Herbert Wind Golf Essays

Several beats later, Crenshaw continued. “I remember when I won in 1984,” he said, referring to his first Masters title. “Herb waited till the very end of my press conference. He came up to me and he just said: ‘Ben, congratulations. It’s a great victory for golf.’ ”

Crenshaw swallowed hard. “It’s a treasured memory.”

Ten years after Wind’s death, the players in this year’s field know the holes that form Amen Corner, but few can identify the man behind the moniker. Crenshaw is one. Another is Phil Mickelson. Four years after his 2004 Masters victory, the first of his three titles at Augusta, Mickelson learned that Amen Corner was not Arnold Palmer’s invention. An informal poll of two dozen players resulted in 23 blank looks and one confident answer of Hogan.

Hogan was not a bad guess. The bridge used by the players to cross Rae’s Creek to the par-3 12th green is named after Hogan, who won two Masters.

Palmer was another good assumption. His final-round eagle on No. 13 in 1958 helped him secure the first of his four Masters titles and inspired Wind to conjure a special name for the critical juncture in that year’s tournament in an article in Sports Illustrated.

The widely held belief is that Amen Corner has sacred roots. It made sense to the Australian Jason Day, who said, “You pray to get around it without running into disaster.” Day’s countryman Adam Scott, the 2013 champion, chipped in, “Otherwise it can be the Blasphemous Corner.”

Wind’s inspiration, though, came from a 1930s jazz recording, “Shouting in the Amen Corner.” In an article for Golf Digest in 1984, he said that he was aiming for “some colorful tag like those that Grantland Rice and his contemporaries loved to devise: the Four Horsemen, the Manassa Mauler, the House That Ruth Built and the Georgia Peach.”

“The only phrase with the word corner I could think of (outside of football’s ‘coffin corner’ and baseball’s ‘hot corner’) was the title of a song on an old Bluebird record,” Wind wrote.

He used “Amen Corner” only six times in the next 31 years, according to an online search of The New Yorker’s archives. Wind’s nephew, Bill Scheft, a staff writer on “Late Show With David Letterman,” was not surprised.

“Herb was like a comic who comes up with a bit and delivers it to an audience once,” Scheft said. “It was nothing he was going to repeat because he was always striving for better bits.”

Wind was once approached by two young writers asking about the origins of Amen Corner.

“I found it exceedingly awkward to tell them that I thought that I had given that famous stretch of course its appellation,” he wrote in Golf Digest.

In 1989, Wind missed the Masters after having prostate surgery. He was watching the telecast at Scheft’s New York apartment when, in the introductory segment, one of the announcers, Steve Melnyk, said, “Here we are at Amen Corner, coined by the legendary writer Herb Wind.”

“Herb turned to me and said, ‘Christ, now I owe Melnyk some money,’ ” Scheft said, adding, “He was relentlessly embarrassed by his own acclaim, the fact that this was the thing that he was known for.”

A Man of Letters

Wind was acclaimed for his golf coverage, but during his career he produced exquisitely written, richly detailed stories on athletes and celebrities — from Arthur Ashe to the British writer P. G. Wodehouse. After he wrote an article for The New Yorker on the Green Bay Packers in December 1962, Wind received a letter from the team’s publicity director that said, “It was one of the few pieces written that have been truly accurate.”

Through the alchemy of words, Wind turned some of the most iconic sportsmen and entertainers of the 20th century into writers. The Manuscripts and Archives section at the Yale University Library contains seven boxes brimming with the cuttings of a well-sown life. Mixed with journals, notebooks and contracts are letters, including several that Wind spilled coffee on while reading, from politicians, entertainers and athletes.

The Boston Celtics’ John Havlicek, the miler Roger Bannister and Ashe were among those who took the time to send Wind cursive claps after he profiled them.

“I feel as though the article was one of the best that has been written about me, and I sincerely appreciate it,” Havlicek wrote.

To comb through the correspondence is to feel like an eavesdropper catching snippets of conversation among guests at a cocktail party.

In reply to a letter from Wind, Byron Nelson wrote: “I wish that I could be as nice as you said I was. I do try to carry through on things that I promise to do.”

