Golson studied history and archaeology at Cambridge University. In 1954, he lectured at the archaeology department of Auckland University in New Zealand where he began studies on pre-history in the Pacific Islands. Golson also worked towards improving standards and methods of archaeology in New Zealand and organised the New Zealand Archaeological Association.
In 1957, he carried out the first systematic survey of achaeological remains on Savai'i island in Samoa. In 1961, he was appointed Fellow in Prehistory at the Australian National University and carried out research in Australia and Papua New Guinea. He was the president of the World Archaeological Congress (1990–1994).
In 1991, Golson retired after 30 years at the Australian National University. He became a visiting Fellow there while focusing his work on Papua New Guinea.
- Patrick Vinton Kirch (24 May 2000). On the Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands before European Contact. University of California Press. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-0-520-92896-1.
-  Settlement Patterns in Samoa before 1840 by Janet M Davidson, The Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 78 1969, No. 1, p.44-82. Retrieved 1 November 2009
- Heather Burke; Claire Smith (2004). The Archaeologist's Field Handbook. Allen & Unwin. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-1-86508-862-4.
- Robert Layton; Stephen Shennan (January 2006). A Future for Archaeology: The Past in the Present. Psychology Press. pp. 18–. ISBN 978-1-84472-126-9.