The Golf Wisdom of Lighthorse Harry Cooper, Part I

[Back in 1990 I wrote a book about golf’s senior tour entitled Playing With The Pros: Golf Tips From The Senior Tour. It was published by E.P. Dutton. The book was basically tips on how to play from some of the greats of the game, plus recollections from those professionals. For an introduction, I went to see my friend Harry Cooper, then 89, and still teaching at Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York, and asked him about the game of golf.

Over a period of several long afternoon conversations at the club and at his home nearby, I wrote down Harry’s words of wisdom, his stories of the early tour in America, his golf tips and stories, and then I wrote them up for the Introduction. Here is some of what Harry had to say, in case you play golf, or you are just interested in reading what one of the greats of the game, as well as a great human being, had to say about golf, and growing old with the sport he loved.]


The Swing

I’ve been teaching people how to play golf since I was eighteen years old. I’m pushing 90 now and in all these years of playing and watching others play, I haven’t seen much change in the golf swing. Oh, the equipment has changed tremendously, but not the basic swing. The same golf fundamentals are still being taught.

Every once in a while someone puts a new name on the basic swing. They’ll call it the inverted C or the Square-to-Square, but it is still the same swing that we’re all trying to perfect.

The crux of the swing is getting to the point where you understand what you’re doing with your hands. Your hands alone control the face of the club. If you can control the face of the club, you can control the direction the ball will travel.

I teach everyone to hit the ball with a slightly open stance. I like the idea of hitting out to the line, never around to it.

Here’s a little practice tip that is useful to everyone, and one I use when I give a golf lesson.

I point out three spots in the distance and tell the player to line up for those three shots–using a driver and a ball. I don’t have them hit the ball, just line up so they can see for themselves where they’re aiming. It has been my experience that no more than one or two players in a hundred will be on the correct line. The majority will have set themselves up ten to two hundred yards to the right of their target.

Now, the reason they will be aiming right rather than left is because most of them are using their bodies to line up the shot. They’ll look over their left shoulder and not position their feet correctly.

There is a simple way to correct that mistake.

What you want to do is stand behind the ball and get the correct line. You want to draw an imaginary line from the ball toward the target and on to infinity.

Next, you boil all that down to six inches in front of the ball and six inches behind it. That’s your line! That’s part of the overall line. You focus on that one-foot line and when you swing you carry your club through that line.

Once I’m over the ball, I look up only for a second, take a glance at the target to reaffirm what I already know about the distance to the target, but I keep my concentration on the one-foot line.

If anyone has ever watched Jack Nicklaus play, they’ll see that he does exactly that. Nicklaus’ teacher in his early years was Jack Grout. Grout taught Nicklaus that trick. I knew Grout when we were both home professionals in Chicago. In fact, Jack Grout took lessons from me.


Leave a comment
  • So simple and I’ve never done that. Many shots have gone wide right. Will try this weekend and the next and the next. Bill

  • Hello Mr. Coyne,
    Wonderful article and so true. My father Jack Grout taught me the same thing (as he did many others including Jack Nicklaus) about aim and alignment. During his lifetime, dad took upwards to 1100 lessons and some of them were indeed given to him by the great Harry Cooper.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2022. Peace Corps Worldwide.