Thursday, April 21
Profile of Henry William 'Harry' Vardon (Conclusion)
Part two of two on golf legend Harry Vardon (1870-1937). Read Part 1.
By John Coyne
Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.
WE KNOW HARRY VARDON BEST for his overlapping grip. Some accounts have it first being used by Johnny Laidlay, a champion Scottish amateur player. J. H. Taylor also used it before Vardon, but it was Vardon, who played with the grip in 1890s, who popularized it.
The grip is the most common used one today, that and the interlock grip. As we know with the Vardon grip the right little finger overlaps the left index finger. The overlap grip takes the little finger of the right hand off the shaft. This has the effect of slightly weakening the right hand. Since most golfers are right-handed, the overlap grip tends to balance the strength of the hands so that they function as a unit during the swing.
Vardon knew that the secret of the golf swing was in the hands. He would hit a series of identical drives, and on each drive he took a slightly different foot position, even though all the drives dropped within a few feet of the target. The consistency lay in his trained hands. He was so unerringly accurate that an apocryphal anecdote has been handed down that when he played a round in the afternoon, his ball would land in the divots he had taken in the morning's round.
As the great English golf writer Bernard Darwin wrote, "He had a great influence, too, on methods of playing. When he first appeared his notably upright swing, thought so full of grace and rhythm, came as a shock to the orthodoxy of the time, but has long since been accepted."
In The Gist of Golf Harry Vardon writes how he has no idea why "Isle of Jersey golfers" like himself, used the upright swing. "That compact manner of wielding the club which came as a shock to the people who for years had worshipped the longer and flatter method known as the St. Andrews swing."
Harry writes how his younger brother Tom, and other golfers from the island, "all drifted involuntarily into the habit of taking the club to the top of the swing by the shortest route, whereas the popular way before was to sweep the club back flat at the start and make a very full flourish of the swing. Why we hit upon the other way we do not know."
Never having had a golf lesson, and coming to the game late, Vardon never thought about the swing until his first golf professional job at Ripon, Yorkshire, when he was twenty-one and "began to study and learn golf in real earnest."
That said, it is now generally accepted the modern game we play today was started by Harry Vardon, and he was the best ever. Even Bernard Darwin admitted, "It is impossible to imagine anyone playing any better than Harry Vardon."
John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.