Here we take a look at ten people who have changed golf through innovation, helping to shape and grow the sport we all know and love today...
10 Great Golfing Innovators
Much that is great about golf is rooted in the rich history of a game that emerged on Scotland’s east coast centuries ago.
Since then, a series of innovations have steadily transformed a rudimentary stick and ball game into a global industry.
Here we take a look at ten people who have changed golf through innovation, helping to shape and grow the sport we all know and love today…
Born: 21/12/1892 Rochester, New York
Died: 6/10/1969 Traverse City, Michigan
Hagen was a great champion, a showman and a bon-viveur who enjoyed the company of celebrities and royalty.
Through his play, his actions and his personality he changed the perception of the golf professional.
By refusing to accept the image of golf pro as second-class citizen that still lingered in the 1920s, especially in the UK, Hagen broke down social barriers.
Gene Sarazen said of The Haig: “All professionals should say a silent thanks to Walter Hagen each time they stretch a cheque between their fingers.”
Born: 9/4/1957 Pedreña, Spain
Died: 7/5/2011 Pedreña, Spain
Seve earns his place on these pages for two reasons – his genius on the golf course and his role in the re-alignment of professional golf’s axis of power.
As a player, Seve challenged and altered the accepted criteria of golfing excellence.
Related: 8 short game maestros
His was not a game simply of strategy and precision; he played with flair and creativity, proving that incredible, unlikely things could be achieved through the manipulation of club and ball.
As a multiple Major winner and Ryder Cup stalwart, Seve inspired a whole generation of European players to achieve at the very pinnacle of the game.
Born: 6/11/1930 Chicago, Illinois
Died: 16/5/2003 New York City, New York
In 1959, Arnold Palmer shook Mark McCormack’s hand to become the International Management Group’s first client.
In that moment, golf was changed for good.
McCormack rapidly grew the IMG stable, signing Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and establishing “the big three”.
He started the World Match Play, sold the ideas of appearance money, the licensing of TV rights and merchandising, and created the Official World Golf Ranking.
His impact on the sport of golf was huge.
Born: 14/3/1925 Woodsetts, England
Died: 13/1/2017 England
A good player and twice a Ryder Cup captain, Jacobs was instrumental in establishing the European Tour, securing sponsors and increasing prize funds.
Arguably his greatest contribution to golf, though, came through his progressive approach to coaching.
Jacobs played a part in shaping the games of many of golf’s greats: from Nicklaus and Player to Ballesteros and Faldo.
Related: John Jacobs: The Master Professional
The way we play golf today has been influenced by Jacobs.
“John Jacobs wrote the book on coaching,” said Butch Harmon.
“There is not a teacher out there who does not owe him something.”
Harry S Colt
Harry Colt began his adult life as a lawyer but quickly became immersed in the sport he loved.
He was a founder member of The R&A’s rules committee and secretary at Sunningdale before moving into course architecture.
Colt was involved in the design of over 300 courses worldwide.
Colt’s techniques for creating and adapting layouts have set the standard for modern course design.
Born: 15/9/1911 Bergen, Norway
Died: 16/2/2000 Phoenix, Arizona
When Karsten Solheim took up the sport, he looked to apply his engineering background to his own golf game.
He came up with revolutionary putter designs featuring perimeter-weighting that steadily captured attention.
In 1967, Julius Boros used Solheim’s ‘Anser’ putter to win the Phoenix Open.
Since then, over 500 events on the main pro tours have been won by players using an Anser.
Solheim and his Ping company went on to introduce forgiving, perimeter-weighted irons, and other equipment manufacturers quickly followed suit.
Born: 18/7/1955 America
Working for Titleist, Morgan was responsible for one of the biggest product innovations in golf’s history – the ProV1 ball.
Morgan originally worked in the petroleum industry but moved into golf and applied his knowledge of chemicals to revolutionise the way golf balls were made.
In the 1990s he pioneered a multi-layer ball with a thin urethane cover – a ‘veneer’. The result was the ProV1.
It was first put into play in 2000 and is still going strong in 2017.
Born: 9/5/1870 Grouville, Jersey
Died: 20/3/1937 London, England
Vardon’s achievements did a huge amount to advance public interest in golf on both sides of the Atlantic.
His name will forever live on thanks to the ‘Vardon Grip’; the method of overlapping the little finger of the lower hand between the index and middle fingers of the upper hand.
Related: Harry Vardon: Golf’s first superstar
It has, for 100 years, been the most popular style of grip.
It may be that Vardon didn’t actually invent it, but he certainly brought it to the masses.
Born: 27/2/1902 Harrison, New York
Died: 13/5/1999 Naples, Florida
Every time we escape from a steep-faced bunker we should silently thank the great Gene Sarazen.
In the 1932 Open at Prince’s Golf Club (an event which he won) the American debuted a new club he called his ‘sand iron’.
Having struggled with bunker shots, Sarazen welded solder onto the lower back of a lofted club creating more weight and a ‘bounce’ to power through the thick sand.
The invention of what we now call the ‘sand wedge’ led to a complete re-think on short-game technique.
Born: 30/12/1975 Cypress, California
Through his incredible exploits in the 1990s and 2000s, Tiger changed the face of golf.
Related: Tiger Woods’ greatest triumph
He inspired millions to take up and succeed at the game; he brought billions of dollars of investment into the sport; and his fame transcended golf to reach new audiences across the globe.
Tiger’s total self-belief and dedication to golfing success through technical and physical efforts raised the bar in the pro game and set a benchmark for a new generation of superstars.