My Father’s Voice


As I revisited Jack Grout’s Foreword in Jack Nicklaus’ Golf My Way, it occurred to me that Dad wrote much in the same effective manner as he taught the game of golf. Either as a writer or as a teacher, he used simple, clear sentences and language to make his point. My father didn’t bog down sentences with extra words and long, winding sections. He cut to the chase and made his point in the simplest language possible. Plainly, Dad had his own unique way of stringing words together, formulating ideas, and relating scenes or images. Now, after re-reading, my father’s ‘expert opinion piece’ written nearly fifty years ago for Nicklaus’ instructional classic, I can almost hear his voice again.

Golf My Way, Copyright 1974 by Jack Nicklaus

Foreword by Jack Grout, American professional golfer and Jack Nicklaus’ one and only teacher

Strength, intelligence, an enormous capacity for hard work, and unswerving adherence to sound fundamentals are the factors behind Jack Nicklaus’ fantastic successes as a golfer.

Strength may not be essential to play fine golf, but it is a priceless asset. The strong man can with comparative ease secure the height that is essential to carry the golf ball a long distance, and he also has the muscular capability to power the ball. These are critical factors at the highest reaches of the game, as is the stamina to practice and play day after day after day. It has been my privilege to observe or be associated with every great golfer of the twentieth century with the exception of Harry Vardon. Almost all of them were strong men. During my time in golf there have been some wonderful performances by men not gifted with great physical strength, but in the long haul they have run second to the powerful players. I believe that few men in the history of the game have possessed greater strength or more natural athletic ability than Jack Nicklaus.

Intelligence is necessary to a tournament golfer because the game is so difficult and inconstant that it can destroy anyone who lacks the capacity to control his emotions and to reason logically. Intelligence is necessary, too, in the acquisition of a profound knowledge of technique – profound enough to allow the player to be his own swing mechanic. The golfer who must fall back on a teacher every time any little thing sours in his game cannot but have a limited future. Jack Nicklaus still likes to come to me every year for a checkup, but, beyond that, he has asked for my help only when he hasn’t been able to solve a problem after weeks or months of intense personal study and work. Such occasions have been rare.

Today, Jack plays such sensational golf with such apparent ease that many people who watch him probably gain the impression that his skills are heaven-sent rather than self-developed. That isn’t true. No one ever worked harder at golf than Nicklaus during his teens and early twenties. At the age of ten, in his first year of golf, Jack must have averaged three hundred practice shots and at least eighteen holes of play daily. In later years, he would often hit double that number of practice shots and play thirty-six – even fifty-four – holes of golf during the summer. I have seen him practice for hours in rain, violent winds, snow, intense heat – nothing would keep him away from golf. Even a slight case of polio failed to prevent him from turning up at Scioto for a golf match. With this kind of dedication, and all his other assets, it would have been a surprising if he had not become a great player.

However, I believe the most significant of all the factors that have contributed to Jack’s success has been his unswerving adherence to sound swing fundamentals. It was my good fortune to be the professional at the Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, when this young man first became really keen on golf in 1950, and I take modest pride in having introduced him to many of the fundamentals that I consider to be the key to consistent play. But the credit for mastering those fundamentals, and for sticking to them through thick and thin, must go entirely to Jack. It is true that I have never had another pupil with so much natural talent for golf, or one so determined to excel at it. More significantly, I have never had another pupil who, once he was convinced about a fundamental, would so resolutely stick to it. The proof of that iron-willed commitment is to be seen in the fact that his basic swing is exactly the same today as it was fifteen years ago, when he won his first U.S. Amateur Championship at age nineteen. The benefits of it are evident in the present repetitiveness of his swing, and in the immense confidence he has in his technique today.

During forty years of teaching golf I have had a lot of naturally talented people pass through my hands. I feel I was able to help most of them, but none of the others progressed even halfway to what Nicklaus has achieved. I believe I can pinpoint a number of specific reasons why not.

First and probably foremost, the golf swing is, in my view, the most unnatural action in sport. It is extremely hard to teach, and even more difficult to learn. Consequently, unless a person has unusual amounts of ambition and dedication, the sheer difficulty of golf generally causes him to give it up long before he has attained his full potential at it.

Another reason there aren’t too many budding Nicklauses to be found on the lesson tee is that most people take up golf too late in life. The ideal age for starting is in the early teens. And then, even when a really promising youngster comes along, you have to be realistic about the distractions he will face in relation to the amount of time and concentration golf demands. I have always insisted that youngsters should not take golf lessons until they are ready to concentrate – give the game their undivided attention and interest. I had no problem in this area with Jack. He was more single-minded about golf than any other youngster I’ve ever known has been about anything – even the opposite sex! For a very long period I don’t think the young Nicklaus ever really thought about anything other than golf, and the better he became at it, the more he thought about it and the harder he was inspired to work at it.

However, I think the best clue to why Jack went on from where others with comparable natural talent have stopped lies in a brief sentence from his book The Greatest Game of All: “I was fortunate to learn the fundamentals at an early age.” Jack and I both know countless promising golfers who have become hopelessly confused through failing to learn these fundamentals at the outset, usually with the result that they start confused and then compound the confusion by switching from method to method or from teacher to teacher, until eventually they end up trying to play a dozen different ways all at once. Jack never fell into that trap, and I believe that his evasion of it is one of the less-recognized factors behind his greatness.

It gives me much pleasure that Jack’s fundamentalist approach to golf comes across so loud and clear in these pages, because my teaching has always been based on what I believe to be the time-proved fundamentals of the golf swing, even when such an approach has been unfashionable – as has been the case many times in my career. So far as I’m concerned, you can toss all the “tips” into the garbage can. The only way to play consistently good golf is through the mastery of a set of basics that the great players of the past have proved to be integral to the swing.

What are these basics? I don’t want to steal the author’s thunder by getting deeply involved in technique here. The basic points we worked on for so many long hours during those happy and productive years at Scioto will all be spread before you in these pages by the best pupil I ever had.

But there is another, nontechnical phase of the game that bears mention here, because I believe it had probably as great an effect on Jack’s later career as did his efforts to develop sound technique.

Jack Nicklaus started to play competitive golf at a very early age, and it did wonders for him, as it has done for many other youngsters. Formal competition puts the game in clear perspective for a youngster, by giving meaning to what he is learning about technique. It causes him to become aware of the need for strategy, as well as fine shot-making; makes him realize that he will have to think well to win, not just swing well. It breeds maturity by thrusting him into pressurized situations and subjecting him to the emotions of success and failure. It builds self-confidence and self-reliance, and it helps a youngster to overcome nervousness. Most of all, in the majority of cases – certainly in Jack’s – competition fires and sustains a youngster’s enthusiasm for his sport, and breeds the development of goals and the dedication that leads to their attainment. I believe a lot of Jack’s adult successes both on and off the golf course can be traced to the maturity and clear-headedness that grew out of his early competitive golfing experiences.

Finally, as a player and teacher of golf for forty years. I’d like to say a word to any readers of this fine book who have youngsters they’d like to think might follow in Jack Nicklaus’ footsteps.

There have been thousands of boy and girl wonders in golf, but most of them have fallen apart before reaching adulthood. Why? I think the main reason is that they failed to learn sound basics during their early years, and thus held their games together to a certain point only through natural ability. As they grew older and the competition got tougher, this was not enough to carry them through.

