During the late-1930s, while working at Hershey Country Club in Hershey, Pennsylvania, my father’s aptitude for playing and teaching the game improved as did his status on the PGA Tour. Certainly, his day-to-day association with Henry Picard helped him immeasurably in this regard. For sure, the two men spent countless hours together on the practice tee.
It was during those practice sessions that my father, for the first time in an intensive way, was exposed to the philosophy of another great student of the swing. Picard began passing along “secrets” shared with him by one of the most respected golf theorists of the day, Alex J. Morrison. Picard had been under the aegis of the West Coast swing doctor since the summer of 1935.
Morrison felt that golf was 90% mental, 8% physical, and 2% mechanical. By the 1920’s, he had become a noted teacher and exhibition golfer traveling the vaudeville circuit. Stage entertainment was the perfect fit for a man who favored multi-patterned sweaters, bright argyle socks and had the nervy showmanship to smash golf balls off a man’s head. Still, Morrison was a serious instructor, who prided himself on using “impersonal, scientific” principles and state-of-the-art films of famous golfers to demonstrate technique. Morrison was the first person to make extensive use of a high-speed camera to film the golf swing. At his Southern California base of operations on Catalina Island, his clientele included Charley Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks – Bob Hope and Bing Crosby frequented his driving range in New York City. Morrison authored two books on golf instruction; A New Way to Better Golf by William Heinemann LTD London, England and “Better Golf without Practice” by Alex J. Morrison Simon and Schuster New York * 1940.
While doing extensive research for my book “Jack Grout: A Legacy in Golf,” I was fortunate to receive the following information about Alex Morrison on Wednesday, June 10, 2009 from Adrian Whited, Club Historian at Los Angeles Country Club:
- I was privileged to meet and have a four-hour recorded conversation with him (Alex Morrison) shortly before he died September 25, 1986 at age 90.
- In 1908, at age 12 or so, he started caddying at The Los Angeles C.C., when the Club was located at Pico and Western. In 1910, he was still caddying and going to school (Manual Arts High School).
- In 1911, the Club relocated to our present location where Alex continued to caddie for a time. He did assist the golf professional by cleaning clubs, oiling shafts, etc.
- As far as I know, Alex was never a Club employee. He was a friend of many members and was a guest at the Club whenever he was in the area.
- One story Alex told me was when the Club leaders asked him to hit shots to help locate some holes, and to help verify the playability when the course was redesigned in 1920. They called him “Slats” (very thin) and fellows would say “Hit it Slats, see if you can reach it” etc…
- In the 1920’s, he had become a noted teacher and exhibition golfer traveling the vaudeville circuit. He told me his brother George was a better golfer.
- Alex also wrote several books (the last in the early 40’s) and was the first to use a high-speed camera to film the golf swing (on Catalina Island). He was friends with and taught many movie people. In fact, he was still teaching Claude Aikens when we met in 1986. I met Aikens later and he spoke very highly of Alex.
- Morrison told me that Henry Picard started taking lessons from him in 1935 or so, and Alex continued to be his mentor for several years. I have read where Picard gave Alex much credit for the resurgence in his career and resulting large number of wins; including The Masters, in the late 1930’s.
- I understand your father learned from and was influenced by Picard. And, I know that your father taught Jack Nicklaus. From reading and observing, it appears Nicklaus flattened his swing (1980) towards the end of his tour career which is part of what Morrison had taught.