Thank you, old school
As modern golf teaching professionals, we may all be inadvertently taking credit for the popularity and present boom to the incredible growth of the game. Taking an objective look into the history of our sport, however, it’s plain to see that the old school really deserves the credit. Here are just a few milestones in the deep history of our precious pastime:
● It is assumed back in medieval times that Scottish shepherds were inventors of the game. They would while away the hours on the Scottish lowlands hitting pebbles with their crooks.
● 1848 – Golf ball construction in Edinburgh improved to the point that the gutta-percha ball (or guttie) enabled golf to become exportable to England, Ireland, France and India.
● 1857 – With the expansion came the first formal golf instruction from ex-patriot Scots and included the first book of golf instruction, titled “A Keen Hand,” by H.B Farnie.
● 1900 – The modern wound (Haskill) golf ball made the guttie obsolete, and golf instruction was advanced even more directly with the arrival of the touring professional. Soaring popularity and plummeting travel costs ushered in the barnstorming era, when golfers such as Harry Vardon could earn a living from personal appearances, tournament purses and exhibition matches. Vardon racked up six British Open crowns and the 1900 US Open title.
● 1920s – Although both the first golf magazines and the Professional Golfers Association appeared early in the 20th century, barnstorming professionals and Bobby Jones would continue to dominate golf instruction right up to the Great Depression. Huge crowds flocked to see Jones and Walter Hagen on both sides of the Atlantic, learning such secrets as Hagen’s straight-line putting: drawing the clubface back from the ball in a straight line rather than the slight arc popular at the time. His innovation was important in the 1920’s and allowed him to win many tournaments, but it is even important today with the increased emphasis on fast, difficult putting surfaces.
● 1960s – The first national golf school evolved. Teaching professionals, too, found that the golf magazines and their increasingly visible work with touring professionals brought them more business then they could handle on a local level. Furthermore, top touring pros began seeking the advice of golf gurus such as Gardner Dickenson, Bob Toski, Harvey Penick, and Jack Grout. At the same time Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player parlayed their tournament success into an empire of instructional publications, magazine, articles, television, tips and ghost-written, handsomely illustrated books.
● 1970s – The groundwork was laid during this time for radical turf preparation, golf club technology and instructional technique. The cavity-back iron, the metal wood, the graphite shaft, as well as revolutionary changes in irrigation technique and turf laying are all dated to this time.
● 1980s – Video analysis of the golf swing, the influential theory of connection, and the emphasis of big-muscle leadership date to the pioneering work of David Leadbetter, Jimmy Ballard, and others. Golf instruction also became more specialized, as teachers by the mid-80s began to emphasize their expertise with practical golf instruction (John Jacobs), short game instruction (Dave Pelz), women’s instruction (Penny Zavichas and Linda Craft), and mental conditioning (Bob Rotella and Chuck Hogan).
● 1990s and beyond – Golf instruction had boomed to the point that there are now a multitude of national golf schools offering hundreds of programs across the country, with a cornucopia of techniques, price points, regimens and training goals. Virtually all the national golf schools offer videotapes and books for sale. Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book” also became the biggest selling sports book of all time. In short, golf instruction has expanded into one of the largest and most vibrant sectors of the substantial golf economy.
So thanks, old schoolers. We proudly stand on fairways that you have perfectly manicured for us.