I do not believe it is possible for any youngster, however naturally talented, to learn the fundamentals of golf in less than five years of dedicated effort, and even then I think that qualified guidance is essential in he is to reach his full potential. One of the great difficulties every golf professional encounters in teaching children to play the game is combating the misinformation given to them by their parents. By all means let a youngster read about golf, and encourage him especially to watch good players in the flesh and on television. But if you want him to play the game well, take him to a qualified teacher and resist the temptation to interfere with that teacher’s program.

Jack Nicklaus was given that opportunity, and there was no doubt from the moment we began to work together that he would make the most of it. He was totally attentive, he asked intelligent questions, he had an infinite capacity for hard work, and his desire knew no bounds. He was certain to be a star. Even so, he never ceases to amaze me. I find his achievements astounding. There is no doubt that he is one of the greatest golfers of all time – possibly the greatest. It has been my privilege and joy to know him.



I’ve always felt that my father was the ideal teacher for Jack Nicklaus, not just because Dad was a highly skilled golf instructor, but also because he had spent a couple of decades on the PGA Tour dealing with tough, competitive and sometimes-curt men such as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead. Through his interactions with these great players, he grew to understand the drive and the personalities of highly talented individuals who often were self-involved and insensitive to how their actions impacted others. Dad, thus, had an intuitive understanding of Nicklaus’ strong and demanding personality, intense focus and occasional impatience with persons or issues that distracted him from the work at hand.

My father, with his relaxed way of dealing with people and his low-key approach to teaching golf, matched well with Nicklaus’ personality for several reasons. First, Dad was consistent. Through exposure to accomplished professional golfers on the early tour and decades of working with good players, he had come to a set of golf-swing principles that he taught unwaveringly. He was not attracted to and did not confuse his pupils by advancing every new swing theory that came down the pike. Nor would Nicklaus have wanted him to. Second, Dad was by nature a highly supportive and encouraging person, and this characteristic won him great loyalty from Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd and many other top-level golfers who were his students. And, third Dad was by nature a humble man. He drew great satisfaction from the success of those he taught, but he had no need to be the “star of the show.” He was happy to stand in the background and let his golf students take full credit for their successes both on and off the course. This was his viewpoint for one simple reason: He felt they deserved it.

Jack Grout “was perfect for my dad,” said Nicklaus’ son, Jack Nicklaus II, himself a talented golfer and course designer. “Whether it was my dad’s analytical mind trying to understand on his own accord what to do and how to make adjustments on the golf course, or Jack Grout’s way of teaching that allowed him to do that … it was probably a combination of both. Whatever buttons Jack Grout pushed, my dad responded very well to.”

Memories of My Day ‘Under the Strap’

From 2001-2007, I had the fancy position of Ambassador of Golf for The Cliffs Communities located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Principally, my job was to help sell the Cliffs lifestyle to prospective members and property owners. In the spring of 2005, I received a phone call from the Chief Operations Officer of the company asking me if I would be interested in caddying for Jack Nicklaus during the first official round of play at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove. To be honest, I was a bit stupefied by the offer for several reasons. First of all, my initial thought as to why he was calling, was that he wanted me to play with Nicklaus, since I had played with him a number of times previously. Now, I was being asked to caddie for him when the only golf bag that I ever carried was my own. Well, I told the club’s official that I needed some time to think about it. As it turned out, after a brief come-to-Jesus moment with my wife, I agreed to be the Golden Bear’s caddie for a day.

On Wednesday, April 27, I received word to be available upon Jack’s arrival at Walnut Cove between 10:15-10:30 a.m. The meeting place was a townhome overlooking the ninth hole of the new course. At approximately 11:30 a.m. (and fashionably late) in through the doorway came J.W.N. and Jim Anthony, CEO and Founder of The Cliffs. I said hello to my boss Jim Anthony and then a few moments later my eyes met with Jack’s and we exchanged greetings, as well. He prompted said to me: “You are going to have to work today!” I chuckled when I heard Jack’s comment but he was prophetic because by the end of the day I was exhausted.

At that point, Jack made his way to a back bedroom where he changed into some golf clothes that were there waiting for him. He then sat down at a dining table for a quick bite to eat and to autograph a number of items that required his signature. Before long it was time for the group to head to the golf course. Since, Jack’s clubs were in Jim’s vehicle and, as his caddie I was responsible for them, I jumped in the backseat.

As the three of us were on our way, Jim Anthony said: “I’ve never heard anyone say an unkind word about Dick Grout.” Jack’s response was, “That was the same thing with his father. Nobody ever said an unkind thing about Jack Grout either.” I thought, hey, this trip is off to a rather good start! Just a few moments later, Jack asked me, “Dick, how old are you now?” When I answered him, both he and Jim commented on how remarkably well preserved I appeared for my age. To which I truthfully replied, that I had been well cared for my entire life. Then, just as we had arrived at the golf course, Jack mentioned that he remembered the summer in which I was born (June 1953).

I managed to lift Nicklaus’ 45-50 lbs. of golfing equipment out of the back of the SUV. Immediately, I knew that I was in for a long haul. His large black bag was heavy! There was definitely some extra gear in there. Next, Jack removed his wristwatch plus some other valuables from his pockets and instructed me to put them into his golf bag. He said, “Be sure to watch over things.” At that point, Jack turned and both he and Jim Anthony walked in the direction of a big tent that was to hold the media event.

I placed Jack’s clubs on his personal golf cart that was being closely protected by one of the Cliff’s marketing people. Before long, it was time to venture down to the practice facility for the Golden Bear’s clinic and warm-up session. The pace of things got considerably quicker now as I made my way to the designated spot where Jack was to conduct his exhibition. After retrieving Nicklaus’ clubs from the golf cart, I passed under the spectator ropes and found myself at the practice site sharing centerstage with the “Golfer of the Century.”

While stretching a bit and making several practice swings prior to hitting his first shot, Jack called over to me and said, “Dickie, you are eleven years older than your father was the first time I met him.” (Dad was 40 years old in 1950). I knew right away that Jack’s math had been correct.

Jack Nicklaus has always prepared himself properly for a round of golf. As it happened that day at Walnut Cove, he clearly conveyed to all those in-attendance the process of how his mind works and clearly displayed how his body works during the swing. In essence, what we were privileged to witness was how Jack Nicklaus organized himself before he went out to win all those 18 major championships.

When Jack finished giving the clinic, I handed him three new Black Callaway golf balls and his putter. Before heading to the first tee, his last stop is the practice putting green to strike a few putts. Once Jack sensed that he has a good feel for the speed of the greens it was time to begin his round.

Growing up as a junior golfer, I carried my own golf bag all the time. On the golf team in highschool and college it is a requirement that a player carry their own clubs. In my life, I have trekked many a mile while under the strap. Also, I’ve had the pleasure of playing countless rounds of golf in the company of many fine caddies. It is from paying attention and observing them that I feel that I know how to properly conduct myself as a caddie. However, when I stepped on the first tee at Walnut Cove with Jack Nicklaus’ clubs on my back, that was a brand new experience for me.

To be honest, when I got to Big Jack’s drive on the first fairway, I knew that he was not joking when he said that I “was going to have to work today.” I actually wondered if I would be physically able to finish all 18-holes. Nevertheless, I was fiercely determined to do the best job possible for him on this special day and somehow I managed to survive the entire round.

During the exhibition match, Jack was joined by actor Kevin Costner. Both men wore microphones and bantered easily with each other and the audience. Upon arriving to the tee of each new hole, Jack would share his thoughts on the design of that hole. It was both interesting and inspirational to hear how his mind worked when designing a golf course. The rapport between Nicklaus and Costner was fun, upbeat and genuine. At one point, Jack commented to me about how impressed he was by Costner’s shot-making ability. To which, I agreed.

