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 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.
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
- The strain of holding on to a big lead. Premonition of win; poor iron play but magical putting; ensure vow of silence from Frank Stranahan; find green with deliberate sliced 4-wood at 16th in third round; strain intensifies from 15th in final round; agonising 45-minute wait to confirm win
- Status of being Open Champion. The world beats a path to your door
Pro golf changes over 70 years
- Improvement in the lot of the professional golfer
- The lost breed of cockney caddie
- In the days of hickory shafts
- Take care shaking hands with the old pros
- The curse of slow play
- Golfing press changes over six decades
- Need to watch out for the cheats
- Career interruption by WWII
Key personalities of 1940s and 1950s
- Locke, the US trail blazer
- The obsessive Hogan
- Snead loses his cool
- The genius of Christy O’Connor
- Narrow escape for Dai Rees
- Harry Weetman – the fascination of raw power
Selected pro golf observations
- Secret behind the 1957 Ryder Cup victory
- Golf can get to us all
- ‘Butten Scheme’ attempt to produce British Open winner
- Good swingers of the club
Unusual moments in a golfing career
- US club backs amateurs to beat me and Weetman
- British courtesy unnerves US pros
- Locke and I have brush with US law
- John Jacobs gives me a fright
- What can happen when you are gripped by nerves
- Mickey Rooney impresses me – in more ways than one
- Gold with Douglas Bader and Charles Newman VC
- Bill Shankland sees the funny side
- Scoring by memory
- Call of nature in sugar cane
- Miami caddy amuses me
- Sprayed drives in the tropics
- Play-off with Bob Charles at Ramstein
- Trevino the joker
- Political unrest in Cairo
- Avian golf hazard
- Shall we have a split Jim?
Golf before WWII
- Intimidating Archie Compston
- Abe Mitchell – a long hitter with hickory
- Alex Herd gives me a sharp lesson
- I play with future Open Champions as 16-year old
- Play my first Open aged 17
- Alf Perry – the forgotten man
- Sarazen – the first to win all four majors
Tips for improving your golf
The information on this website has been prepared by Guy Faulkner and presented by Nick Lesseps.