In July 1971, Bobby Jones, a co-founder of Augusta National, thanked Wind for a book he had sent.

“Unfortunately, I have been about as low as a snake can ever get,” Jones wrote. “Should I make any noticeable recovery one of these days, I will try to write you.”

Five months later, Jones died after a long and painful illness.

Bing Crosby, the singer and actor, wrote to Wind with an analysis of Nicklaus’s final-nine 45 at the 1976 PGA Tour stop that Crosby hosted, a collapse that delivered the title to Crenshaw.

“I think it was just lack of concentration,” Crosby wrote. “He was a little baffled about the new irons.”

After Wind profiled Wodehouse for The New Yorker in 1971, Wodehouse was moved to write: “It is terrific, exactly right. It has made me take an entirely new view of myself, convincing me that I’m really one of the big shots.”

Robert S. Macdonald, who became close to Wind when they collaborated on the Classics of Golf Library in the 1980s, marveled at the piles of letters in the Wind collection. It was as if Wind had kept every piece of evidence that he, too, was a big shot.

“I think he was so flattered by it all,” Macdonald said. “He just worshiped these people he was writing about in many ways.”

A Monastic Devotion

Wind’s love of golf took root at Thorny Lea Golf Club in Brockton, Mass., south of Boston, where he was raised in a Jewish household amid shoe mills. His father, Max, owned a leather company and a membership to Thorny Lea.

As a teenager, Wind became a regular listener of a radio program featuring Rice, the sportswriter, and Jones, the legendary amateur golfer, who in 1930 was the first to win the Grand Slam (which was given its own memorable moniker, the Impregnable Quadrilateral). Their musings on golf were tutorials that tickled Wind’s intellect.

Wind was drawn to books and sports. He played golf in high school, basketball at Yale and rugby at Cambridge. In a 1933 journal that is part of Wind’s collection at the Yale library, an April 26 entry describes in detail one of his high school matches at Stony Brae.

“The course is rather short but its narrow fairways and mountainous layout make it rather a formidable course,” he wrote in neat, miniature cursive.

Wind praised a teammate, Bob Jordan, for his play on the back nine “when the heavy rain just about put me out of the running” before adding, almost as an afterthought, “I took an 84 and Bob a very helpful 87.”

The rest of the pages for the year are blank. A shadow of loneliness looms over the pages in Wind’s diaries and in his correspondence. Early in his first year at Cambridge, he wrote a review of the Marx Brothers film “Animal Crackers.” After panning the movie, he wrote, “I might have been slightly prejudiced for I saw it in the afternoon alone with an empty theater around me and that was my first time.”

Wind never married, to the dismay of his parents, who did not know what to make of his modest lifestyle and monastic devotion to writing. Gertrude Scheft, 92, one of Wind’s five siblings, described Wind’s writing as his calling and said, “He really loved it, but our father would have loved it if he had gone into the business.”

Her son, Bill, said: “To me, he was always a guy who lived life on his own terms. People in his own family didn’t understand him. He was an artist.”

Macdonald said Wind’s introspective, inquisitive nature and his broad range of interests did not fit his father’s narrow view of manliness.

“He was not a rough, tough self-made businessman,” Macdonald said. “He had no interest in working in a shoe factory.”

Wind did inherit his father’s gift for salesmanship, just not for a product. He was popularizing and promoting the people and sports he chronicled.

“His great gift was not only his knowledge of golf, which was really far deeper than anyone’s,” Crenshaw said. “Everyone knew Herb because of the breadth of his writing. His stories contained so much material, so much of the fiber of not only golf. He brought people to life.”

Reserved in Person

Wind was the Bubba Watson of writers: Nobody was longer or more entertaining. He once joked that he needed 5,000 words to clear his throat. His four-page article introducing “Amen Corner” to the golfing lexicon was written under what Wind considered deadline duress. It appeared in the April 21, 1958, issue of Sports Illustrated and detailed Palmer’s victory over Ken Venturi on April 6.

The relatively quick turnaround required at Sports Illustrated exacted a toll on Wind, a connoisseur of language who preferred to uncork his reporting and let the words on the page breathe. It was the main reason, Scheft said, that Wind left Sports Illustrated after a few years to return to The New Yorker, where he generally took at least a month after a major to craft his dispatches.

