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Swings of the distant past - Jack Graham.

The second in a series that brings the swings of the great players of the past to life.


"The best player who never won a championship."

The famous backswing of Jack(John) Graham




The subtitle of this article was the opinion of the great Bernard Darwin, who wrote an interesting piece for Golf Monthly in the early sixties on Jack Graham. Darwin would often mention the Hoylake legend when talking about the great players of his day.








Excluding older Hoylake members and golfing historians, Jack Graham is unlikely to be a name that comes to mind as a past potential champion of Great Britain- yet, when reading past literature and personal opinions expressed by the more knowledgeable golfers and prominent people of the time, there is no doubt of Jack Graham`s place on the list of golfing greats.

We are talking about over 120 years ago, and Graham's local opponents, the legendary amateur champion John Ball, the winner of two Opens Harold Hilton (one at Hoylake), and the distinguished amateur Horace Hutchinson, made it difficult for Graham to achieve any notable success on his home course.


In addition to his local adversaries, Graham competed against Professionals of the caliber of a youthful James Braid and Harry Vardon, plus shotmaker of his day J.H. Taylor. Still impressively Jack ( or John officially) Graham would achieve the best amateur placing in the Open on several occasions, which should have made him a clear favorite to win at least one National Amateur championship.

Known as the Triumvirate, the three stars Braid, Taylor, and Vardon cleaned up everything important in the late 18th and early 19th century.

The experts said Graham struggled with the emotions involved in playing Tournament golf; the noise and raucousness of the crowds and the overall chaos of the masses. The general opinion was that Jack Graham had the game to compete with the best there was, but lacked the desire to be part of the elite circle.

Jack Graham swing study-start, backswing, and finish.

Swing study



Apart from the unusual start, Graham made a very good modern movement. His mechanics contained an uncharacteristically wide arc for a turn-of-the-century swing, and he showed a full commitment to the final end position.

See the article from Irv Schloss on how to develop the quality of learning to swing without effort, or making the ball unimportant-LINK


It was possible to create the Jack Graham swing animation by using a few photographic images and joining the dots in between.


A competitors opinion

Harold Hilton provided a verbal swing analysis of his opponent and fellow Hoylake golfer in a 1910 article. He wrote that in his opinion Graham used his right leg in the forward swing to create more forward thrust.



Hilton felt the Graham swing was fairly soft in the wrist joints and hands while swinging up to the summit, and short and upright in length and plane (this is all relative of course, where short would tend to be seen as the standard to long if we use modern comparisons).

In addition to being one of the best players of his era Hilton wrote much on golf and was also the chief editor for Golf illustrated.

Also, the naked eye is not always capable of seeing certain parts of the swing, and generally, the top of the swing can be misjudged. With his hands set so far behind the ball at address and a `loose` starting action, it would be likely that Graham continued the swing a little further than the eye could really see. The posed position of an image taken of Graham in 1910 would have been less than the real position when in motion. My animation takes all factors into account.






Another point to calculate was how Graham came to a finish that moved considerably more to the onlooker's right, his entire torso finishing over his left foot.




The forward motion also ended with the left heel off the ground, or up on the toes. This suggests a certain amount of `extra` was used in the contact area to accommodate a lack of weight transference.





The final film animation is developed out of these plus more evaluations and combines both my knowledge as a teaching Pro and an artist.

Being a reserved and private man the enigmatic Jack Graham made sure he eluded the public gaze. He liked to practice in the mists of the Hoylake fairways early in the mornings before going to work, spending time experimenting on his swing, and finding new ways to play shots. Once the day's work was at an end Graham would return eagerly to another corner of the course. The mentioned Bernard Darwin article tells how he would often see "Jack Graham, just released from work wearing an old coat, superimposed on respectable town trousers, setting out for a wander across the links with a pipe, a couple of clubs and a pocketful of ancient balls."


In spite of never winning the amateur championship Graham`s achievements were many, although winning the amateur would have confirmed his place in the history books that he so richly deserved.


Etching of the famous Marlborough school established in 1843. Many famous students have studied there; more recently Kate Middleton and Ghislaine Maxwell.

Jack was a natural athlete, excelling in all sports. His cricket was so exceptional he was asked to play for the Lancashire team. The schoolboy Graham showed equal skills in tennis, winning the public school rackets for Marlborough college (which was, and still is, the most elite school in Britain) along with even more team achievements as a very good footballer.

Victorian football was not a game for softies (engraving from the late 19th century).

Using Darwin`s words concerning the early Graham as a player:

"I remember hearing of his fame as a golfer sometime before I saw him. He played in the amateur championship at Sandwich in 1896 when just emerged from the schoolboy stage, and set everyone talking about this obvious champion in embryo. After some easy-going victories he had to play Hilton in the semi-finals, and many people thought he would win!"




Darwin continued "Unfortunately, Graham had a rather depressing start, for Hilton holed his spoon shot at the first hole for a two, and after that went steadily ahead. Youth crumpled a little before age and Hilton won comfortably enough, but then Graham had done enough and woke to find himself famous."












History records that Graham never succeeded in winning a championship, not even making a final. Despite a number of impressive starts and great form, he would always break down in the later stages. It only became more difficult as time went on and more chances slipped away. The expectancy grew, and the pressure he placed on himself to win increased, a daunting combination. In another reference, Darwin wrote he was convinced that had Graham made the final he would have broken his jinx, and won at least one more championship thereafter. Darwin was also sure he was as good a player as the other great Hoylake heroes John Ball and Harold Hilton.

Sadly Jack Graham never had a chance to fulfill his promise when he fell in the "great war" on the battle-torn wastelands of Europe, in what became known as the battle of Hooge, Belgium. He died at only 34 years old, losing his life to ensure peace and prosperity for future generations.



Also on swings brought to life is Young Tommy, the first Superstar

https://www.billknowlesgolfart.com/post/tom-morris-the-first-superstar

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