Probably my greatest inspiration for making it through all eighteen holes and not collapsing under the weight of Nicklaus’ golf bag came from the chorus of cheers and attaboys I received from the club’s members. Sensing that I might be leaking oil, they encouraged me along the way. I was able to reward some of my support team with souvenirs of Jack’s golf balls. After throwing another one of his Jack#5 balls to the gallery, he looked at me and said, “Make sure I have enough to finish the round.”

Perhaps, the greatest compliment I received that day was from none other than Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy, I mean Kevin Costner, when he referred to me as “Jack’s professional caddie.” This occurred on the seventeenth tee while Costner was chastising Tim Hockter his boyhood friend and part time caddie for doing such a lousy job. To which Nicklaus responded, “Hey Kevin, this is the first time my caddie ever caddied before!” I really don’t think that Costner believed him.

In the end, a fictional storybook account of the interaction between Jack and I during our round together, would be to tell you that our personal conversations were full of warm remembrances of the past. But anyone who is familiar with Jack Nicklaus knows that he lives in the present. Like other highly accomplished people who seem to exist in the here and now, Jack doesn’t dwell on the past or spend time overthinking the future. He focuses intently on what he is currently engaged in and it is always done with a singleness of purpose.

Now, at 65 years old (2005), I could still plainly see in him the intense concentration and absolute resolve that I saw as a child over forty years ago. All during the round I watched him closely with the same set of eyes that witnessed his powerful and dominating shot making abilities of yesteryear. As far as I am concerned the only change in him that has taken place is the toll that age exacts on all of us. That being said he remains Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player whom my father told me to watch and learn from many years ago.



Q & A

“I don’t know how you can mess up if you’ve got a beautiful backswing.”

Jack Grout’s main claim to fame as a golf teacher is the fact that he was Jack Nicklaus’ ‘first and only’ instructor. Was Grout merely lucky the Nicklaus family belonged to Scioto Country Club, where Grout was the professional, so he just fell upon a natural talent? Not likely, because someone as smart for golf as Jack Nicklaus would not stay very long with a tutor who didn’t impress him. Proof of that is the fact that Nicklaus still goes to Grout for help with his game. It has been a lifelong relationship, good for both men.

Grout is more or less retired now, after 60 years as a golf professional, but he still gives instruction; golfers from all over the country come to him, during the summer at Muirfield Village, in Dublin, Ohio. During winter months, they seek him out in south Florida. They include the likes of Raymond Floyd and other tour players. What they all get from Jack Grout is a clear understanding of golf swing fundamentals, delivered in a wisely unpretentious manner.

GI: What got you involved in the game of golf?

Grout: One day, I found out where my older brothers were making their money. It was at the golf course, caddying. This was in Oklahoma City. I followed them one afternoon, and when I got there I saw a beautiful lake and kids carrying little white bags and men and women playing. I never saw anything as pretty in my life.

The first money I made was 35 cents for shagging balls. When I caddied I would bring home $1.50 and give it to my mother. She’d buy us clothes and books and things like that. I’d run home to give it to her, because I was so happy that I could bring home some money.

GI: What did your father do?

Grout: He was an insurance adjuster. There were eight children. So money was hard to come by. But otherwise I was lured into it from what I saw the first day, how beautiful that golf course was.

Also, there was the professional, whose name was Sandy Baxter. I’d watch him teach and say to myself I also wanted to do that. Whatever he did, I wanted to do, because he was the number one man.

GI: Were you a good player from the start?

Grout: Well, I thought so. I learned how to swing pretty good. Then I went to caddie at another club, Old Edgemere. The man who owned the club, Paul Blakeney, knew our family, and he put me in a job in the pro shop making hot dogs and taking green fees and selling balls and things.

The next year I asked him if I could teach. He thought I was pretty young for that, but I said I thought I could, and he said he’d try me out. I was 15. I got a dollar an hour. I was so happy to think anybody would pay me anything.

GI: It sounds like the need to make money had a lot to do with your becoming a golf teacher.

Grout: Oh, I wanted to play terribly, but you couldn’t make any money in those days playing. You could by teaching.

GI: How did you know what to teach? Did you ask Baxter about the swing?

Grout: No, I was too young. Then he left and Bobby Cruickshank became head professional. I’m going back to 1923, ’24, a million years ago.

GI: Did you ask Cruickshank about the swing?

Grout: No, I’d caddie for him, and just watch him. He was a magnificent player with a beautiful style. But everyone, in those days, experimented with their own games and taught what they picked up themselves.

As I got into it, I had the good fortune that older pros liked me, and I could bother them with questions about the swing and they would try to help me. I mean Tommy Armour, Gene Sarazen, Henry Picard, Johnny Revolta, Paul Runyan, Leo Diegel. The short-game players, the long-game players. Every one of them told me something different. For instance, there were different grips. Interlocking, overlapping, ten-finger, which all have a certain advantage for certain individuals. What I mean by that is, you have a lady who is not strong in her hands. Or a man. They can’t muster any power. You can almost catch the club in your hands as it passes, because there is no speed. So you try to utilize their hands more to give them more snap in there, so they can whip it in there. I’ve found that I’ve helped a lot of people subject to not much strength in their hands by telling them to use a 10-finger grip.

I don’t like to alter a grip too much to change the flight of the ball. But sometimes you have to. If a fellow who is not too strong has been slicing, I will turn his left hand over to the right a little more than normal, and the right hand under a little bit. If he gets to hooking too much, then you turn it all back a little. It takes constant supervision so players won’t get in trouble.

GI: Have you discovered golf to be a game of constant adjustments?

Grout: I wouldn’t say constant, but a lot of players skip from one professional to another and that’s bad for the pupil. If you have confidence in one teacher and he has proven that he is a good teacher, you shouldn’t change him.

GI: You grew up in an era when people were told to keep their head still during the swing, something younger teachers today are speaking against. Do you belong to the ‘keep your head still’ school?

Grout: Well, you’ve got to have balance. If your head’s not steady, you won’t have it. Of course, the head is going to move a little bit because your body moves, but it should be between your feet at all times during the swing. Do that and your body won’t move too much and upset your swing.

But the most important thing in the way I teach golf is the grip. Then I go to the head and stance. Get those three simple things out of the way, then go for the turn of the body and the speed of the swing. You’ve got to have speed in the swing. Power is leverage and speed. That’s why golf is better today than it ever has been. The old pros would say, ‘hit it easy.’ Well, you don’t hit a ball easy when you want it to go far. You hit it hard, and to do that you need speed.

GI: How do you learn to hit it hard, and still control the ball?

Grout: You can start out when you’re young, hitting the ball hard, because you’re agile and can learn to utilize your body to make a full turn.

When you get older your body is inclined to shorten up in the turn. But if a fellow first learns to hit a ball far, he’ll never lose that.

GI: But for you, the grip comes first. What is the ideal, perfect grip?

Grout: The back of the left hand faces the hole, the palm of the right hand faces the hole.

GI: You would think all golfers, pros or amateurs, good athletes or poor ones, could form a good grip, and yet we see so many poor ones.

Grout: Well, people start without lessons. They go out in a cornfield and start hitting balls and somehow or other learn to hit it pretty good. Pretty far, too. So the grip they use, which is usually bad, and the feel of it, becomes so ingrained they don’t want to change it.