Wind’s piece on Crenshaw’s first Masters defense in 1985, titled “Austin and Augusta,” ran 14 pages in the magazine and included a 355-word quotation from Crenshaw.

In Wind’s hands, Hogan was not merely intense; he also played the game with “the burning frigidity of dry ice.”

Wind carved out Palmer’s swagger in detail, writing: “He moves down the fairway toward the ball in long, eager strides, a cigarette in his hand, his eyes on the distant green as he considers every aspect of his coming approach shot. They are eyes with warmth and humor in them as well as determination, for this is a mild and pleasant man.”

Wind was as loquacious on the page as he was reserved in person.

His longtime barber, Gerry Gilfedder, once asked Wind to tell him about Gene Sarazen, a seven-time major winner.

“He was a wonderful man,” Wind replied.

Gilfedder waited for Wind to continue, but he fell mute. His personality flowed like ink only when his pen was uncapped.

Delta Hair Stylist, on Lexington Avenue near 72nd Street, has changed little in the years since Wind made his first appointment with Gilfedder, at the recommendation of a New Yorker colleague. Customers come for the straightedge shaves and straight talk. After his last client of the day, Gilfedder reminisced about Wind, whose hair he cut once a month for a quarter of a century.

“When he got comfortable with you, he’d talk,” Gilfedder said. “I felt quite privileged to have long conversations with Herbert Warren Wind because I knew how private he was.”

Wind found comfort in routine. He stayed at the same hotel every year for the Masters, and on the day of his monthly haircut, he would have a one-vodka lunch at the same Italian restaurant before making his way to the barbershop.

“He didn’t have a lot of hair to work on,” said Gilfedder, who cleared his afternoon anyway. “People would look at us funny, like why is it taking so long to cut his hair?”

Gilfedder’s Scottish heritage and his dry sense of humor made an impression on Wind. His enthusiasm for golf and hockey sealed their bond. When Gilfedder took a vacation, Wind scheduled his next appointment for the first Saturday after his return. If Gilfedder spent his holiday in Scotland, Wind would ask him by way of greeting, “What courses did you play?”

Wind, a capable enough player to compete in a British Amateur, had a discriminating eye for golf architecture. He never tired of seeing how the classic courses were constructed. He filled notebooks with pencil sketches of holes he found interesting.

“His recall of holes was amazing,” Gilfedder said. “If I said I had played at Turnberry, he’d say, ‘How’d you do on No. 7?’ ”

Wind met Crenshaw during an amateur tournament at the Country Club of Brookline in 1968. The teenage Crenshaw’s instructor, Harvey Penick, arranged the introduction.

“He became like a father figure to me,” Crenshaw said. “He somehow saw in me an eager student. We’d go off by ourselves and talk about this or that. He’d say, ‘Go study courses as a student would study a painting.’ ”

What was his game like? Crenshaw could not say.

“I never saw him hit a golf ball,” he said.

‘The Hardest Work’

It took a long time for Wind’s self-esteem to catch up to his stature. After receiving a dinner invitation from the British journalist Alistair Cooke, Wind told Macdonald, “He must have tried 30 people, and then he called me.”

Wind dressed in tailored clothes, but his jacket lapels and ties often sported stains. His appearance was a metaphor for his life: glamorous from afar, but messy upon closer inspection. In a letter to the mother of an impressionable teenager asking for insight into the sportswriting life, Wind answered with the unadorned truth.

“Many of us in sports and in writing have found our enthusiasm fading quite early in our careers — as early as the middle thirties,” he wrote.

“Lots of reasons for this, but it seems that one changes as one grows older, and the glamour of sport doesn’t always last. I have found golf a wonderful world but a good many of the other sports offer many tedious and disappointing standards. In truth, there are days — many of them — when I wished I made my living in some easier way than writing. It is the hardest work I know of, and while the satisfactions are considerable, we often wonder if it is worth it all.”

But Wind had no regrets. He made that clear in the letter’s closing paragraphs.

“I know in my own case that no one could ever have stopped me from going into writing,” he wrote. “I just had to do it, for reasons I didn’t completely understand at the time.”

