Pro golf from the 1930s to the millennium

The Open returns to Portush, Northern Ireland, in 2019. This is only the second time since the first Championship was held in 1860 that it has been held outside either Scotland or England. The previous occasion was 1951 when the winner was Max Faulkner.

Max with trophy in 1951, with Antonio Cerda (right)
Max with trophy in 1951, with Antonio Cerda (right)

Max Faulkner had an international golfing career spanning almost six decades and was an unparalleled wit and raconteur. But he was also a sharp observer of the professional game into the millennium. For those interested in golf history Max was uniquely placed; he experienced the transition from hickory shafts to steel shafts and from hand-made individual clubs to factory-made matching sets, and he also witnessed the technological advances in club and ball manufacture.

His career was fractured by the Second World War. He was beginning to make a name for himself in the late-1930s but played only two rounds over six years between late-1939, when he was 23, and the armistice in 1945. Imagine the same happening to millennium golfing heroes such as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

The perfect hitting position. Max in 1972 (Golf Illustrated)

He was fiercely patriotic and a member of the victorious 1957 Ryder Cup team, when he asked to be excluded from the singles matches because he did not feel that he was playing well enough. He spent the day running round from match to match, telling the players how well the team was doing and bolstering morale. Captain Dai Rees described him as the team’s “secret weapon.” In those days there was no TV coverage and radio coverage was incomplete so it was difficult to keep track of progress.

When he was at his peak in the early 1950s he would probably have been ranked among the world’s top five golfers although such an assessment would have been complicated by the fact that Max decided not to play the US circuit but to stay in Europe and make winter visits to Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand.

The leading world golfers at the time were Ben Hogan and Sam Snead in the US and Bobby Locke from South Africa. Of these, Max was quite clear that he ranked Locke number one. Locke would make occasional forays to the US, win several tournaments and then disappear again, much the richer.

The reports set out on this website are in Max’s own words, detailing his Open victory and commenting on the leading players, including those from the hickory shaft era, and on the other characters on the circuit, including the cockney caddies who spoke rhyming slang and slept rough. He also describes the snobbery of clubs in the ‘Bertie Wooster’ days, when pros were not allowed to change in the clubhouse and had to make alternative arrangements.

Max was a natural sportsman and could have represented England at football, cricket or tennis but golf was his destiny because of the influence of his father, who was a professional golfer of the old school, with enormous hands because he spent most of his days making and repairing clubs.

Index of Max Faulkner articles

The 1951 Open

Pro golf changes over 70 years

Key personalities of 1940s and 1950s

Selected pro golf observations

Unusual moments in a golfing career

Golf before WWII

Tips for improving your golf

The information on this website has been prepared by Guy Faulkner and presented by Nick Lesseps.