Harry Vardon

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Harry Vardon
Vardon, circa 1908–1914
Personal information
Full nameHenry William Vardon
NicknameHarry, The Stylist
Born(1870-05-09)9 May 1870
Grouville, Jersey, Channel Islands
Died20 March 1937(1937-03-20) (aged 66)
Whetstone, London, England
Height5 ft 9 in (175 cm)
Weight11 st 7 lb (161 lb; 73 kg)
Sporting nationalityFlag of Jersey.svg  Jersey
SpouseJessie Bryant (d. 1946)
Turned professional1890
Professional wins49
Best results in major championships
(wins: 7)
U.S. Open Won: 1900
The Open Championship Won: 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame 1974 (member page)
Fred McLeod and Vardon at the 1913 U.S. Open Vardon 4176963608 04f13856ce o.jpg
Fred McLeod and Vardon at the 1913 U.S. Open

Henry William Vardon (9 May 1870 – 20 March 1937) was a professional golfer from Jersey. He was a member of the Great Triumvirate with John Henry Taylor and James Braid. Vardon won The Open Championship a record six times, [1] and also won the 1900 U.S. Open. [2] [3]


Early years

Born in Grouville, Jersey, Channel Islands, Vardon, whose mother was French and father English, did not play much golf as a youngster, but showed natural talent for the sport as a young caddie in his teens. Harry and his brother Tom Vardon, younger by two years and also interested in golf, were very close. Their golf development was held back by poor family circumstances and their father was not supportive of his sons' golf interest. Tom moved from Jersey to England first, to pursue a golf career. Harry went to England in the spring of 1890, taking a job as greenkeeper at age 20, at Studley Royal Golf Club, Ripon, Yorks. A year later he became club professional at Bury Golf Club, and in 1896 the club professional at Ganton Golf Club, in Yorkshire. By his early 20s, Harry developed a demanding practice program, the most ambitious seen to that time. He was the first professional golfer to play in knickerbockers – discarding the "proper" dress of an Englishman in an uncomfortable shirt and tie with a buttoned jacket. [4]

In 1896, Vardon won the first of his six Open Championships (a record that still stands today). Vardon had rivalries with James Braid and J.H. Taylor, who each won five Open Championships; together the three formed the 'Great Triumvirate', and dominated worldwide golf from the mid-1890s to the mid-1910s. These rivalries increased the public's interest in golf.

Scottish challenge

In 1898 Harry Vardon won his second Open Championship at Prestwick Golf Club, beating Willie Park, Jnr by a single stroke. Park missed a makeable putt on the 18th green to take the match to a play off. So aggrieved was Park that he immediately offered a challenge to Vardon to play him over 72 holes, 36 holes at his home course of Musselburgh and 36 holes at a golf course of Vardon's choosing, for a wager of £100 per side. Park had offered similar challenges before; some years earlier he had met and defeated Ben Sayers at Musselburgh and North Berwick, and in 1897 Park defeated J.H. Taylor over two venues, also for £100 per side. Vardon refused Park's challenge; besides the £100 per side, Vardon had nothing to gain from such a match, and he most certainly was not going to play Park at Musselburgh, where fan partisanship was less than courteous to rival players.

Eventually Park conceded to play his home leg at North Berwick Golf Club instead of Musselburgh, and Vardon chose his home course of Ganton, Yorkshire. Golf Week magazine acted as both promoter and stakeholder, and the match took place in July 1899, by which time Vardon had won his third Open Championship. The British press billed the encounter as the greatest golf competition of all time. Such was the interest that 10,000 Scottish fans attended the match at North Berwick, and that on a day when the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) was making a State visit to nearby Edinburgh. Special trains were laid on to ferry fans from Edinburgh and other nearby towns. The format of the competition was match play. The first 36 holes at North Berwick ended with Vardon holding a two-hole lead. The second leg took place two weeks later at Ganton, and Vardon completed the rout, winning 11 up with ten holes to play, collecting the £200 prize and the glory.

