In our last blog we were discussing Sam Byrd and hinted at his connection to Jimmy Ballard, Ben Hogan and Babe Ruth. If you missed our last blog you should read it first before continuing with this current one.
NOW THE GOOD STUFF
Byrd owned and operated a par-three course and driving range in Birmingham, Alabama, and hired Jimmy Ballard, then seventeen and a state amateur junior champ, as his teaching assistant.
Byrd, Ballard says, was Babe Ruth’s roommate on the road, “and it was Ruth who taught Sam the trick of holding a handkerchief beneath his left arm in order to keep his left arm ‘connected’ to his body throughout the swing.” Let’s understand that statement! Every golf teacher emphasizes the relationship between the arms and the body and uses the handkerchief drill as a training aide to correctly maintain the relationship. The drill and the connection theory were taught to Sam by Babe Ruth who used it in his powerful swing. Amazing!!
Byrd also became convinced that a good golfer, like a slugger, “braced” with his right leg on the backswing, moved the head slightly to the right as the body naturally “coiled,” and obtained power by “firing” the right side of the body at the target. “One swing was on a level plane, the other on a tilted plane,” says Ballard, relating Byrd’s gospel. “Other than that, they were totally identical.”
It was Byrd who first told Ben Hogan about the handkerchief and a proper coil, ideas that clearly had a major impact on Hogan’s thinking about the swing. Before Byrd, Hogan had suffered from a chronic duck hook, which nearly caused him to abandon the professional game and resign himself to being a club pro. Instead, armed with Byrd’s ideas about connection and his own dogged persistence, Hogan went on to become the finest shot maker in the game and author of (almost) the best swing-instruction book ever: Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.
Hogan’s book is simply the predecessor of Jimmy Ballard’s classic How to Perfect Your Golf Swing Using Connection and the Seven Common Denominators published in 1981 now out of print.
Now that we know about Sam Byrd and the amazing man he was, it is a shame he has not gotten more credit for his contributions to the game of golf. Every player owes a debt to Sam (and the Babe) for bringing the connection theory to the game of golf.