hole, they must play sudden-death playoff holes until one player wins.

1. 11 holes

11-holes is the longest sudden-death playoff in PGA tour history. This sudden death format occurred in the 1949 Motor City Open. Cary Middlecoff and Lloyd Mangrum’s scores matched for 11 consecutive holes in this playoff. However, due to the darkness, the tournament officials had to declare the end of the playoff and named Mangrum and Middlecoff as co-champions.

2. 8 holes

There are multiple instances of eight holes playoffs in golf tournaments. Here is the list of the eight-hole playoff in major tournaments:

  • 1965: Dick Hart defeated Phil Rodgers in Azalea Open
  • 1978: Lee Elder defeated Lee Trevino in Greater Milwaukee Open
  • 1981: Dave Barr defeated Woody Blackburn, Dan Halldorson, Frank Conner, and Victor Regalado in Quad Cities Open
  • 1983: Bob Gilder defeated Rex Caldwell, Johnny Miller, and Mark O’Meara in Phoenix Open
  • 2012: John Huh defeated Robert Allenby in Mayakoba Golf Classic
  • 2021: Harris English defeated Kramer Hickok in the Travelers Championship.


While playoff hole numbers and formats might vary from tournament to tournament, the excitement in the air is always the same. There is no better moment in golf than when everyone is watching the players play one final round to decide who will be the winner.

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