GI: What’s more important, the backswing or the downswing?

Grout: The backswing, because the downswing is part of the backswing. I don’t know how you can mess up if you’ve got a beautiful backswing.

GI: When video came in, did you use it in your teaching?

Grout: No, it’s a waste of time.

GI: Why?

Grout: I don’t teach from pictures. I teach from fundamentals. You don’t need pictures for that. They don’t prove anything to me.

GI: You seem to be saying that golf is largely a game of feel.

Grout: The sense of feel is tremendous. You couldn’t tell me, and I couldn’t tell you, how hard to hit a ball to make it go 30 yards.

GI: But what about the feel of the swing itself, about where or how you are swinging the club?

Grout: It’s practice. Play and practice. There’s no specific place in the downswing where you release the club and hit the ball. You find the place from a sense of feel. If you hit too quickly with your right arm you hook the ball, if you don’t hit it quickly enough you slice it. That’s the hand you hit the ball with, the right hand. Your left arm is your directional arm, it keeps the club on path. Your right arm is your power arm.

GI: So, golf is a right-handed game, for right-handers?

Grout: It’s a two-handed game, but each has a different function.

GI: The average golfer doesn’t have the time, or perhaps the inclination, for constant play and practice. So how can he play decent golf?

Grout: If you learn the fundamentals, you will always be a pretty good player.

GI: Talk about the turn of the body in the swing.

Grout: The left knee bends toward the other, the left ankle rolls in toward the other. And the hips and shoulders turn.

GI: Then what?

Grout: Just go at it, go get the ball.

GI: You don’t think about anything in the downswing?

Grout: Oh, everything will happen in and of itself. Because you aren’t going to swing your arms down and not turn your hips and shift your body weight and so on. It’s a natural instinct, just like throwing a baseball. That’s how I explain weight distribution if your weight is not moving to the right side. I say, ‘did you ever pitch a baseball?’ If you see a pitcher with his left foot in the air, his weight is on his right foot. Which is how you get power. What happens if a pitcher keeps his weight on his left foot – a right-handed pitcher? It would be no good. No force or power. Everyone can understand that.

GI: There seems to be a lot of reference in current golf instruction to baseball. Bill Mehlhorn talked about it always, and still does.

Grout: Bill had a lot of technique. But I couldn’t learn anything from him because he didn’t hold on to the club any more than a little child would. The club was flying around in his hands.

GI: You don’t believe in a light, feathery grip?

Grout: You don’t want to grip the club like it was your last dollar. But you don’t let it flop around.

GI: It’s inevitable that you are asked about Jack Nicklaus, your star pupil. How old was he when you first took him on? What was your first impression of him?

Grout: He was just one of the kids, a chunky little kid, a redhead with a crew haircut about 10 years old, one of about 70 kids in a junior class I was running at Scioto. The first thing I taught him was the grip. The first thing I told him was to hit the dickens out of it. But I didn’t have to. He wanted it that way. He was a little kid and wanted to fire that sucker. He had the instinct.

GI: Was he a standout from the very start?

Grout: Not really, but after five years he was. He would come out there all day long and hit and play. He’d beat me in. I’d get to the club about 8 a.m. and he was already out there putting.

GI: What do you feel was your main contribution to Jack’s game?

Grout: Just drumming him on the fundamentals – grip, turn of the body, head in position.

GI: Did he always fly the right elbow?

Grout: Oh yes, and I didn’t try to change it. That’s the way I think you should play.

GI: What is golf for you?

Grout: A learning experience, not something you just pick up.

With Bill Fields/Golf Illustrated/February 1988

Muirfield Village’s Grout Is Pro’s Pro

By TOM PASTORIUS, Citizen-Journal Sports Writer, May 16, 1977

Jack Grout has the title of professional emeritus/teacher-in-chief at Muirfield Village Golf Club. It might well be pro extraordinary.

What he really is is a pro’s pro, the man the world’s finest golfers turn to when, even as you and I, their games turn sour.

IT’S BEEN well-chronicled how he took over a strong, determined 10-year-old named Jack Nicklaus in 1950 at Scioto Country Club and helped the youngster build the swing of the man most generally considered golf’s non-pareil.

To understand the teaching talents of Jack Grout let’s look at his background, investigate his credentials.

Born in Oklahoma City on March 24, 1910, his formal schooling ended on May 29, 1929 upon his graduation from Classen High School. He turned professional at age 15. His first pro job was at a nine-hole golf course called Edgemere in the countryside outside Oklahoma City. In February, 1930 he went with his older brother Dick to Fort Worth, Texas, at Glen Garden Golf Club where two of the junior members were Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.

JACK REMEMBERS those days with fondness. “The first time I saw Ben he had three left-handed clubs and four right-handed ones. He was a wild kid, could hook the ball in both directions. He could play both ways. I never saw anything like it.”

To quickly run through his club jobs: his next stop in March, 1937 was Hershey Country Club in Pennsylvania, where Henry Picard was the playing pro, Jack the teaching pro; after that he had a series of short-stint club-pro jobs at Fox Hill (PA), Twin Hills (OK), and Butterfield (IL). Belt-tightening during the Great Depression and then the onset of World War II forced Jack to move around in order to survive. In 1946 he accepted the pro job at Harrisburg (PA) Country Club, which was a step up professionally, and finally to Scioto in 1950 … and his place in history.

GROUT LEFT SCIOTO in 1961 for La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach, Florida. Opened in 1927 and hit hard by both the Great Depression and World War II, the club enjoyed a renaissance during his tenure as golf professional. In late spring of 1974, Grout informed his colleagues at La Gorce that he was “retiring.” Since then, he has been plying his trade as teaching professional, seasoned mentor and master of ceremonies at Muirfield Village.

Did he play the PGA Tour? He won six tour titles before a bad back (“I’ve had the blasted thing for 40 years”) forced him to decide his future was on the practice tee, not the tourney trail.

He took another nostalgic trip: “I STARTED the tour in December, 1931 with Hogan and Ralph Hutchison, later with Nelson and Dick Metz. There were only 10-12 stops then. We’d all pile into a car, clubs hanging all over. The purses were like $3,500 tops, top prize $600 to $750. One year we played for $10,000 at St. Louis and everybody who could swing a club was there.

“But you must remember in those days you could get breakfast for 20 cents, a helluva lunch for 35 cents and a tremendous 40-cent steak for dinner, and in fine places. A decent hotel room was $1, the best hotel room in town $2.50. We could go pretty good on $40 a week, for everything.”

He withdrew another name from his memory bank, (Lighthorse) Harry Cooper, and recalled: “DO YOU KNOW that he was one of the best strikers of the ball who ever lived, straighter than anyone I ever saw? He was the leading money winner in those days and, from 1926 to 1940, he amassed no more than $60,000 in total earnings. Hell, they make that much in one week now.”

Grout doesn’t begrudge the present pro tourists a penny of what they’re getting but he doesn’t think the majority appreciate how good they have it now nor does he like to compare golfers of different eras: “Back then it was hickory shafts, terrible courses, no grass …”

Jack hasn’t played a round of golf since 1971. “A few years ago I tried to play. Hit off No. 1 OK, drove at No. 2 and walking down the fairway I could hardly make it, walked off the course … The other day I hit about 20 balls, just short shots for Dickie and didn’t die. My back’s alright as long as I don’t play … but no one’s going to cut on me, no sir.”

