Tuesday, May 31

Profile of Tommy Armour, The Silver Scot (Conclusion)

Part two of two on golf legend Tommy Armour (1896-1968). Read Part 1.

By John Coyne

Copyright © John Coyne. Used with permission.


The Silver Scot
TOMMY ARMOUR, NICKNAMED THE SILVER SCOT, was one of the best known golfers of his day.

Al Barkow in Golf's Golden Grind: The History of the Tour writes about how when Armour "the dour, hard-drinking Silver Scot of American golf, entered '21,' New York City's high-society watering hole, captains of commerce and gurus of government rose at their tables in honor of the man who could hit a five iron with the crispness and surety of an executive dismissal or a bomber strike."

Most of the golf pros attributed Armour's success to his large hands. They were called "carrot size" and as large as "two stalks of bananas."

Author Ross Goodner said of Tommy Armour: "At one time or another, he was known as the greatest iron player, the greatest raconteur, the greatest drinker and the greatest and most expensive teacher in golf."

But back to my favorite instructional book, A Round of Golf with Tommy Armour. This was his second, written in 1959, and published by Simon & Schuster. Written almost like a novel (or a long short story) as it is just 143 pages with illustrations, the short chapters have golf advice and technique interspersed in a semi-fictional nine holes played with a semi-fictional average golfer named "Bill." Armour's advice on strategy, course management and how to play a particular shot, is passed along mostly as dialogue as they play on the thinly-veiled version of the front nine of the West course at Winged Foot.

The playing lesson is told from the point-of-view of Armour himself.

It opens with:

This is a true story. Or so nearly true that you won’t know the difference. So much of the story has happened to you that you may think you are one of the golfers I’m telling about. You may be.

Armour meets up with Bill in the locker room. Bill is disgusted with his game and is about to give up and Armour talks him into playing a quick nine. In those few holes, Armour talks about the course and Bill's swing, and he dispenses words of golf wisdom in casual comments, much as any two players might, walking down a fairway.

The titles of short chapters indicated the problem to be solved on a particular hole: Playing Short and Playing Smart; The Stance Makes the Game Stand Up; A Swing That Can Be Trusted; and finally, back at the 19th Hole, Armour finishes up his round of instruction with Bill in a chapter entitled "Meditations of a Golfer Who Is About to Have a Drink." Here he sums up the four fundamentals of "good golf."

They are:
1) a good grip of the club
2) a proper stance
3) good footwork
4) control and application of power

That, and much more is said in the clubhouse bar, and among Armour's many meditations is one paragraph that, I think, rings true for all players:

The score is important, of course. And the discovery that you are superior to another golfer is satisfying. But when your score is bad and the other fellow beats you, golf still has been a blessing to you. The score isn't the "be all and end all." You play the game by the rules and that in itself is an infallible mark of a gentleman of quality. Nobody ever cheats anybody else at golf. The one who is cheated is the one who cheats.

John Coyne is a bestselling author of three golf novels and more than 20 other books. Pay him a visit at John Coyne Books.

Also by John Coyne:
A six-part series on Bobby Locke
A two-part profile on Harry Vardon

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