Golf Legends Revealed #1

This is the first in a series of examinations of legends related to golf and whether they are true or false.

Let’s begin!

GOLF LEGEND: Howard Hughes used golf to work out an argument with Howard Hawks.

STATUS: I’m Going With True

The eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes was born to a rich family.

The young Hughes decided to make his own fortune (beginning, of course, with his family fortune backing him) by moving from Texas (where his family built a fortune on the oil business) to Los Angeles to make movies.

One of his first big successes was the World War I war film, Hell’s Angels, in 1930 (co-starring the sultry Jean Harlow)…

Well, another hit of 1930 was The Dawn Patrol…

a World War I war film directed and co-written by the legendary film director Howard Hawks…

Hughes felt that The Dawn Patrol ripped off elements from his film, so he sued Howard Hawks.

While the lawsuit was going on, Hughes decided to make a film based on the gangster, Al Capone. The perfect director for this film, Hughes determined, was Howard Hawks!!

Hughes had to think of a way to convince Hawks to do the film. That’s when Hughes came upon an idea – he and Hawks shared an interest in the game of golf – thus, an idea was born!

Hawks was getting ready to begin a game of golf when the golf pro came up to him to tell him that Howard Hughes wanted to play golf with him. Hawks, of course, cussed Hughes out and refused (basically saying something like “I’m not going to play golf with the son of a bitch who’s suing me!!”). The pro relayed the message, but returned and said that Hughes would drop the suit if Hawks would play golf with him.

Hawks accepted the offer, and Hughes arrived and the men began playing – at first in silence, but as the game went on, they began to talk about the course, and by the end of the game, Hughes had convinced Hawks to take the helm of Scarface!!

Scarface became a legendary film upon its release in 1931.

While the above story has been verified by Hughes and Hawks many times over the years, one aspect of the story differs depending on who is telling the story – Hughes says he won the game, while Hawks claims that it was him.

GOLF LEGEND: Bobby Jones used to play golf only in the summer while he practiced law in the winter.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

Bobby Jones, simply put, was one of the greatest golfers in the history of the game.

In many ways, Jones was the Tiger Woods of his day, as he began dominating the sport of golf when he was in his early 20s.

Jones completed a “Grand Slam” of winning the four major golf tournaments of the calendar year (this was back when the amateur championships were considered “major”).

He never became a professional golfer, as Jones had a law degree so he worked as a lawyer during the year, as well.

He basically retired from golf at the age of 28, only competing in the tournament he co-found, the prestigious Masters, which he helped design.

Much has been written about the greatness of Jones and the fact that he dominated while being, in effect, only a part-time golfer.

However, the amount of time he devoted to golf (or rather, the lack of time) has been overstated over the years.

Ron Rapoport, in his recent excellent study of Jones’ life, The Immortal Bobby: Bobby Jones and the Golden Age of Golf, did a great job of examining the legend of Jones, and he had some interesting discoveries.

On the topic of how much time Jones spent golfing, Rapoport debunked the belief that Jones only played golf during the summer months, devoting the winter to his law practice full-time.

As Rapoport notes:

“That’s bunk,” Rapoport said. “He played a ton of golf. He played all the time. He loved playing golf.”

As an example, Rapoport points to the winter of 1925, when Jones and Tommy Armour played grudge matches in Florida every day for almost five months.

Thanks to Rapoport for the awesome info (as you might note, I’m going with Rapoport’s take on Jones’ history)!

GOLF LEGEND: The word “stymie” originated as a golf term.


We’re used to sporting terms and phrases being adapted to everyday usage, but one of the oddest examples that I can think of is the word stymie, which was coined as a golf term!

You see, in the old days of golf, if your ball landed behind another golfer’s ball, if you were not further than 6 inches apart, you would be forced to try to hook your ball around the other player’s ball.

Here’s a player playing a stymie…

As you might imagine, such a scenario was pretty awful to be in, and the term “stymie” was developed to describe such an instance – where a player was put into such a situation, he was “stymied” by the other ball.

According to the Random House Dictionary, the #1 definition for the word stymie is:

1. Golf. (on a putting green) an instance of a ball’s lying on a direct line between the cup and the ball of an opponent about to putt.

Of course, though, the term has now become accepted as meaning the tertiary meaning of the word:

–verb (used with object)
3. to hinder, block, or thwart.

I honestly did not know the original meaning of the word, which is why I thought it interesting enough to mention here!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is

Leave a Reply