Hawke's Bay golfer Stuart Jones died "naturally and peacefully" on Wednesday afternoon, surrounded by his family.
Jones, who was inducted into the New Zealand Golf Hall of Fame in March for his incomparable record in the national amateur game, turned 87 on Tuesday and died the next day.
The Jones family has decided against having a public funeral for Jones, opting instead for a private cremation with his family and close friends.
The Hastings Golf Club tomorrow will stage an informal tribute evening for Jones, with everyone welcome to pay tribute to the man known as "The Emperor".
New Zealand Golf chairman Philip Hassall said it was a sad day for the Hastings club and the national golfing community.
"He was a New Zealand golf legend in every sense," Hassall said. "New Zealand Golf was pleased to recognise his outstanding career as a member of the New Zealand Golf Hall of Fame before he passed. The tributes that flowed for Stuart that night were testament to the quality of the man.
"It's a sad day for New Zealand golf but when anyone looks back on the career and life of Stuart Jones they will remember a true legend."
Jones was the greatest amateur golfer this country has produced with an unprecedented record still talked about today.
He was dubbed "The Emperor" due to his outstanding record, which occurred during a period of fierce competition involving the talents of Bob Charles, Ross Murray, John Durry, Ted McDougall, Ross Newdick and Walter Godfrey, all champions in their own right.
Jones will always be associated with Hastings Golf Club at Bridge Pa, where his career started in 1947. A scalding received from a Wairakei geyser cut short a promising rugby career, but he took to golf with such enthusiasm that within two years he became club champion.
That signalled the start of an illustrious career, during which many fans of the sport marvelled at his ball-striking skills as he won title after title.
From his early success at Bridge Pa, his achievements quickly blossomed and he began to be a player to be reckoned with at first provincial, then national and, ultimately, international level.
He represented New Zealand from 1953 to 1975, playing in seven Eisenhower Trophy events.
His most notable achievements came when he won two professional events and the 1967 Canadian Amateur Championship, successes that eventually saw him made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1977.
Jones' record, including seven New Zealand Amateur titles, is unlikely to be matched in this modern era.
Professional coach Brian Doyle said: "Stuart will be a big loss to New Zealand golf. He was New Zealand's greatest amateur player. His thirst for the game ... was unequalled.
"He practised on Frimley Park, where golf was prohibited. His search for certain tricks to improve his score and swing never ended.
"They were quirky little tricks but they worked."
Clubmate Jim Newbigin said: "Stuart had the best swing of any player. I can remember him walking from Frimley to work in the family's Bon Marche store in Hastings.
"He would carry a different club every day just to feel the weight of it. That was in his heyday when he was representing New Zealand a lot overseas. He was fortunate his brothers could cover for him in the store when he was overseas."
Another clubmate, Barry Lavery, said: "I won the Jones Fourball competition at the club three times with Stuart. He was interesting to play with.
"I would often pull out a club and he would ask what it was. When I told him, he would ask, 'Who do you think you are ... Jack Nicklaus?'
"I also had to help him recover from a few of his mishaps over the years. I remember him breaking his arm when he fell while pinching walnuts from a tree in Frimley Park about 20 years ago.
"I also remember when my son, Mark, was the golf academy coach at Rotorua Boys' High School. Two years ago he brought some of his players to Hastings and they were thrilled to meet Stuart."