Friday, May 8, 2009

Wild Bill Mehlhorn

Wild Bill Mehlhorn was born Decmber 2, 1898 and played the tour in its’ early days. He won 20 times between 19 23 and 1930 including a 5 victory campaign in 1926 and a 6 win season in 1928. Wild Bill never won a major although he came in the top ten in 14 of them. A remarkable career for someone known as one of the worst putters in the history of championship golf.

Stories of Mehlhorn having 10 feet coming back from a 4 footer abound, but tee to green by all accounts he hit it like a god.
Of Mehlhorn Ben Hogan simply said "The best I ever saw from tee to green was Bill Mehlhorn", and from Tommy Armour we get "From that tee to the green he was perfection!"

Among the many people that Ben Hogan took instruction from most people are not aware of the fact that Mehlhorn was one of the few fellas that Old Henny Bogan would regularly call. He'd call Wild Bill just to shoot the guff. Sam Byrd incidentally was another and guess what? Byrd took lessons from Mehlhorn.

In point of fact, Mehlhorn refused to ever charge a pro for a lesson, Byrd among them, but the story goes that a short time after every lesson an envelope stuffed with cash would somehow find its way to Wild Bills doorstep. I guess you could say that the name Sam Byrd was short for integrity.

Mehlhorns thoughts on golf were about the natural movements of the human body and likening the actions in golf to actions employed by all in their daily lives. Under pressure, Wild Bill felt that the most natural of actions would hold up best. Like Vardon and Cotton and Jones, Mehlhorn also believed that the thumbs and forefingers were the critical digits of the hands for feel and precision and I will be talking more about that soon

There is precious little video of Wild Bill, but here is a link to one:

I had the pleasure of meeting Bobby Shave who is carrying on the Mehlhorn torch at the PGA Show a few months back and we had a most informative discussion. Thanks for the chat Bobby. You can find Bobby at:

You can also find info about Wild Bill at:

The picture above is from Al Barkow’s great book The History of The PGA Tour.

Bill Mehlhorn died April 5, 1989. Although a pioneer on the PGA Tour and also a 20 time winner on Tour he is at present not in the World Golf Hall of Fame. One major would have probably done it for him.

So, a tip of the hat to you Wild Bill. If Hogan and Armour said you were the best ever tee to green then who are we to doubt it?


John said...

Mehlhorns book and videos are very informataive. When you buy the package from Bobby Shave you get a DVD with 2 hours of Mehlhorn giving a clinic to College students of Shaves. Great stuff from one of the best ever.

Looking forward to hearing more about Mehlhorn, especially your take on his thumb and forefinger grip and how would an overlapper like me get this feeling.

Anonymous said...

I played golf for Florida International University in the late 1980's and I was fortunate enough to have learned directly from Coach Shave and Wild Bill himself. To this day, when folks inquire how I can maintain my 4-5 handicap without ever practicing I quote Willd Bill, "the golf swing is simply naturalness and judgement, nothing more." I didn't know it at the time, but I was learning from a master.