DICKIE? Yep, his younger son – the Grouts have four children: John, 32 is a National Airlines pilot in Miami; Mrs. Ronnie Dew, married, of Hudson, OH.; Dickie’s 23 and Debbie, 22, is a Kelly girl.

Right now Dickie, under the watchful eye of his dad, is preparing for his second try at the tour, will attempt to qualify at Pinehurst May 31 through June 5 for his card.

Listen to Dickie:

I STOPPED playing competitively for a brief period while in college. Before long, took it backup. Dad’s really never pushed me. Maybe that’s the reason I’m hard at it now. He’s very, very patient with me, seems to think I have a chance. He really believes I can do it and not just because I’m his son. He took me down to the Masters this year and that really psyched me up. I think dad counted on that.

“I’ve been lucky getting to play with Nicklaus, Weiskopf, Maltbie, Floyd and they’ve helped me, too. What I need mostly is confidence. Dad gets exasperated with me at times … even a saint would. But he’s as patient with me as anyone could be … and I appreciate it.”

Memorial Tournament defending champ Roger Maltbie was in a few weeks before the second renewal, working with Grout. He said: “Mr. Grout’s certainly very smart. He recognizes that I’m not very bright so he keeps it simple for me. One step at a time.”

NICKLAUS ANALYSES Grout’s teaching skills: “Jack doesn’t say too much. He has the ability of not giving you too much at one time. He’ll mention something and, my gosh, maybe two weeks later you’ll wake up and say ‘that’s what he was talking about.’

“He has such a nice way about him. He’s interested, unlike some teachers. He’s really interested in seeing that you improve.

“I laughed the other day when Maltbie said “Hey, does he always work you this hard?”

“There never was a greater guy than Jack Grout. He never pushes himself in. You never know he’s there … but he’s always there when you need him.”

HAS NICKLAUS ever taken instruction from anyone else?

“Not really,” he answered. “Kep (Bob Kepler, his golf coach at Ohio State) never fiddled with my swing. He knew Jack was my teacher. But Kep and I did talk a lot about golf, mostly about theory and managing your round. Kep wasn’t the kind of guy to try to foster his ideas on me. When I was 19, I took one lesson from Claude Harmon, but his theories were so different that I never went back so that’s hardly worth mentioning.”

What does Grout do now when Jack gets off track?

“Sometimes I’ll call him and ask him if he saw me on TV,” Jack replied, “and what did he think. He might mention that he didn’t like my ball position or something like that…”

GROUT HAS GIVEN so many lessons to so many that he needed a golf magazine to refresh his memory. He ran his fingers down the men’s money list: Tommy Aaron, Ray Floyd, Bruce Devlin, Grier Jones, J.C. Snead, Gibby Gilbert, Butch Baird, George Burns are some of the more prominent. Ben Crenshaw had just called him and wanted to come in for some work just before the Memorial.

And he’s peered at the swings of a passel of the women pros, including Barbara Romack, Jo Ann Prentice, Marie Astrologes, Beth Stone, Kathy Cornelius, Kathy Farrer, Silvia Bertolaccini, Sandra Spuzich and Sally Little.

Grout says: “Ninety percent of the women pros are beautiful swingers of the club but only 10 percent of them hit down on the ball. That’s their main fault, they just don’t hit down on the ball. I say ‘hit the ground, hit the ground, have you never heard of a divot?’ Patty Berg hit down alright, played like a good male pro. Some of them are winning $50,000 and hit up on the ball.”

Grout never volunteers his services: “I let them ask me before I’ll make any suggestions … and I don’t know how many free lessons I’ve given.”

Perhaps, his main teaching advice is “Keep it simple,” adding: “It all starts with a good grip and stance, two things you can’t recover from if they’re bad. Next is the head position. Don’t move it, though you can turn your chin a little bit. I recommend a straight left arm (for right-handers) back and through. Hit down on the ball and then make a full extension of the left arm.”

Out on the Muirfield practice range, Grout squinted at his son through eyes lined by thousands of hours such as this. His boy was really busting them and Jack would say: “You look tremendous, now keep refining it … This is going to be your best year in golf … Each year you are going to improve … Only a dumb bunny is going to take it back fast … Why did you do that, Dickie? There, that’s better, that was a beauty …”

6/27/77 Muirfield Village Golf Club

YOU COULD SEE the pride and joy in Grout’s eyes as he watched his son, probably the same look he had watching the budding Nicklaus 27 years ago.

Jack Grout’s satisfaction comes from the success of those he’s taught and continues to teach. In that he is a rich man.




Can you spot me? I’m next to our teacher, Jack Grout, wearing my half glove.

I was only 10 years old, but I still remember taking this group lesson in June 1950. The teacher was Jack Grout, the pro at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, where I grew up. Jack would become my teacher for almost 40 years. (I’m the one standing to his immediate right.) He took a great interest in me from the beginning, and that got me really excited about golf.

Mr. Grout often used me as an example with the other kids. He’d say, “Jackie Buck, show us how to hit this shot.” He took the same interest in other juniors, too, and that made us feel important and gave us confidence. It was part of his genius for teaching.

He was influenced by Alex Morrison, a leading teacher in the 1930s and ’40s. One of Morrison’s principles was rolling the ankles: Roll your left ankle on the backswing, and your right ankle on the downswing. It was one of the first things Mr. Grout had me do, often at home without a club. It’s a great way to feel the weight transfer, and rolling onto your right instep through impact helps you release the club properly.

Jack stressed the fundamentals, particularly grip and head position. At first he put my left hand in a strong position, so I could see the knuckles on the back of my hand. As I got stronger, he moved it into a neutral position. Mr. Grout had an interlocking grip, so that’s what I started with, and he saw no reason to change it. I never did.

He also wanted my head steady. Any up-and-down or sideways movement makes the swing more complicated. A steady head helps you deliver the club and adds rhythm.

Another fundamental that Mr. Grout stressed for young golfers was to develop as full an arc as possible; the best shoulder turn was the fullest shoulder turn. His thinking was that by extending, extending, extending, a young golfer stretched his muscles, and he could not do this later when the muscles had become so much less flexible.

There were other fundamentals that Mr. Grout gave tireless attention to, such as the stance (we were all taught the square stance in those group lessons), and, the necessity of hitting down on the ball and not scooping the ball on the upswing. Each of these is important. I still think about them today.

I need hardly underline how fortunate I was to meet up with Mr. Grout when I was so young, for countless promising golfers I know have become hopelessly confused by switching from one teacher to another and attempting to play twelve different ways at the same time. I was spared all that.

If Jack Grout had not arrived as the new pro at Scioto concurrent with my father’s convalescence, right now I would probably be selling insurance Monday through Friday and flipping a fishing rod for my weekend fun. Conceivably, I would have continued to play golf, or come back to it in later years. But I am certain that my life overall would have been very different from what it became.

-Written with Roger Schiffman/GolfDigest/January 2014


Jack Grout, a teacher’s teacher, guided prize pupil Jack Nicklaus on the game’s fundamentals-and those of life as well.

At the Columbus Airport, 1959: Teacher sending protégé off to Scotland for the Walker Cup.

AT ONE TIME, FEW PEOPLE REFERRED TO JACK GROUT AS “JACK NICKLAUS’ teacher,” fewer still called him his “coach” and nobody spoke of him as his “guru.” Grout wasn’t a “celebrity.” Far from it. “Jack Grout hardly ever set one foot on a practice tee at a major championship,” Nicklaus says of the man who taught him until Grout’s death in 1989. “He might be there, but he’d be back in the bleachers. If I was doing something I didn’t like, I’d go back and ask him.”

