top of page

Peter Oosterhuis-Star from the early seventies

A game and swing built on rhythm and tempo.

One of Europe's greatest players of the early seventies.

In a small elite group of Ryder Cup legends.

Born in 1948 in Dulwich, London.

An eighteen-year-old Peter Oosterhuis swing finish. The recoiled drop of the arms is the final frame of his teenage swing. The high-speed film was made by Irv Schloss in 1967, shortly before Oosterhuis turned professional.

A dominant force during the formative years of the European tour, Oosterhuis was four times in succession (1971-1974) the winner of the order of merit. He would become a Ryder Cup star and be enrolled in the Ryder Cup Hall of Fame. The record books tell us he had a singles record of 6 wins, a half, and no losses. Although he lost his singles matches, playing for Europe, in his final two Ryder Cup matches, he finished with a 6–2–1 record in singles and with 6½ points is only ½ point behind the overall Ryder Cup singles record of 7 points held by 5 players, including Arnold Palmer. Most impressive of all is that the Oosterhuis record was made in an era where the Americans dominated every match.

It took a couple of meetings before respect for the Oosterhuis matchplay quality was recognized. One classic tale has Lee Trevino, at the 1973 showdown, telling his teammates, “If I don’t beat Oosterhuis, I’ll kiss every ass in this room.” After halving the match, Trevino entered the U.S. locker room and found all of his teammates sitting with their pants around their ankles.

A formidable trio. The three greats stood over a period that gave most opponents little hope of success.

Peter Oosterhuis started the game a little after his 12th birthday. He was given free membership as a junior from the Dulwich and Sydenham golf club, although his first great interest was in picking the blackberries surrounding the perimeters of the course. It took the young man a while to fall in love with the game, being a natural athlete and able to perform well in all sports he tried. When the bug did bite He practiced for hours each day hitting balls from a ball bag, collecting, and then repeating the process. It took only two years, from his early beginnings, to break par. He later mentioned that his progression was helped by the luck that his local club had several good players he could compete with. The progressing amateur career of Oosterhuis (or Oosty as he was affectionally called) was short and successful. In 1966, at the age of 17, he won the Berkshire trophy after beating veteran Michael Bonnallack and then went on to win the British youth championship, finishing four strokes better than second place.

Michael Bonallack and David Saddler look on as 18-year-old Oosty drives against the wind in the 1967 Walker Cup at Royal St. Georges.

As a result, Oosterhuis was picked to represent Gt. Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup of 1967. He managed to take one and a half points in the foursomes but suffered a 6 and 4 thrashing against Robert Dickson (who later achieved modest success on the PGA Tour ), and lost his final game in a closely fought match on the final day.

After starting his career as an insurance broker Oosterhuis decided in 1968, at the age of 20 years old, to take the path of professional golf. The decision finally fell after his success in the Walker Cup.

The high-speed swing film (taken by Bernard Cooke under dark clouds) above shows Peter practicing in 1973, his first British win as a professional ( the Agfa-Gaevert tournament ) was now long behind him. His movement looks very established and full of confidence.

Oosterhuis described his swing as a three-quarter backswing. He said he developed the shortened version to overcome his natural highball flight. His tall stature and higher lofted irons ( before manufacturers started winding loft down as a sales gimmick in the eighties) combined to leave him with little other option. The strong breezes of British links courses would have made it even worse.

Interestingly, although being 6 feet 5 inches tall, Oosty still preferred to use standard-length clubs.

One of Britain's best players on either side of the SecondWorldWar. He is best remembered as Captain of the victorious Ryder Cup team that triumphed in 1957 at Lindrick

The veteran former Ryder Cup captain and player Dai Rees was so impressed he predicted great success and a major win in the future.

Peter hit the professional tour running with several good showings, including a sixth-place finish in the Open. The incredible career start was unsurprisingly rewarded with the 1969 Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award, a title inaugurated in 1960 to encourage British talent. Part of the prize for winning was two weeks of free accommodation and tuition with Sir Henry Cotton at the Penina complex in the Algarve, Portugal.

Penina-Cotton in front of one of the best golf complexes in Europe in the early seventies

It was here that Henry Cotton (3 times Open winner) came to the same opinion as Dai Rees about the potential of young Oosterhuis. Sir Henry was particularly impressed with the old head on young shoulders, plus the uncomplicated swing.

Swing simplicity happens when an overly technical approach is avoided. Oosty had built his swing with the main focus on tempo and rhythm.

