Most simply put, Herbert Warren Wind is golf’s poet laureate. He not only described our game – its wondrous people and remarkable venues – with mellifluous words that did much to shape people’s opinions and attitudes, but also stirred the emotions as no other. He was that good.
Educated at Yale University and later at Cambridge, Wind served overseas in the Pacific during World War II. Upon his return to the States, he joined The New Yorker magazine writing personality profiles. At the same time, he worked on what was to become his opus, and the seminal book on the history of golf in America, The Story of American Golf.
"In golf, as in no other sport, your principal opponent is yourself."
Originally published in 1948 it is the most readable, literate and complete history of the game in America ever published. It is magnificently crafted and compels the reader to delve into its pages. (Even the chapter titles are intriguing – can you imagine not being tempted to read the chapter entitled “The Tragedy of Harry Cooper”?)
Wind worked for The New Yorker, covering golf until 1956, when he joined a new upstart magazine, Sports Illustrated, to be its first golf editor. While there he termed the three-hole stretch of 11, 12 and 13 at Augusta National, Amen Corner, a phrase that quickly entered the sporting lexicon. And it was at Sports Illustrated, that he collaborated with Ben Hogan and illustrator Anthony Ravielli to create a five-part instructional series that ran in consecutive weeks entitled Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. Such was its success that it was turned into a book, which remains the largest selling golf instruction book of all time. He rejoined The New Yorker in 1962, returning to write long, chewy and evocative (two favorite Wind descriptors) essays mostly on the Masters and the U.S. Open. He also weighed in on those things he thought important.
Significantly Wind wrote books with Gene Sarazen (Thirty Years of Championship Golf) and Jack Nicklaus (The Greatest Game of All).
Wind also pioneered as the original writer for Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, arguably the finest televised golf show of all time.
In 1958, Wind coined the phrase ‘Amen Corner’ to describe the second shot at the 11th, all of the 12th, and the tee shot at the 13th hole at the Augusta National Golf Club, site of the annual Masters Tournament.
But to truly appreciate Wind’s efforts first hand, consider the following:
“Of the people I have met in sports – or out – Jones came the closest to being what we call a great man …He had incredible strength of character. As a young man, he was able to stand up to just about the best that life can offer, which is not easy, and later he stood up with equal grace to just about the worst.” –The New Yorker, April 29, 1972
But Herb Wind was more than simply the finest golf writer America has ever produced. He was a good friend and mentor to many in the game – professional and amateur alike – and gave us a sense of what is right and proper in the game. To have walked the fairways with Herb was truly a singular treat – part history lesson, part golf instruction and, if you were one of his friends, great camaraderie.
If it were possible to have each member of the World Golf Hall of Fame vote on Wind’s inclusion, the vote would, in all probability, be unanimous, as Herb wrote so eloquently about virtually each member. To a person, they’d welcome him with great relish.