From Ross to Haney – A Century of Golf Instruction at Pinehurst

By LEE PACE

The concepts of golf instruction and practice were slow to evolve as the game developed a head of steam in America in the early 1900s. Richard Tufts, grandson of Pinehurst founder James W. Tufts, once observed: “I always thought it very strange that Walter Travis persisted in practicing chip shots, putting and even full shots when a vacant fairway was available. Why should he, of all golfers, need to waste time practicing?”

Pinehurst had three golf courses open by 1910 but no dedicated practice facility. Early lessons were conducted in the Scottish style of the teacher accompanying the student onto the golf course. But in the spring and summer of 1913, club pro and course architect Donald Ross allocated the ground covered by the first, second and 18th holes of course No. 1 exclusively for practice and built replacement holes on course No. 1 further southward from the clubhouse. The “Maniac Hill” practice range was the first of its kind in the country and remains a haven for resort guests and members to hone their swings.

Pinehurst Golf Academy

The Pinehurst Golf Academy

Various iterations of what exists today as the Pinehurst Golf Academy have been a constant fixture on the vast practice facility.

Frank Palumbo was one of the first to take the golf instruction baton at Pinehurst while serving as a staff pro for many years in the mid-1900s up through the 1980s. Palumbo created junior golf schools at Pinehurst and was assisted in his teaching efforts at various times by former PGA Tour golfer Johnny Palmer, who lived one county to the west in Stanley County. The Palumbo Cup is an annual match-play tournament played among the staff golf pros at Pinehurst.

“Frank was the consummate golf pro,” says Ken Crow, a member of the Pinehurst golf staff in the 1980s and ’90s. “He was a great man, a man of honor. He was humble and unassuming. He did a lot in the early days to further the idea of a golf lesson and the benefits of instruction.”

“What was fascinating was studying all the different styles. You realized Jim Flick was entirely different from Bob Toski, and Davis Love was entirely different from both of them. But at some point, every one of those guys had PGA Tour players coming to see them. I remember one year, the Greater Greensboro Open was played at the same time as a Golf Digest school. One afternoon there must have been eight tour pros on the range at Pinehurst.” -Ken Crow

Before Pinehurst dove into the golf school business in the early 1980s, Golf Digest magazine was already operating multiple-day teaching clinics at various locations around the country, Pinehurst being one of them. The far east end of the practice range during these sessions featured a Who’s Who of the golf instruction business—Jim Flick, Jack Lumpkin, Bob Toski, Davis Love Jr., Peter Kostis, John Elliott, Dick Aultman and Mike LaBauve were among the teachers who came to Pinehurst. John Jacobs and Shelby Futch were also in the embryonic stages of their golf school enterprise that operated under Jacobs’ name, and a member of their instruction staff was a young man named Hank Haney.

“I teed balls for Bob Toski for four straight days when I first started at Pinehurst in the early 1980s,” says Crow. “He mesmerized me teaching the game of golf. He was phenomenal and was a showman as well. What was fascinating was studying all the different styles. You realized Jim Flick was entirely different from Bob Toski, and Davis Love was entirely different from both of them.

“But at some point, every one of those guys had PGA Tour players coming to see them. I remember one year, the Greater Greensboro Open was played at the same time as a Golf Digest school. One afternoon there must have been eight tour pros on the range at Pinehurst.”

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Hank Haney, right, and Mark O’Meara formed a major bond at Pinehurst.

Mark O’Meara – The Original Haney Project

It didn’t take Pinehurst management long to figure out it should be in the golf school business itself and competing with Golf Digest instead of providing a venue for the magazine’s endeavors. Mike Sanders was Pinehurst’s director of golf at the time and had gotten to know Haney during Haney’s visits to Pinehurst on behalf of the Jacobs program. Sanders offered Haney a job running Pinehurst’s golf instruction program; Haney accepted and took advantage of it to launch himself into the hierarchy of nationally known instructors.

“Pinehurst was my first opportunity to do things my own way,” Haney says. “What an opportunity for a young kid. The three years I spent in Pinehurst were probably the most instrumental of my career. This is where it all started.”

“Pinehurst was my first opportunity to do things my own way. What an opportunity for a young kid. The three years I spent in Pinehurst were probably the most instrumental of my career. This is where it all started.” -Hank Haney

Haney met a young pro participating in the 1982 Hall of Fame Classic at Pinehurst named Mark O’Meara. O’Meara had won the 1979 U.S. Amateur but was floundering so far as a tour pro. Haney saw an opportunity get in on the ground floor with a talented player and crafted a program to retool O’Meara’s swing. The geometry of O’Meara’s move at the time was unpolished and jerky; Haney wanted to get it “rounded off,” in the parlance of the teaching trade, get the lines created by the golfer’s swing plane to even up on the backswing and downswing. The relationship bore fruit as O’Meara won the Masters and British Open in 1998 en route to a Hall of Fame career.

“I was a little bit of a guinea pig for Hank,” says O’Meara. “I’ve helped his career and he’s helped my career. It’s been a mutually beneficial thing.”

O’Meara’s friendship with Tigers Woods helped provide the entre and access that Haney used to land the job of tutoring Woods from 2004-10. When Haney’s book, The Big Miss, climbed up the best-seller list in 2012, some still around Pinehurst harkened back to Haney’s early days at the resort.

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Hank Haney watches while coaching Tiger Woods.

“Hank walked into one of the first staff meetings and said, ‘I’m going to be the best teacher you’ve ever had here,’” remembers Rich Wainwright, an assistant pro at the time now on the Pinehurst executive staff. “He had plenty of confidence. And he was good. He could back it up.”

“Hank went and worked the lunch room. He found three people and convinced them he could help them on the lesson tee. He knew in order to get better and work his craft, he had to stay busy and work with as many people as he could. He was passionate about teaching 24-7. He was that way with Tiger Woods. But he was that way with Mrs. Jones 30 years ago.” -Ken Crow

Crow remembers working the teaching center desk one day around noon and Haney asked about his lesson schedule for the afternoon. Crow answered that Haney was “wide open—nothing on the books.” Thirty minutes later, Haney came back and told Crow to enter three lessons that afternoon into the schedule.

“Hank went and worked the lunch room,” says Crow. “He found three people and convinced them he could help them on the lesson tee. He knew in order to get better and work his craft, he had to stay busy and work with as many people as he could. He was passionate about teaching 24-7. He was that way with Tiger Woods. But he was that way with Mrs. Jones 30 years ago.”

Lee Pace remembers watching Jim Flick hit towering drives while seated on a metal folding chair at Pinehurst in the early 1980s. His latest book, “The Golden Age of Pinehurst—The Rebirth of No. 2,” is available in all retail shops at Pinehurst.

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