The famous short backswing.

Although his length was impressive enough, Oosty still preferred to focus on repetitive accuracy and not use all of the potential length available from his huge frame. Peter was, according to Sir Henry, very tactically aware and astute in all decisions. Compare this with the young "crashers" of today.

The modern approach of "length is king" has changed the game and made it almost unrecognizable from the past, yet players of the Oosterhuis quality would have probably thrived just as much today and adapted to the different challenges of the modern tour.

The roll of the feet and firm left wrist of a great ball striker-Oosty at 22 years old

The next two years were less eventful with most news and interest centered around the exploits of Tony Jacklin. Peter appeared for the first time on the P.G.A. order of merit in 1969. He managed a creditable 16th place with a lot of established players behind him. In the next season, he edged toward the top by finishing in the 7th position. He had improved his shot average to 72, two shots better than the previous year. In 1971 Oosty won the first of his four consecutive Order-Of-Merit titles with an average score of 70.5

His financial gain was 9,269 pounds sterling!

The loner?

Early on in his career, Oosterhuis decided to play practice rounds alone. This was in contrast to most other colleagues who enjoyed a chat while practicing in a four-ball format. He preferred to find a quiet corner on the practice range to work on his game after those solitary rounds. Being a naturally friendly and unassuming character Oosty was popular and social, so the decision was more his professionalism than any other reason.

See Nick Faldo, part one. The search for perfection.

The Oosterhuis logbooks

Several diary`s and many birdie books recorded most of the data in the earlier part of Peter`s career

At the end of the sixties and into the seventies, long before the PGA started to keep the statistics of each player using the shotlink system (A system that captures and reports information on every shot), Peter Oosterhuis would make special notes of all his shots. He would then analyze the data to help him improve his results.

In a recent interview, he explained that his approach was excessive and was a result of OCD [obsessive-compulsive disorder], which he had been suffering from even as a young man. As well as an intensively detailed shot analysis the notes were full of self-observation, personal swing thoughts, and even nutritional ideas.

I was thrilled to read the various notes on his opponents from all over the world, and some of their statistics. I felt I was peeking into the brain of a young Oosterhuis while studying his diaries.

Snippets from some of the pages in Oosty`s diaries.

Click on the image to expand.

Oosty thoughts.

"More solid set up-slower-hands up. Make a one-piece takeaway."

"Tempo, tempo."

No Guru, no teacher, just experimental practice until he sculpted his swing out of the dirt.

The friendly rivalry with Tony Jacklin.

Many saw Oosty as the new English star and a more sturdy replacement for an increasingly fragile Tony Jacklin. I doubt either of them saw it that way, with Jacklin showing glimpses of his brilliance running into the nineteen-eighties and Oosty leaving for America so early on.

England`s two best players in the early seventies compete together in the Ryder cup matches of the period.

Major performances before leaving for America in 1975.

1973-The Masters.

This was the Tournament Oosty was in the best position to win. He remained in the driving seat to the 15th hole where a push cost him a bogey. Tommy Aaron was able to take advantage and held on to a glorious win, a win that had a special meaning after the disaster of 1968.

Tommy Aaron at 35 years old.

Tommy Aaron would experience one of the most dramatic events in the history of the Masters in 1968. Bob Goalby was the eventual winner, but it came at the cost of a dramatic mistake when Roberto de Vincenzo unknowingly broke the rules.

See link: The agony and ecstasy

1974-The open-Lytham and St.Annes

Oosterhuis was in serious contention to win a major on three occasions. The 1973 Masters, 1974, and 1982 Open. It would seem, sadly, he didn`t quite have the stamina or inner self-belief he needed to finish the job.

Watercolour and pencil sketch on art paper.

The 1974 Open was dominated by Gary Player, who led from start to finish. Although second, Peter Oosterhuis would finish four shots behind Player and was never really in contention.

The last walk to the 18th tee-watercolour and pencil sketch.

With the larger 1.68inch ball being compulsory for the first time it was not surprising the top half of the leaderboard was dominated by Americans.

The bowed left wrist of Oosty in the photograph demonstrates the contact of a superstar. Untypical of his European colleagues of the era it is no wonder he and Jacklin were able to contend so well inspite of the small ball ban.

The 1982 Open

Like the previous Open, it would seem that Oosty was never really in a position to claim the trophy. Yet he finished only one shot behind winner Tom Watson, tied with a very young Nick Price for the second spot. It was almost as if he preferred to avoid the intense glare of the audience. In later reflections, Oosty was not able to find a reason why the chances were all missed.

