Grass Menagerie: The Top 10 Best Animal Nicknames in Golf

With the Farmers Insurance Open making its annual visit to Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif. this week, the spotlight will be on San Diego, including its world-famous attraction, the San Diego Zoo, but the game has produced its own noteworthy "grass menagerie" as noted in the list below.

Angel Cabrera
Nicknamed El Pato (“The Duck”) for his waddling gait, the burly Argentine, a former Masters and U.S. Open champion, is one bird whose wings cannot be clipped by pressure situations in big events, as witnessed in his narrow loss to Adam Scott in last year’s Masters. Behind Cabrera’s waddling gait is a confident swagger born of playing (and winning) money matches against other caddies as a youngster.

Paula Creamer
Pink Panther
Peter Sellers, the chameleon-like actor who starred in the Pink Panther movies, has been eclipsed in the 21st century by LPGA star Paula Creamer. Due to her fondness for wearing pink as an amateur, she was dubbed the “Pink Panther” by junior golf pal Casey Wittenberg. In addition to her pink outfits (and lipstick), Creamer has a pink golf bag, pink club grips, pink ball, and Pink Panther head covers.

Ben Hogan
The Scots dubbed him the “Wee Ice Mon” when he conquered Carnoustie in the 1953 Open Championship, but to his fellow competitors on the PGA Tour, he was the Hawk—steely-eyed, fiercely determined, a restless hunter in search of victory. Possessed of an iron will, the Hawk is revered to this day as the game’s greatest ball-striker.

Jack Nicklaus
Golden Bear
When his blond locks were long during his competitive prime, the Golden Bear was the perfect moniker for the game’s greatest champion. Powerful.  And indomitable. Now a course designer, philanthropist, and goodwill ambassador, Nicklaus still uses the Golden Bear logo, notably on a recently introduced line of golf balls.

Greg Norman
So named for his aggressive style of play, which brought him fame, fortune, two major titles, and numerous final-round meltdowns that define his legacy, Norman discovered that despite his enormous talent, even sharks get bitten. His multi-headed company, including course design, apparel, eyewear, wine, restaurants, and other ventures, is called Great White Shark Enterprises. 

Louis Oosthuizen
Oosthuizen, an easy-going South African who cruised to a seven-shot victory at the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews, has an endearing gap in his front teeth, which inspired his fellow competitors to call him Shrek, after the lovable gap-toothed ogre in the eponymous movie. Most golfers would surrender their eyeteeth for a swing like his.

Corey Pavin
He’s listed at 5-9, 155 pounds, but to anyone who’s seen him up close, that’s a stretch. Pound-for-pound, Pavin, among the finest shotmakers and fiercest competitors in the game, is a competitive Bulldog. That dogged spirit was never more evident than when he flushed a 228-yard 4-wood shot to the 18th green at Shinnecock Hills in the final round of the 1995 U.S. Open to win his first and only major. 

Craig Stadler
With his long droopy mustache and stout physique, Stadler, a 13-time winner on the PGA Tour (including the 1982 Masters), came by this affectionate nickname early in his career. A regular competitor on the Champions Tour, he endorses WalrusWear apparel, hats, and accessories. His heavily-tusked head covers look good in his bag. 

Camilo Villegas
Okay, there is no such animal as a Spiderman, so this is a stretch, but no one crouches lower to the ground to read a putt than this colorful stylist from Colombia known for his tight trousers and boxer’s biceps. Along with Gary Player, Villegas is ranked among the 10 fittest golfers ever to play the game.

Tiger Woods
Just think if Woods went by his real name Eldrick instead of Tiger. What kind of fear in his fellow golfers would “Eldrick” have struck? You can’t even shorten it into something catchy like Tiger likes to do with his buds. Thankfully, his dad gave him the name in honor of a Vietnamese buddy he lost touch with during the war. He actually thought when his son became inevitably famous that his friend would hear the name “Tiger Woods,” put two and two together, and get in touch with him.



  1. My playmates (it’s been so long now that I can’t remember who) nicknamed me “The Walrus”
    and it hasn’t changed in 35+years
    These eclectic stories, while challenging to find and write about, ought to be a regular feature
    You might even consider asking your readers their
    “nicknames” if they have one ?
    Great featurette!

    — Charles L. Wilson · Friday January 24, 2014 ·

  2. If his real name was “Tiger”, Tiger wouldn’t be a nickname; now would it? How about we call him Eldrick?

    — Stan · Friday January 24, 2014 ·

  3. Over 45 years ago, I was nicknamed “King” by my friends. Had nothing to do with my golfing prowess, but I wear the name proudly, although Arnold has certainly stepped past me. His the King of the golf game, but I was King of the Kappa Delta house. Believe I won.

    — Don Jones · Friday January 24, 2014 ·

  4. Mid-nineties, our first buddies trip to Hilton Head, our first dinner on the Island we asked our waitress to give us animal nicknames. Those that stuck were the Wildebeast and Snowy Egret. The Panda promptly changed his to Kodiak. He also wasn’t pleased that I was christened Panther and changed it go Gopher. Unfortunately Gopher stood for a decade before it dissipated. No one EVER used Kodiak. Sadly I don’t remember the other four . . . ;)

    — Paul L · Friday January 24, 2014 ·

  5. The Bobby Jones Open Golf Tournament has been played annually since 1979. Because the only qualification for entry is the name, i.e., Bob, Robert, Bobby, Bobbie, Roberta, JONES, nicknames are the preferred method of communication. We have Sky King, Casino, Atlanta, 3M, Trooper, Sky Chief, Arjay, Pisgah, First Lady and Lottery and Bingo just to name a few. We are always looking for a few “new” Bobs to join the list.

    — Bobby Jones · Tuesday January 28, 2014 ·


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