Wind worked at The New Yorker into his 70s. He retired in 1989 and spent his final years in an assisted living home, with dementia, before he died from pneumonia at 88.

Late in his career, as his workload for The New Yorker became lighter, Wind supplemented his published dispatches with letters that read like articles, sometimes written off televised sporting events. One such story, filled with humor, described an exchange between the Mets broadcast partners Tim McCarver and Rusty Staub.

Wind sent them to Scheft, who would tear open the envelope as if he were shucking an oyster to get to the pearl. The string of correspondence was polished proof that Wind took as much care and pleasure writing for an audience of one as he did a readership of one million.

Correction: April 8, 2015
An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misspelled the surname of the man sitting with Herbert Warren Wind at Oakmont Country Club in 1983. He is Bob Sommers, not Summers.

Correction: April 8, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of Herbert Warren Wind’s siblings who are still alive. There are two, not one.

Continue reading the main story

A couple weeks ago I tipped you off about a golf book destined to be a classic.

And many of you emailed me asking where you could get your hands on golf’s all-time classics…

You know…the ones everyone agrees are the greatest golf books of all time.

You’ve obviously discovered, like me, that nearly all of these epic books are out of print.

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More on that in a minute.

But first, a question for you…

Are You a “True Golfer?”

Do you feel a deep connection to the game?

In other words, are you a golfer vs. someone who merely “plays golf?”

Do you enjoy being part of a society of people who “get” golf…but who can never get enough of it?

Do you lie awake with excitement the night before you play a golf course you’ve always wanted to play?

Does your heart race when you hear that iconic, tinkling piano that starts every Masters broadcast?

Yes to all or most of the above?

Then let me ask you this…

How connected can you really be to golf if you haven’t read…

The Best Golf Books Ever Written

I hate to say it, but if you haven’t read the books I’m about to mention, there will always be something missing from your knowledge of and your connection to the game.

See, these books are the standard by which all other golf writing is measured.

And no exaggeration…reading these books is as much a rite of passage for a “true golfer” as visiting shrines like St. Andrews and Pebble Beach.

Golf’s greatest players, most respected businessmen, and other insiders have copies on their night stands.

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Ok, so why exactly are these books so special?

Because they are the work of…

The Masters…of Golf’s Written Word

Just like we celebrate golf’s greatest players and their accomplishments…

…the golf world recognizes a small, elite fraternity of writers who have had a monumental and lasting impact on the game.

And even within this group, there were two unquestioned masters…

Herbert Warren Wind and Bernard Darwin.

Herbert Warren Wind’s books, golf writings in The New Yorker, and his work as Sports Illustrated’s first ever golf editor earned him the title, “the poet laureate of golf.”

You know the phrase “Amen Corner?”

He created it.

His work is so treasured, and his mark on the game so important, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

And do you know who Herbert Warren Wind called, “the greatest writer on golf the world has ever known?…

Bernard Darwin.

He’s in the Hall of Fame, too.

Why? Oh, just because he basically, “invented golf writing as we know it today.”

The truly amazing thing is, he did it without any formal training as a journalist.

Here’s what Ben Crenshaw said about him:

“Darwin’s writings have given me as much pleasure and as sound an education as anything in my golfing life. His words express closely what we feel about the game, if we have taken this game to our heart, as he did.”

As you can see, these are golf’s most celebrated writers, and their work form the heart of the special, 7-book set you’re about to see.

7 of the World’s Best Golf Books for One Great Price

Whether purchased for yourself or as an incredible holiday gift for someone, these “essentials” are an enviable collection on their own…or as an addition to an existing book collection.

Here they are:

The Complete Golfer (1954), edited by Herbert Warren Wind
This anthology, edited by one of the most prolific and respected golf writers of all time, features an introduction by Bobby Jones. Selections range from fiction pieces to cartoons, long-form essays to colorful maps of the world’s greatest golf courses.

Green Memories (1928), by Bernard Darwin
Darwin penned three autobiographies in his storied writing career. This is the first and, by our lights, the best, owing to the beautiful prose it contains and Darwin’s characteristic deep insights.