The many contributions that Oosty gave to the British, and later European Ryder Cup teams, are too many to count. One such input was the 1977 scrap, where captain Brian Huggett chose Oosty as the best man to steady the precocious raw talent of a young Faldo. The first hole could not have started worse for young Nick Faldo. Missing an extremely short putt to lose the first hole and following the catastrophe by losing the following two as well.

Oosty, was playing his fourth Ryder Cup and just calmed the nerves of Faldo by holding a steady ship. Reaching the turn at three down a slight drop in concentration from the Americans ( Ray Floyd and Lou Graham) at the 12th hole started a poor series of shots. By the 14th hole, it was all square. It was on the next hole that the experience of Oosterhuis was needed again.

With the Englishmen on the green and Americans in the bunker, Floyd claimed to be closer to the pin, meaning the British should play next. Without a clear decision, Oosty decided to putt. The ball finished close to the hole and the Americans needed three more to get down.

The final result was a Faldo/Oosterhuis win with the Americans completely losing their focus while the British team simply played par.

America and new challenges.

After four years of conquering the British and European tour, it seemed only natural for Oosterhuis to pick up his clubs and travel over the Atlantic to compete on the toughest and richest tour in the world.

As Britain's stand-out performer in the Ryder Cup, he felt he had a good chance to succeed on the well-manicured fairways and fast true greens of America.

Unfortunately, he miscalculated the strength in depth of the PGA tour. It was also, in Renton Laidlaw's opinion, that strokeplay was another ball game to matchplay, where you could get under your opponent's skin by constantly getting out of trouble (which Oosty did). In matchplay, nobody is affected.

Oosty finally won a PGA tournament after six years of trying. The 1981 Canadian Open. He fought on bravely with more hope afterward, but after finishing no higher than 28th on the money list in 12 seasons he decided to bow out of the competitive game.

In 1986, at 38, he quit the Tour and took a club pro job at Forsgate Country Club

in Jamesburg, N.J. Six years later he became director of golf at California's esteemed Riviera Country Club.

In 1993 Oosterhuis left America and moved back to England with his new wife Ruth Ann. It was there he received his first appointment as an analyst for Sky Sports. Sent back to the United States once more his job was to take a seat and offer information to the PGA Championship in Inverness Toledo.

Once again Oosty`s natural interest in analyzing statistics gave him a full advantage over other colleagues who would disappear during commercial breaks.

He moved from strength to strength, but like his playing career was never able to go much beyond the supporting cast.

The final stage.

Looking back on any career is always full of ups and downs. Peter Oosterhuis certainly had his share. Yet the final chapter that he now faces will require his greatest strength and will not give him any chance to rest in comfort. In 2014

Oosterhuis was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia. It is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment. Alzheimer's disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. There's currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease.

In 2015 Oosterhuis announced his retirement from broadcasting after a 20-year broadcasting career that saw him working for the BBC, CBS, and the Golf Channel.

Rather than go into a hole of depression Oosty bravely decided to come out openly and share his life and the Alzheimer's process with the public, something he had avoided his entire life until this last hurdle.

"Peter Oosterhuis the golfer never got the acclaim he truly deserved as a player, the reaction to his record is as understated as the gentleman himself."

Jim Nantz - American sportscaster


430 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All


John Mule'
John Mule'
Nov 21, 2022

This is my favorite post for personal reasons. Pete is the most kind, generous professional golfer I've ever met. In 1977 at our New Orleans Tour stop (he nearly beat Billy Casper at our 1975 tournament) I was following his group during the first round of play, when he simply walked over and introduced himself and asked why I was following the group. I mentioned that I was a follower of John Jacobs' instruction and thought I might learn something by watching him. He proceeded over the course of the next 3 days (including on the practice tee...) to give me advice about the swing and short game that he learned from Mr. Jacobs. He sometimes did this in the…

John Mule'
John Mule'
Nov 29, 2022
Replying to

Yes Bill, he told me about drills/images that Mr. Jacobs wanted him to use like dividing the swing into "thirds". Mr. Jacobs used to tell Peter "swing back as 1/3 and through as 2/3" - I guess he meant that he wanted Peter to to have a compact back swing and accelerate through. He showed my some really good stuff about chipping that I still use.

bottom of page