Herb Graffis didn’t miss much when he sat down at his typewriter. He was part of a generation of great golf writers that included Grantland Rice, Bernard Darwin, Ring Lardner, Henry Longhurst, Herbert Warren Wind and Charles Price, yet his greatest contributions to the game came not from what he wrote, but through the conception of his ideas.
Along with his brother, Joe, Graffis founded the Chicago Golfer in 1923, Golfdom in 1927 and then a national monthly, Golfing, in 1933. They founded the National Golf Foundation, the Golf Course Superintendents Association and the Club Managers Association, and published the first U.S. Open program in 1928 at Olympia Fields.
It was Graffis who believed that golf was a business as well as a game. Golfdom, for example, was a magazine with a controlled circulation that was sent to the president, green chairman, professional, greenkeeper and course manager at each club.
Golfing was created, in Graffis’ words, “because the manufacturers couldn’t afford to spend much on ad space in the (Saturday Evening) Post or Colliers, but they wanted to do something that would get in the hands of a select list of golfers.” Golfing was published five times a year and sent out free. The Graffis philosophy was that “the most important guy was the one reading it, not the guy who was being written about.”
"I was voted in by guys who were kind enough to forget that distinguished service means that you had better damn well do, or go broke."
In 1936, the Graffis brothers nearly went bankrupt forming the National Golf Foundation as a means of helping promote the growth of the game. It was the NGF’s mission to research and publish authoritative information on the game which could be used by investors developing the game of golf.
Graffis also collaborated with Tommy Armour on three best-selling instruction books: How to Play Your Best Golf All The Time, A Round of Golf With Tommy Armour and Tommy Armour’s ABCs of Golf. His opus was a book on the history of the PGA of America, published in 1975.
The PGA made him president of National Golf Day and a member of its Advisory Board and Public Relations Committee. The United States Golf Association asked Graffis to serve on its Green Section and Museum committees.
The Graffis resume also included presidencies of the Chicago Press Club, the Headline Club of Chicago, the Indiana Club of Chicago, the Illinois Senior Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America, which he cofounded.
For his contributions to golf, Herb Graffis was voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame under the category of “Distinguished Service.” Of this honor, the self-effacing Graffis said, “I was voted in by guys who were kind enough to forget that distinguished service means that you had better damn well do, or go broke.”
The Herb Graffis Award is given out by the National Golf Foundation for significant contributions to the growth of junior golf.
The tributes poured in when Graffis died in 1989 at the age of 95 in Fort Myers, Fla. “He was a friend to all of us,” said Ben Hogan. “All of us will miss him. He sure was good for golf,” said Sam Snead. Arnold Palmer, who grew up reading The Greenskeeper Reporter with his father in Latrobe, Pa., called Graffis “a humorous man, a great guy, a good friend.” The Fort Myers News Press called Graffis “a giant in the world of golf, a writer about golf, a larger-than-life man known and admired by the game’s royalty, its courtiers and its spear-carriers.”
But perhaps it was Dr. Joseph F. Beditz, President and CEO of the NGF, who summed up Herb Graffis best. “Herb Graffis’ contributions to golf cannot be measured,” said Beditz. “No one who ever met Herb will ever forget him. His writing on golf is legendary; his efforts to promote the game and his love for golf will stand as a testimonial for future generations. Only death has silenced one of the great voices of our game.”