In a season in which Nicklaus’ finest hour, his 1986 Masters triumph, is being celebrated, it also is appropriate to recall the modest man who molded the immensely talented Nicklaus in ways that helped the Hall of Famer separate himself from other golfers of his time.

It is part of Nicklaus lore that his father, Charlie, signed him up for Grout’s two-hour Friday junior clinics at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, in 1950. Nicklaus was 10 years old, and Grout was the Head Professional. Pandel Savic, a long-time friend of the Nicklauses who was close with Grout, says: “Jack Grout recognized quickly that Jack was ahead of others in terms of intensity and ability. He told me that Jack’s power impressed him. He always taught him to hit it hard, even if he hit it all over the world.”

As Grout’s son, Dick, a courtly golf professional who lives in Greenville, South Carolina puts it: “Dad was an aficionado of the long drive. He maintained that young muscles need to be stretched and that accuracy can come later. During a lesson from him, you didn’t want Dad to say, ‘Let’s go get a lemonade or iced tea.’ The only reason he’d utter those words would be because you weren’t being aggressive enough, and so the lesson was over. He’d say, ‘Don’t let’s try to be pretty. Let’s not lollygag out here.'”

Nicklaus was his star pupil from the start. Grout would ask the boy he called “Jackie Boy” or “Jackie Buck” to demonstrate to the other kids in the clinic, gave him a free private lesson every two to three weeks and provided him with the fundamentals that helped Nicklaus forge golf’s finest record. Moreover, he was a friend and confidante. “I’m much better off for having known Jack Grout,” Nicklaus says, and he means on and off the course.

On the course, Grout gave his charge the knowledge to correct his own swing. “Rarely did I call him from a tournament,” Nicklaus says. “I didn’t need to call him every five minutes. I had to learn how to correct myself, which is the antithesis of the way it is today. For me it was more like the way it was with Bobby Jones. Jones told me that he became a good player when he didn’t have to run back to [his teacher] Stewart Maiden.”

Grout let Nicklaus be, even when that meant Nicklaus letting out a little shaft with his emotions as well as the club. “One time we were out on the course and I was trying to hit 2-irons,” Nicklaus says, “and I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. I was so frustrated that I took the shaft and broke it. Jack said, ‘Good boy, Jackie. You got to get that out sometimes.’ We went over to the shop, replaced the shaft and went back at it. I only did that the one time, but I could do it with Jack. He’d tell me [it was] fine, that I [had] to get rid of how I was feeling.”

Aware that young Nicklaus was a powerhouse in the making, Grout wasn’t about to make radical changes in the way the child wanted to go after the ball. He taught him how to use the clubhead while swinging hard and to stay centered over the ball with a steady head, rolling his left ankle toward his right in the backswing and his right toward his left in the downswing. “Most guys today teach by positions. I don’t agree with this way of teaching,” Nicklaus says. “Jack taught you what to do with the clubhead, not with your body. I think you should be playing with the golf club.”

A family of words comes up when people speak of Jack Grout. One is “gentleman,” another is “humble” and a third is “quiet.” Dick calls his father “a quiet, proud man.” Nicklaus’ wife, Barbara, says: “He was the kindest and sweetest man there ever was. He never raised his voice or said an unkind word. He didn’t know how.”

One of eight children, Grout was born in Oklahoma City, in 1910. When he noticed some of his older brothers had extra money during golf season, he wondered about the source. Grout followed them to Oklahoma City Country Club, where he learned they were caddies. He started to caddie as well, and by age 15 he became the assistant pro at Edgemere Country Club under his older brother, Dick, the head professional. When Jack was 19, he traveled with Dick to Glen Garden Golf Club in Fort Worth, where he again gave assistance to his brother, and was soon to pal around with junior members Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, respectively 17 and 18 at the time. The threesome practiced most mornings and played a few times a week in the afternoons. The Grout brothers noticed that Hogan’s equipment included only seven clubs, three left-handed and four right-handed. Hogan hit hooks from either side. Grout’s brother gave Hogan three hickory-shafted right-hand clubs, and they soon convinced him to play exclusively from the right side.

Jack Grout and his wife, Bonnie, were married in 1942 and had two sons, Dick and John, and two daughters, Ronnie and Debbie. Grout delivered Debbie in a taxicab in front of the hospital. Bonnie Grout lives in Stuart, Florida, with Debbie. She suffers from Parkinson’s disease and osteoporosis, and, Debbie says, “is in constant pain, just getting by.” Of her father, she says, “He was my best friend. I just felt comfortable when he was around.”

From Glen Garden, Grout moved to Hershey (PA.) Country Club, where he worked as an assistant professional with legendary player and teacher Henry Picard. There, Grout learned the value of footwork, which Picard had assimilated from the instruction that renowned teacher Alex Morrison had given him. Grout later wrote that Nicklaus had better footwork than anybody, including Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Nelson and Hogan.

As the Head Professional, Grout came to Scioto in 1950 and worked there until 1961, when he went to La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach. He retired in 1974 after Nicklaus made him Professional Emeritus at newly formed Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, north of Columbus. He had a similar role at Loxahatchee Club when the Nicklaus-designed course opened in 1985, and also taught at Frenchman’s Creek and, during the winters of 1977 and 1978, at the Cheeca Lodge in the Florida Keys, where Ted Williams liked to fish for tarpon and bonefish in the flats.

While employed as a club professional, Grout qualified for and played in six United States Opens and three PGA Championships. When traveling the ragtag early PGA Tour, he frequently roomed with Picard. According to PGA Tour statistics, Grout is officially credited with 20 Top Ten and 40 Top Twenty-five finishes. In the PGA Championship, then a match-play event, he knocked off Jimmy Demaret in the first round in 1941 at Cherry Hills CC in Denver, defending champion Bob Hamilton in 1945 at Moraine CC in Dayton, Ohio, and medalist Johnny Palmer in 1953 at Birmingham (MI.) CC.

Colonial Country Club January 18, 1941

Grout succeeded as a player despite severe nearsightedness – he was one of the rare pros who wore glasses – and a mild manner. At Scioto CC during the PGA Championship in 1950, tour veteran Toney Penna stated: “If that guy could see, he’d be right there with the best of them. He has one of the finest swings in the game and everything to go with it but eyesight.” Ben Hogan told writer Ken Bowden, who has collaborated with Nicklaus on 11 books, that Grout could have won plenty of tournaments with his graceful swing and ball-striking. “Ben said he could have been a great player if he had a different personality,” Bowden says. “I think he was implying that Jack didn’t have the killer instinct.”

Bowden first met Grout during the 1965 PGA Championship at Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier, PA., when British writer Pat Ward-Thomas introduced them. Along with some 60 pros, they were watching Hogan stamp out 4-wood shots on the range when Grout asked Bowden if he would like to meet Hogan. Bowden certainly did.

“I’ll never forget how warm Ben was to Jack,” Bowden says. ‘He softened right up when he saw it was Grout. He wouldn’t talk to anybody else on the range, but it was like they were relatives. It was a very different Hogan.”

As gentle as Grout was, he was firm in his views. But he provided advice only when he had something to contribute. In 1972, Hall of Famer Ray Floyd was having a terrible time when he sought out Grout at La Gorce. “I was laid off and short, and it’s hard to play golf that way,” Floyd says. “He gave me a move with my right elbow that solved the problem. He told me to get my right elbow up going back, which got the elbow and my right thumb under the shaft. Jack was an incredible guy. He dealt with what you had, and he kept it simple. He was very much a positive influence. Jack would tell you how good you were.”

