Harvey Penick noded golf. Pure and simple.
For sixty years, practically up until the day he died at the age of 90 in 1995, golf's Master Teacher composed his thoughts on the world's most difficult and popular game in a red Scribbletex notebook that he always carried with him.
Since his students included such champions as Tom Kite, Betsy Rawls, Mickey Wright, Don January, Kathy Whitworth, Betty Jameson and Ben Crenshaw, his observations went beyond the "philosophical" or the "hypothetical" and seemed to contain, somehow, the essence of the game, viewed through the eyes of the man who helped great golfers get that way.
Harvey kept his notes private, intending to pass the fruits of a lifetime's labor on to his son, Tinsley, who was the head pro at Austin Country Club, a job that Harvey had held for fifty years. One day at the age of 87, while sitting in his golf cart on the veranda at the club as was his wont, Harvey realized that all golfers could benefit from his thoughts, not just those fortunate enough to have been his students. The old pro's epiphany became Harvey Penick's Little Red Book and it is--truthfully--the only book on the game any golfer ever has to read, at a mere 175 pages.
Harvey was a plain-talking, easy-writing kind of man. But the clarity of his thinking and the simplicity of his prose are models of excellence, an object lesson for any writer:
- An old pro told me that originality does not consist of saying what has never been said before; it consists of saying what you have to say that you know to be the truth.
- When I ask you to take an aspirin, please don't take the whole bottle. In the golf swing a tiny change can make a huge difference.
- If you have a bad grip, you don't want a good swing.
- Hole them all. My rule is that a youngster, no matter how small, should be required to hole every putt. If Junior grows up knowing he has to make all the short ones, that will automatically become part of his game. When he plays on higher levels and faces a two-footer to win an important match, he'll be ready.
- Take dead aim. For golfers who might not understand Texas talk…: Once you address the golf ball, hitting it has got to be the most important thing in your life at that moment. Shut out all thoughts other than picking out a target and taking dead aim at it.
When Ben Crenshaw
won his second Masters title
on April 9, 1995, he dedicated the win to Harvey Penick
, golf's greatest teacher, who had died a week before. Crenshaw summed up his thoughts on his friend and tutor in his introduction to Harvey's Little Red Book
What a joy it will be for people who are serious about their game to read about Harvey Penick's life of helping others. The golf parts are easily understandable as they contain such a simple, common sense style. But those of us who are lucky enough to have been around him for a while have truly been touched by a man with unfailing courtesy and generosity, a special kindness the likes of which I have never before witnessed in any man. I have never, ever heard him remotely raising his voice to another; he is truly a man filled with compassion for others. For all his admirable traits, let us simply say that Harvey Penick represents the very best that life and golf can offer.
High praise, certainly, for any man. It is perhaps as a writer
, however, that Harvey Penick
can be most instructive to us here at Everything2
, those of us who don't play--or work at
--golf. His wisdom
informs what we do too:
Take Dead Aim
Hole Them All
Harvey Penick's Little Red Book
, Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf.
Harvey Penick with
Bud Shrake, Simon and Shuster, 1992.