The Scottish born Tommy Armour is responsible for two unique words in the golfer’s vocabulary. Three-time major winner Armour was the first person to coin the phrase the “yips.” His definition was, “A brain spasm that impairs the short game,” and unfortunately it—the word and the affliction—sticks with us today. The Silver Scot worked at a variety of world-class clubs over his career including Westchester Country Club, Medinah and Tam-O’-Shanter. At one point he was teaching at Winged Foot—where he was a long-time member—in the summer and during the winter he served as the pro at the Boca Raton Club.
His three majors were in three different tournaments: The U.S. Open in 1927 at Oakmont, the Open Championship in 1931 at Carnoustie and the PGA Championship, in 1930 at Fresh Meadow in Queens. Armour lost his vision for six months in World War I while serving in the Tank Corps with the Black Watch Highland Regiment. He was caught in a mustard gas attack and later regained vision in his right eye only. The war left many scars on Armour; he also had eight pieces of shrapnel that were never removed from this shoulder.
The Silver Scot pictured on the cover of his instructional book
The second word he contributed indirectly—and involuntarily—was at the Shawnee Open in 1927, Armour scored the first ever “Archaeopteryx” (15 or more over par). He made a 23 or 18-over par on a par-five, one of the worst scores for a single hole in tour history. This infamous performance happened just one week after winning the U.S. Open.
When Armour won his 1927 U.S. Open at Oakmont he was the professional at the Congressional Country Club in Maryland, and to celebrate his victory the membership give him a Marmon Roadster as seen below. Has a golf professional ever looked so dapper, wearing white pants, plus fours and a pocket hanky? I think Armour outdoes both Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones, two pretty dapper fellows in their own right.
Armour pictured in 1927 in front of his Marmon Roadster at Congressional Country Club
Armour’s contribution to the golf library include How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time in 1953 (D & J A9650), A Round of Golf with Tommy Armour in 1959 (D & J A9570) and Tommy Armour’s ABC’s of Golf in 1967 (D & J A9685). All three books are instructional in nature. Although the books sold well, Armour had the misfortune of writing instructional titles at a time when the best in the genre was published, Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons. During this period, however, Armour was known as one of the best teachers of the game. There was also a flicker book published about Armour in 1932, Long Iron (D & J A9660), and two small softcovers in the 60s: Play Better Golf: the drive (D & J A9665) and Play Better Golf: the irons (D & J A9670). Books signed by Armour fetch of premium of about $250.00
In his biography of Ben Hogan, James Dodson describes Armour in a rather uncharitable fashion as a “red-faced, heavy-drinking Scotsman who allegedly once hurled his irons in disgust from the Firth of Tay railroad bridge.”