After Charlie Nicklaus died at age 56 in 1970, Grout became even more of a father figure to the Golden Bear. In the late-1980s, “We would go out on the driving range,” Nicklaus says of the time he spent with Grout at Loxahatchee, “go down there and hit balls at the other end and talk about everything but golf and my golf swing. We did that day after day, and finally maybe after four or five days, we would be hitting balls and he would finally say, ‘Hey, you know, I would like to see your hands in a little different position at the top.’ ‘Oh, really? What do you think that would do?’ He said, ‘It will make you hit it better.’ “OK, We’ll do that.’ But that would be the only comment he would make for a week. We weren’t talking about golf. We were talking about being friends and the relationship between two people.”

Away from golf, Grout loved thoroughbred horse racing and often slipped out with Floyd and others to one of the Florida tracks. He made small wagers on college and pro football games, and at Loxahatchee, club co-founder Gordon Gray and his pals taught Grout a card game called “Oh, Hell,” an offshoot of hearts for which they made their own rules. One of Loxahatchee’s formal dining rooms is named after Grout, which is both an honor and an irony given that he wasn’t much for formality.

On the practice tee at Muirfield Village Golf Club during The Memorial Tournament.

Jack Grout was comfortable in his own skin. He didn’t need to go to parties although he knew how to have a good time. He didn’t need to promote himself as the man who taught Jack Nicklaus – “never in 100 or 1,000 years would he do that,” Nicklaus says – and he was even reluctant to write a foreword to Nicklaus’ book Golf My Way, for fear of drawing attention to himself and away from the golfer he loved. But, as Bowden points out, Grout did finally agree to write the foreword, “and he was glad he did.”

Nicklaus was about to tee off in Saturday’s third round of the 1989 Memorial Tournament when a siren went off to stop play because of storms. Barbara presently received a call that Grout had passed away. “It was very weird,” Barbara says. “I think he died within a minute or two of when Jack was supposed to tee off.” Nicklaus had last seen his teacher, mentor and friend a month earlier, just after the Masters, where Nicklaus had missed the last green. Grout was in bed at his home and asked Nicklaus to stand up and make a swing. He watched and, Nicklaus says, “He told me why I hit the ball to the right. He was still teaching, and he couldn’t even get out of bed.”

Item 6 of Grout’s Last Will and Testament included observations he had made about his relationship with Nicklaus. Grout felt he had been given far too much credit; at the same time he acknowledged that he had helped him with the fundamentals of the game.

Quiet, proud and humble to the end.

By Lorne Rubenstein, GolfWorld Magazine, May 5, 2006

He Got Back 10 for 1

Right hand gripping the shifter of a battered Willys Jeep, left hand tight on the wheel, young Dick Grout would criss-cross his father’s range at La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach, aiming a makeshift scoop at Dad’s black-striped range balls. Dust billowed behind the boy in summer and mud puddles hid his balata harvest after a rain.

When the balls were all picked they would be cleaned in an old clothes washer in back of the range shack, which must have sounded thunderous in the spin cycle. “You had to throw rags in there to keep the balls from getting scraped up too bad,” recalls Dick, now 50 and a Golf Professional at The Cliffs, near Greenville, South Carolina. He and I were warming up on an ultra-modern practice facility at The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards, talking about driving-range innovations devised by his father, the distinguished professional and legendary teacher Jack Grout. Most of these inventions dated to the 1950s and Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, where the elder Grout’s lifelong mentorship of Jack Nicklaus had begun.

“You wouldn’t think of a Jack Nicklaus starting out in junior golf and not having a place to hone his swing,” reflects Dick, but in fact Nicklaus came along at a serendipitous time. Jack Grout was there just in time – part of a vanguard of teaching pros who helped upgrade the golf practice facility from a scruffy field where only a few members could hit balls and schoolboy shaggers had to chase down every shot. These days a clean, full-service place to practice is a refuge we take for granted. We ought to thank the dedicated teachers of the mid-20th century for hand-building the infrastructure that made real learning possible.

“You couldn’t just order range balls back then, either,” Dick remembers, “so Dad figured out a way to keep up his supply. He would trade the members one brand new ball for 10 of their used balls. Ten for one – and he was picky. He wouldn’t take any ball that was too nicked up.

“And the members, who were generally wealthy individuals, they would jump at the chance to make this deal, which Dad always marveled at.” Mr. Grout even had a homemade striping device in his back room, consisting of a tube that fed balls into a pincher, which in turn held each ball against a narrow applicator moistened with black paint. La Gorce members paid 50 cents for a small bucket, $1.25 for a large. “Before we striped them, Dad would say, ‘Dickie Bird, go back into my shag barrel and dig yourself out some real pearls.'”

The first driving range in the U.S. is credited to Pinehurst Resort and went by the name Maniac Hill. The term has always amused people but it’s also mildly regrettable, somehow associating golf practice with a deluded desperation. I would rather think of the practice grounds as a place where the golfer can stand on one spot and take a journey at the same time – from one thought or idea about the golf swing to another, from this move or feeling to the next move or feeling.

We do need guides for this journey, and the Jack Grouts with their Yankee ingenuity filled that role. One of these instructors must have shown up for work one day and hand-dug the first practice bunker. One thought to build covered hitting bays. Yet another devised the first range plan, letting members who lusted for improvement to pay up-front for a full season of ball-beating.

The motivation is always the same – to see flashes of excellence emerge from the divoted ground. The teacher starts out wanting to be a great player, then one day re-channels that ambition into teaching. Conscious or not, the search begins for a protégé, but it’s the teachers who take no student for granted, who, I believe, are most likely to come across that proverbial one great talent that gives their career distinction.

Jack Grout spent the 1950s at Scioto nurturing “Jackie Boy” Nicklaus (as the pro always called him) and then, years later, waiting for his own son, Dick, who showed promise, to develop into some greatness of his own. Other than prodigious length off the tee, Dick never displayed the traits of anything but a respectable tournament player. For that reason, he looks back now and savors the summer days spent in his father’s world, listening to grown-up conversation, trying this or that swing technique, scooping up 10-for-ones in the Jeep.

Meanwhile, golf history had begun to unfold in the person of Nicklaus, who was thirteen years older than Dick Grout and already the golfer whose development under Jack Grout would define the pro’s teaching career.

To think that the way things turned out cast no shadow across Dick’s path would be naïve, and when his father lay dying, Dick drew up the strength to address it.

“I was holding his hand,” Dick recalls, “and I said to him, ‘Dad, we both worked so hard to bring out my best as a player, and it didn’t work out the way we wanted. I just want to say I’m sorry I never became the player you wanted me to be.'”

“He looked at me and said, ‘Dickie, it’s OK. You were a good player, and you were a good boy, and that’s just fine with me.'”

We were standing on a tee box on the back nine by now. It was Dick’s turn to hit but his driver was still in the bag and his gaze was steady on a treeline above the fairway. “Whew, I’ll tell you …” he said. “His words took the weight right off my shoulders. I told him, ‘Thanks, Dad. Thank you for saying that.'”

By: David Gould/MONOLOGUE

LINKS Magazine, April 2004

Last Will and Testament

Don’t be too proud to take lessons. I’m not. Jack Nicklaus

In his first forty years of golf, Jack Nicklaus had but one teacher. That man, Jack Grout, died in 1989 at the age of seventy-nine from lymphatic cancer.