Tours United States and Canada

During his career, Harry Vardon made three visits to North America, in 1900, 1913 and 1920. During all three trips he competed in the U.S. Open finishing 1st, 2nd and tied 2nd.

He became golf's first international celebrity in 1900 when he toured the United States and Canada. John Henry Taylor, the 1900 Open Champion and member of the Great Triumvirate, also traveled to the USA on a mini tour in 1900. Vardon played in more than 90 matches and capped it off with a victory in the U.S. Open, where Taylor was second. Vardon wrote that while on this tour, he lost only two matches [5] while playing head-to-head against a single opponent, and both were against the Boston professional Bernard (Ben) Nicholls, [6] older brother of Gilbert Nicholls; the Nicholls brothers had recently emigrated from the British Isles. In 1913, accompanied by Ted Ray, Vardon played in 45 exhibition matches winning 36 of them, and in 1920 at age 50, again accompanied by Ray, he played from July to the beginning of November in nearly 100 exhibition/challenge matches against the likes of Walter Hagen, Jim Barnes, Francis Ouimet and Bobby Jones. [7] [ self-published source ]

Twice runner-up in U.S. Opens

Vardon was the runner-up, after a playoff loss to the 20-year-old Ouimet, at his next U.S. Open in 1913, an event portrayed in the film The Greatest Game Ever Played . He toured North America with Ted Ray that year, as he did once more in 1920. At the age of 50, Vardon was again tied runner-up in his third and final U.S. Open appearance, in 1920; he was leading with a few holes to play.

Career accomplishments

During his career, Vardon won 48 tournaments and 21 team events; that was the most titles won by a single player to that juncture in golf history. He won the German Open in 1911 and the British PGA Matchplay Championship in 1912. Between 1898 and 1899 Vardon played in 17 tournaments, winning 14 and coming 2nd in the other three. Vardon popularised the overlapping grip that bears his name, one still used by over 90 percent of golfers; this grip had been originated by Johnny Laidlay a few years before Vardon adopted it. In his later years, he became a golf course architect, [8] designing several courses in Britain, Llandrindod Wells Golf Club, Woodhall Spa and Radcliffe-on-Trent being notable examples.


Following a bout with tuberculosis in 1903, [9] Vardon struggled with health problems for years, but turned to coaching and writing golf instruction and inspirational books.

Death and legacy

After his comeback to the game following a prolonged absence while recovering from tuberculosis, he experienced serious problems with his short-range putting as a result of nerve damage to his right hand, and several commentators claim that he could have added to his list of majors had this disability not afflicted him. [4] Vardon and James Braid collaborated on several editions of Spalding Athletic Library "How to Play Golf". [10]

Vardon died in 1937 at the age 66, of pleurisy or possibly lung cancer, [11] at his home at 14 (now number 35) Totteridge Lane, Whetstone, London, [12] [13] and is buried in St. Andrew's Church cemetery in Totteridge after a funeral service on 24 March. [14] That year, the PGA of America created the Vardon Trophy, now awarded annually to the player on the PGA Tour with the year's lowest adjusted scoring average. The British PGA also created the Harry Vardon Trophy which now serves as the award for the winner of the European Tour's Race to Dubai. In 1974, Vardon was chosen as one of the initial group of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame. His most prestigious medals, including those from his six British Open Championships, are on display in a tribute to him at the Jersey Museum. In the annals of golf, he is considered one of the greats of the game. In 2000, Vardon was ranked as the 13th best golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine. [15] Vardon is often called "The Stylist", "Mr. Golf" and "The Icon of Golfing"; another nickname attached to him was "Greyhound".

