"The most frustrating thing to a golf teacher," begins Claude Harmon on page 38 of this issue, "is to realize how many men—and women, too—could play the game much better without devoting any more time to it than they already do." Harmon, a professor of golf so well regarded by his peers that a good many of them address him simply as "Pro," then shows in 10 pages of words and drawings how SPORTS ILLUSTRATED readers can cut strokes from their scores—and even makes it sound agreeably easy. Our visiting professor will complete his "Let Me Help Your Game" in Part II next week.
The idea of bringing Claude Harmon to readers who would otherwise miss his instruction—unless they were members of New York's Winged Foot Golf Club or of Thunderbird at Palm Springs—has been growing for a while in the head of SI Senior Editor Alfred Wright. "The library of golf," says Wright, "is beautifully stocked with the counsel and advice of the finest tournament golfers of a generation or so—at least of those reflective enough to know how in the world they produce their own good shots and articulate enough to tell somebody else. But the weekend golfer—the man who plays only 20 or 30 rounds a year and isn't going to have time for more than that—may be equally entitled to the counsel of the teacher-type pro: the specialist who puts in eight hours a day, six days a week dealing with duffers."
Although Claude Harmon once traveled the pro circuit himself (he won the Masters green jacket in 1948), he has been essentially a teacher throughout his career. Harmon began teaching at 20, working as an assistant to such men as Harry Cooper and Ky Laffoon and later as Craig Wood's helper at Winged Foot. Since those days he has made mature tournament golfers out of some of his own assistants: Jack Burke Jr., Mike Souchak, Shelley Mayfield and Dave Marr (who tied Jack Nicklaus for second at Augusta the other day). He can be called the pro's pro, too, for a fair number of other pros come to Harmon for analysis when elements of their own game drift off.
Wright offered Harmon our thesis about the weekend golfer. Would Harmon think about it in a generic sort of way and condense his teaching of individual weekenders into a couple of issues of SI? Yes, said Harmon—and his aim would be to cut 10 or a dozen strokes from all of our scorecards. It was further agreed between Harmon and Wright that the instruction would fall into two parts: how to hit the ball with control (this week) and how to play the short game (next week).
The most startling thing that Claude has to say this week is that golf is not a game of straight lines, as one is usually taught. He says that whoever hopes to score up to his best must learn to bend the ball from right to left and left to right, and further asserts that any golfer who is reasonably sane and fit can learn this with ease. As usual here, the invitation is to read on.