Jerome Travers was one of the greatest amateurs of all time. Coming from a family of means, Travers made the decision not to turn pro, but instead to contribute his talents to the game as an amateur. He won the U.S. Amateur four times (1907, 1908, 1912, 1913), the New Jersey Amateur three times, and the Metropolitan Amateur of New York five times. Francis Ouimet called him, “The best match player in the country.” And if that amateur record was not already enough, Travers also won the 1915 US Open at Baltusrol.

The Review

“Travers’ Golf Book” is not really an instructional manual for golf, as much as a collection of stories. Of the 378 page book, I would guess less than 100 pages are devoted to pure instruction. The lessons to be taken away from this book include the following:

1. The respect that Travers had for his fellow competitors was unmatched. It says a lot about a golfer when he can speak so highly about those that he played against.

2. Travers was a fighter. While speaking about all of the matches that he played in, you got the sense that Travers wanted to win all of them. This was no gifted athlete, merely spending time on the links because his family had money. Here was a guy who went out and wanted to win. And during the decade in which he played, he was arguably the greatest amateur in the United States.

3. Travers did not play so well overseas. I thought it was interesting that a man of so much talent could not translate it to links golf. But in his book, he talks a lot about his disdain for the “half-shot” in golf. He felt that every club should be used to its full potential. I, admittedly have never played links golf, but from everything I’ve seen the half shot is one of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of the European player. Whether its playing through wind, rain, or landing the ball short of a green so that it can run up to the hole, every great links player knows the half shot.

Unlike the swing of Jim barnes (first winner of PGA Championship), I do not think that modern day swing teachers would approve of Travers. He bent his left arm during the swing, straightened his right leg on the backswing, and played more than his fair share of shots with the ball off his right foot with an open stance. Also, he played the game with a baseball grip and his right hand tucked under the club. He could draw the ball when he wanted, no doubt, but also must have had days when his timing was quite off. You just don’t see those kind of players today, instruction the way it is.

No matter how you feel about the style of a particular player, there are always things to be learned from golfers that are better than you. Here are some of my takeaways;
1. When playing into a hooking wind, it’s better to hook the ball into the wind, allow for the wind. The alternative to this would be to cut the ball into a hook wind, but like Harry Vardon says in “The Complete Golfer”, that takes away too much distance from the shot. Travers agrees.
2. A match is not over until it is over. Travers’ golf book is filled with stories about golf matches that would seemingly end up one way, but fate turned things around. In one such case, a competitor was 7 up with 7 holes to go, and ended up losing. In other words, a golf match is never over till its over. Stay Focused.
3. Half of putting is confidence.
4. Take in all of the factors necessary to play the shot. And study your opponent as well.

Travers’ golf book is a great little read. But the book pulls too much from news sources, magazines and newspapers to recount the tales of certain matches. Travers seems a competent enough writer himself to discuss the matches, what he learned from them, and how that helped him along the way.

The pictures in the book are great, but I would love to have seen full swing sequences, rather than bits and pieces.

The great part about reading books from this era is that at the end of the day, Travers found a way to get it done. Before modern equipment, modern golf balls, and all the other technological advances, here’s a look at how he found a way to beat the best amateurs in the country. Perhaps it was because he learned from none other than Alex Smith, 2 time winner of the US Open, or perhaps he had the means and the drive to compete at a high level, time and time again.

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