Vardon grip

Statue of Vardon at the Royal Jersey Golf Club
on the Island of Jersey Harry Vardon statue Grouville 3.jpg
Statue of Vardon at the Royal Jersey Golf Club
on the Island of Jersey

Vardon was also well known for the Vardon grip, or overlapping grip, the grip most popular among professional golfers. In the Vardon grip, one places the little finger of the trailing hand (the one placed lower on the club – right hand for a right-handed player) in between the index and middle finger on the leading hand (the hand that is higher on the club). The leading-hand thumb should fit in the lifeline of the trailing hand. Vardon actually took up this grip some time after Johnny Laidlay, a champion Scottish amateur player, invented it.

A visual depiction of the Vardon Grip is the logo of South Herts Golf Club where Vardon was the club professional from 1902 until his death in 1937

Media depictions

Tournament wins (49)

Major championships are shown in bold. [11] [ self-published source ]

Singles (48)

Foursomes (1)

Team event wins

He won team events from 1899 to 1928. [11]

Major championships

Wins (7)

YearChampionship54 holesWinning scoreMarginRunner-up
1896 The Open Championship 4 shot deficit83-78-78-77=316Playoff 1 Flag of England.svg J.H. Taylor
1898 The Open Championship (2)2 shot deficit79-75-77-76=3071 stroke Flag of Scotland.svg Willie Park, Jr.
1899 The Open Championship (3)3 shot lead76-76-81-77=3105 strokes Flag of Scotland.svg Jack White
1900 U.S. Open 4 shot lead79-78-76-80=3132 strokes Flag of England.svg J.H. Taylor
1903 The Open Championship (4)7 shot lead73-77-72-78=3006 strokes Flag of Jersey.svg Tom Vardon
1911 The Open Championship (5)3 shot lead74-74-75-80=303Playoff 2 Flag of France.svg Arnaud Massy
1914 The Open Championship (6)2 shot deficit73-77-78-78=3063 strokes Flag of England.svg J.H. Taylor

1 Defeated J.H. Taylor in 36-hole playoff by 4 strokes
2 Defeated Arnaud Massy in 36-hole playoff: Massy conceded on the 35th hole

Results timeline

The Open Championship T23T5T91611
U.S. Open 1
The Open Championship 22T215T93T7T5T26
U.S. Open 2NTNT
The Open Championship T1612T31NTNTNTNTNT
U.S. Open T2
The Open Championship T14T23T8T17CUTCUTT47CUT

Note: Vardon only played in The Open Championship and the U.S. Open.

  Top 10
  Did not play

NYF = Tournament not yet founded
NT = No tournament
CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place

Photo library


See also

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  2. Woelfel, Rick (19 January 2011). "Harry Vardon – the one who taught us how to hold a club". Exegolf. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  3. "Scores of First Day's Golf Play". The Chicago Tribune. 5 October 1900.
  4. 1 2 Frost, Mark (6 November 2002). The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf . Hyperion. ISBN   0-7868-6920-8.
  5. "Vardon's Chief Matches and Records". The Tribune Almanac (1901). 1901. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  6. My Golfing Life, by Harry Vardon, 1933
  7. Williams, Bill (15 March 2016). Vardon In America. Xlibris. ISBN   978-1-5144-5372-8.
  8. "Harry Vardon Golf Courses | Creator of the Vardon Grip". www.yourgolftravel.com. Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  9. "Harry Vardon (1870 - 1937)". GolfEurope.com. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  10. "How to Play Golf". Hathitrust. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  11. 1 2 3 Williams, Bill (February 2015). Harry Vardon – A Career Record of a Champion Golfer (First ed.). USA: Xlibris Publishing. ISBN   978-1-5035-3568-8.
  12. "Find a will – GOV.UK". Probatesearch.service.gov.uk. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  13. "The London Gazette, 4852 – Re: the Estate of Henry William Vardon, Deceased" (PDF). 7 July 1937. Retrieved 17 February 2014.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. "Funeral of Harry Vardon". The Times. 25 March 1937. p. 6.
  15. Yocom, Guy (July 2000). "50 Greatest Golfers of All Time: And What They Taught Us". Golf Digest . Retrieved 5 December 2007.