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Golf Instruction in 19th Century


History of golf in 19th

The show-and-tell of golf instruction took on new importance in 1848 when, with the invention of the gutta percha ball (or "guttie"), golf became both exportable and cheap. Prior to 1848, golf ball construction was a laborious and costly art practiced by a handful of cottage manufacturers in the vicinity of Edinburgh - and if a ball was expensive, freight was prohibitive. Golf at this time simply had no chance to expand beyond the Scottish lowlands. Since all of golf was compacted into such a tiny area, golfers were able to learn simply by imitating the great players of the day on the handful of courses then in existence.

The guttie changed all that. By 1865, the game had expanded to England, Ireland, France, and India. These new clubs hired full-time professionals, many of them expatriate Scots, and with them came the flowering of formal golf instruction as the canny professionals undertook the task of teaching golf in foreign lands and foreign conditions. The first book of golf instruction can be firmly dated to this period, with the publication in 1857 of A Keen Hand, by H. B. Farnie. The 19th century was a time of slow advancement in technique, with concentration primarily on a long-running disagreement as to whether an open stance or a closed stance was the better way to address the guttie, which for all its low cost was something of a dodo and difficult to put into the air. The controversy was only truly resolved when the modern wound (Haskell) ball appeared in the early 1900's and made the guttie obsolete.

At roughly the same point in time as the Haskell, golf instruction was advanced even more directly by the arrival of the touring professional golfer. 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, avoiding the low status and even lower pay of the golf club professional.

Vardon's tournament success and his proselytizing work in far-flung places such as Canada and the United States led to popular adoption of two of his innovative techniques- a steady, rhythmic, and utterly simple swing technique, and the overlapping (Vardon) grip, which is still the most popular method of gripping a club. Vardon did not personally invent either ­ but his success stamped them first with legitimacy and finally with a certain inevitability as he racked up six British Open crowns and the 1900 U.S. Open title.