“The Sporting Scene Mainly Around Jones”

From a 1972 profile of Bobby Jones
Forever in Tweed, Amen

Editor’s note: This is one of several Herbert Warren Wind excerpts selected by author Bradley Klein to accompany his Wind profile, “Forever in Tweed, Amen,” as featured in TGJ No. 13.

April 29, 1972

Jones accomplished his prodigies of shotmaking with what was far and away the best swing of his time—and one of the best swings of all time. In the wooden-shaft era, because of the inherent torque and torsion of the clubs, all golfers worked on being smooth and not rushing their swing, since a minute flaw in timing might be magnified into a disastrous error, but no one was close to Jones when it came to executing the correct movements rhythmically, fluidly—almost lyrically. This helps to explain why “How I Play Golf,” a series of short instructional films that he made for Warner Brothers after his retirement, went down extremely well with the largely non-golfing audiences at our movie houses: watching Jones hit a golf ball was an aesthetic treat, even if you couldn’t tell a duck hook from a double eagle. When one studies his swing in slow motion today, it looks a trifle looser, particularly on the backswing, than it did back in the nineteen-twenties, but it is still very, very impressive. He deviated hardly at all from the perfect copybook form, but he did stand with his feet closer together than any champion before or after him, for he believed that one of the key elements in a sound golf swing was a full, free hip turn on the backswing and that a narrow stance helped a player to achieve this. Jones was a man of only medium size, but because of the fullness of his arc, his excellent balance, and his really extraordinary timing he was one of the longest hitters of his day and quite possibly the finest wooden-club player ever. Most of the time, he was content to get his drives out between two hundred and twenty-five and two hundred and fifty yards and to make certain he kept the ball on the fairway, but when he wanted to open up he could really move that ball. For example, on the last hole of the 1926 U.S. Open, when he was leading the tournament by a single stroke and naturally was keyed up high, he smashed his drive a full three hundred yards down the fairway. His shots had a distinctive flight, much higher than most golfers’. I remember standing with a group that included Walter Hagen behind a green on the Meadowbrook course, near Detroit, during the 1955 P.G.A. Championship, when Jack Burke, Jr., hit a towering 5-iron approach that was dead on line and coasted down right over the top of the flagstick. “That’s how Jones’s irons used to look,” Hagen said. “The ball came in as big as a grapefruit.”