Playing the Like (1934), by Bernard Darwin
Any introduction to golf’s rich essay tradition must have a healthy dose of Darwin, and this book delivers, with his biographical pieces on James Braid, Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor among the highlights.

The Badminton Library: Golf (1890), edited by Horace G. Hutchinson
This anthology represents a turning point in golf’s early history. Sponsored by the Duke of Beaufort, this volume was supposed to cover numerous sports dear to the hearts of Scots until noted writer and volume editor Horace Hutchinson convinced the Duke otherwise. As a result, it’s devoted entirely to golf and has been known as one of the great books on the game for more than a century.

Tillinghast: Creator Of Golf Courses (2005), by Philip Young (Limited Edition)
Albert Warren “A.W.” Tillinghast is known as one of the great golf course architects of all time, having designed such courses as Winged Foot (both West and East), Bethpage Black and Baltusrol. This book is the first biography of a man whose life consisted of much beyond his trade, and is presented as a limited edition by Classics of Golf.

The Walter Hagen Story (1956), by Walter Hagen with Margaret Seaton Heck
In addition to being one of the great players of his era, Walter Hagen was a one-of-a-kind character and entertainer who paved the way for the modernization and broad acceptance of professional game. This is his story, told in his words.

Autobiography of an Average Golfer (1925), by O.B. Keeler
Keeler cemented his place in golf history as the most meticulous and eloquent biographer of one of golf’s all-time beloved figures: Bobby Jones. In Keeler’s inimitable style, this book chronicles his own introduction to golf, which still resonates 90 years later with avid, though not always proficient, lovers of the game.

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• The Complete Golfer (Wind)
• Green Memories (Darwin)
• Playing the Like (Darwin)
• The Badminton Library: Golf (Hutchinson)
• Tillinghast: Creator of Golf Courses (Young)
• The Walter Hagen Story (Hagen)
• Autobiography of an Average Golfer (Keeler)
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More than Golf’s Greatest Writing…It’s an Education

This collection of volumes isn’t merely seven books about golf’s early days.

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They include profound perspectives on the professional game and those that play it, golf course design, and even the experience and insight of the rank amateur.

Here’s What Readers are Saying…

“A great book for lovers of sports writing…”
– N.S., on The Complete Golfer (via Alibris)…

“Open anywhere and you’ll find something handy for the nineteenth hole…”
Travel + Leisure Golf on The Badminton Library

“Darwin at his best…”
– Classics of Golf on Playing the Like

“An immense contribution to my profession…I am deeply impressed.”
– Geoffrey Cornish, golf course architect, on Tillinghast: Creator Of Golf Courses

“There is nothing more enjoyable…”
-David Childs on The Walter Hagen Story

A Collection You’ll Leave to Someone Special

Golf books will come and go by the thousands, but these have withstood the test of time.

And at a time when so much reading is done “digitally” on computers, phones and tablets, these books are refreshingly real.

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Permanent “classics” you’ll enjoy for years to come and likely leave to someone special when it’s time to head to that great 19th hole in the sky.

Out of Print, but Not Out of Reach (if You Hurry):
The Exclusive Offer for GVI Readers

As I mentioned at the top, these books are out of print.

The originals are hard to find and can cost thousands of dollars each (see below).

Even the gorgeous reprints I’m talking about, purchased directly from Classics of Golf (the publisher) would cost you $319.

Here’s the math…

1. The Complete Golfer ($50)
2. Green Memories ($40)
3. Playing the Like ($40)
4. The Badminton Library: Golf ($35)
5. Tillinghast: Creator of Golf Courses, Limited Edition ($79)
6. The Walter Hagen Story ($40)
7. Autobiography of an Average Golfer ($35)
Total: $319 (what everyone else pays)

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Click Here to Get 7 of the World’s Best Golf Books
• The Complete Golfer (Wind)
• Green Memories (Darwin)
• Playing the Like (Darwin)
• The Badminton Library: Golf (Hutchinson)
• Tillinghast: Creator of Golf Courses (Young)
• The Walter Hagen Story (Hagen)
• Autobiography of an Average Golfer (Keeler)
Just $199 with Free Shipping in USA
Only 150 Available (max. 2 per order, please). Get yours now.


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