Harry Vardon, Early Giant of Pro Golf

Harry Vardon
6-time British Open winner Harry Vardon, pictured in 1927. Central Press/Getty Images

Harry Vardon was one of the greatest players and most influential figures in the early history of golf.

Date of birth: May 9, 1870
Place of birth: Grouville, Jersey (Channel Islands)
Date of death: March 20, 1937


Credited with 62 professional wins

Major Championships:


  • U.S. Open: 1900
  • British Open: 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914

Awards and Honors:

Member, World Golf Hall of Fame

Quote, Unquote:

  • Harry Vardon: "Don't play too much golf. Two rounds a day is plenty."
  • Golf writer Bernard Darwin on Harry Vardon: "I do not think anyone who saw him play in his prime will disagree as to this, that a greater genius is inconceivable."


  • Harry Vardon is one-third of Britain's famed "Great Triumvirate" of golfers. The other two members are J.H. Taylor and James Braid.
  • Vardon is the only 6-time winner of the British Open.
  • Scoring leaders on both the U.S. and European PGA Tours are awarded the Harry Vardon Trophy.

Harry Vardon Biography:

Harry Vardon was the first international golf celebrity, and easily one of the game's most influential players.

The grip he popularized is now known as the Vardon Grip (a k a, the overlapping grip); the "Vardon Flyer" golf ball may have represented the first equipment deal for a golfer; his instructional books continue, to this day, to influence golfers; he won majors with both the gutta-percha and Haskell golf balls.

Vardon was born in the Channel Islands, that group of islands in the English Channel between England and France. He took up golf in his teens and, inspired by his brother Tom's success as a professional, decided to dedicate himself, as well, to the game. He turned pro at age 20.

His first big win was the 1896 British Open, where he played in what would become his signature attire: knickers (reportedly the first golfer to play in knickers), dress shirt, tie and buttoned jacket.

Despite the cumbersome jacket, Vardon was known for a smooth, free-swinging motion. The World Golf Hall of Fame described his swing thusly: "Vardon had a swing that repeated monotonously. His swing was more upright and his ball flight higher than his contemporaries, giving Vardon's approach shots the advantage of greater carry and softer landing. He took only the thinnest of divots."

His fame exploded in 1900 when he toured the United States, playing more than 80 exhibition matches - often against the better ball of two opponents - and winning more than 70 of them.

He won the U.S. Open that year, his only victory in the event, but as late as 20 years later - in 1920 at the age of 50 - he was runner-up in the tournament. At the 1913 U.S. Open, it was a Vardon loss that spurred growth in the game. Unheralded American amateur Francis Ouimet defeated Vardon and fellow Englishman Ted Ray in a playoff, an outcome credited with popularizing golf in the U.S.

Vardon was struck by tuberculosis late in 1903. His game was never as sound, but he recovered to win the British Open again in 1911 and 1914. He won the Open Championship six times total.

After leaving competitive golf, Vardon designed courses and wrote instructional books, one of which, The Gist of Golf (buy it on Amazon), is still considered a classic.

Harry Vardon was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 as part of the Hall's inaugural class.