Nicklaus was only ten when he met Grout in 1950 at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. Grout, an Oklahoman, had become the club’s Head Professional that year. He’d turned pro at fifteen, in 1925, and in 1930 accompanied his brother Dick to Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth. Ben Hogan, then seventeen, and Byron Nelson, then eighteen, were junior members. The threesome practiced mornings and played three or four times a week in the afternoon.

Grout, Hogan and Nelson took to the road to follow the PGA Tour. They drove a roadster from tournament to tournament, tying their bags of clubs on the side of the car. Grout lasted until 1957 on the Tour, the final seven years while working at Scioto, where Nicklaus’s father Charlie belonged.

The elder Nicklaus asked if he could enroll his ten-year-old son in Grout’s two-hour Friday junior clinic. Young Jackie enrolled all right; he was the first to register and was always the first youngster on the tee. Soon, Grout was asking his young protégé to demonstrate certain points about the swing.

The rest, as they say, is history, where Nicklaus is concerned. He went on to become probably the best golfer ever. And, Grout was always at his side. Grout and Nicklaus went over the swing from A to Z at the start of every season. Meanwhile, they became close friends.

In the way of the world, Jack Grout died precisely at 7:45 a.m., on Saturday, May 13. That was Nicklaus’s scheduled starting time in the third round of his own Memorial Tournament at his own Muirfield Village Golf Club near Columbus, where Grout was also the Professional Emeritus. “J. Grout,” Nicklaus always called him, and now J. Grout was gone.

Said Nicklaus: “Jack was like a second father to me. He was part of our family … He taught me how to play the game and he’s been at my side whenever I needed him.”

Grout also had something to say. Item 6 of his Last Will and Testament was handed to Nicklaus soon after Grout died. The document tells it all.

“Having heretofore disposed of all my worldly goods, I have just one final bequest I should like to make. If there is anytime at all in the life of a man when he should make an extra effort to be truthful, and at the same time sincere, I think it must be while he is preparing his Last Will and Testament. What I have to say in the next few words comes straight from my heart.

“Over the course of the past thirty years or so, from time to time I have read in various books and magazines about the contributions I have made to the career of Jack Nicklaus. Since this may be my last opportunity to do so, I thought maybe it would be well to set the record straight.

“In all honesty, I don’t think I ever hurt Jack’s golf game in any way. To put it another way, if he had not come under my tutelage in the early 1950s I don’t see how he could have turned out much better than he did. From the outset of our relationship I recognized that the thunder in his stroke and the courage in his heart were gifts that clearly had been bestowed upon him; and that there was very little I could do to take them away from him.

“I do not mean to suggest that I made no contribution whatsoever to his game. For one thing, I worked him hard (and he seemed to enjoy every minute of it). I made him stand away from the ball with his arms fully extended, and I insisted that he swing hard. Within a few months you could hear the swish of his clubhead all over the practice range when he took one of his legendary cuts at the ball. I made sure that his posture was correct; I fitted him correctly with equipment; from time to time I would check his grip, or maybe the rhythm of his swing. I always tried to encourage him; and in the early days of his development I made a special effort to explain to him and interpret for him how extraordinary I thought his talents were, and for that matter still are.

“If I made any other worthwhile contributions, which I can’t think of now, or if I made any of which I may be unaware, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to do so. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that Jack Nicklaus is the finest golfer ever to swing a club in the entire history of the game. It has been a distinct honor and great pleasure for me to have played some part in his career. And that brings me to my final bequest.

“To you, Jack Nicklaus, I give my thanks.”


Remembering Jack Grout, The Legendary Coach Whose Student Roster was Filled by More Than The Golden Bear

By Bob Denney, PGA Historian Emeritus (Published on Wednesday, August 5, 2020)

Jack Grout grew up among a generation of talented self-taught players during the 1930s and ’40s. At that time, the full-time teaching professional didn’t exist. As Ky Laffoon, Grout’s golfing buddy, once said, “There was nobody around who knew much.” 

As it turned out, Grout gleaned more than Laffoon or his contemporaries could envision, making the transition from tour professional to the lesson tee. His impact is still being felt today.

In 1930, Jack Grout and his older brother Dick moved from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, where Dick became head professional at Glen Garden Country Club and Jack his assistant. Among the junior members Jack began playing with were two teenagers, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.

Grout brothers, Jack and Dick outside the clubhouse at Glen Garden Country Club in 1932.

The Grouts noticed Hogan carried only seven clubs—three left-handed and four right-handed. Jack Grout said that the first time he met Hogan, he was playing three different ways — cross-handed, right-handed (or “Cow-handed,” as they say in Texas) and orthodox left-handed. Andhe could hit hooks from either side.

The brothers convinced Hogan to play from just one side—the right—aided by three hickory-shafted right-handed clubs that Dick gave him.

“Uncle Dick said Hogan always was a loner, didn’t ask anyone for advice on his game,” wrote PGA Life Member Dick Grout in his book, Jack Grout, A Legacy in Golf. “He worked things out himself. Byron Nelson took a different approach, reaching out eagerly for advice on his game and his future.”

The Grouts were quite the golf family. Dick won the Oklahoma Open and State PGA Championship multiple times and played in the 1926 PGA Championship as well as the 1929 U.S. Open. Younger brother Raymond (Dutch) played in the 1934 U.S. Open. Jenny, the youngest Grout sibling, was one of Oklahoma’s greatest female players. 

While Jack played on the fledgling professional golf tour for nineteen consecutive years and participated in ten major championships, his notoriety came as the man who taught golf to Jack Nicklaus, who owns five PGA Championships among 18-lifetime professional major titles. 

“Dad never made a big deal out of a lot of things,” said PGA Life Member Dick Grout, 67 and named after his uncle. “While coaching Jack Nicklaus, dad rarely was on the practice tee at a major. However, Jack always knew that my father was close by should there be any need. In addition to his great diagnostic eye and his minimalism, I think dad’s understated manner was what appealed to students like Jack.”

Nicklaus followed Grout’s tutelage until 1989, when cancer claimed his longtime coach and dear friend. In  2015, Grout was inducted into GOLF Magazine World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame. Those who believe Grout taught just one prodigal student are short-changing the legendary coach.  Among the others he helped includes Tommy Aaron, Joe Turnesa, Dow Finsterwald, Ben Crenshaw, Grier Jones, DeWitt Weaver, Marty Fleckman, J. C. Snead, Gibby Gilbert, Jerry Heard, Roger Maltbie, Tom Purtzer, Lanny Wadkins, Bruce Devlin, Jim Colbert, Butch Baird, George Burns III, Jerry McGee, Fred Ridley, Steve Melnyk and Olin Browne.

Raymond Floyd credited Grout’s instruction and encouragement in helping him win what he called “my most cherished victory,” the 1986 U.S. Open.

Additionally, Grout gave advice to LPGA Tour professionals, including Barbara Romack, Jo Ann Prentice, Maria Astrologes, Beth Stone, Kathy Cornelius, Kathy Farrer, Dianne Dailey, Silvia Bertolaccini, Sandra Spuzich and Sally Little. Never a self-promoter, Grout was the prototypical golf professional, ensuring his students came first.

From his home in Taylors, South Carolina, Dick Grout has often reflected on his father’s lofty perch in golf history. Like many players prior to World War II, they served apprenticeships in the caddie yard where sharing of golf knowledge took place. 

“Champions like Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Nelson, Hogan and Sam Snead said that they “never learned from anyone,” said Dick. “While this may be technically true, they indisputably all learned from one another.”