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The Best Golf Shots We Never Saw

By: | Tue 26 Oct 2021

Television has immortalised many of the greatest moments in sport, creating timeless highlights that can be viewed forever. 

Within golf, the invention of TV was a breakthrough way to present the game to a mass audience throughout the 1950s into the 60s, as Arnold Palmer spearheaded a newfound popularity that made him a genuine icon. 

However, the story of championship golf long pre-dates the advent of tele and national broadcasting, leaving still imagery and the power of the written word as our gateway into reflecting on the achievements of legends such as Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and Harry Vardon. We've heard and read about their greatest shots - but we never saw them.

These days, Tiger Woods' extraordinary 16th hole chip-in at the Masters in 2005 remains a YouTube sensation, while every true golf fan has seen Tom Watson hole out at Pebble Beach in 1982, and have witnessed Jack Nicklaus' one-iron struck on the same 17th hole a decade earlier.

But what of those pieces of magic that weren't captured on film? We have looked back at just some of the greatest shots played that we never had the chance to see.

Seve Ballesteros, 1983 Ryder Cup

The charismatic Spaniard produced a library of incredible shots, but arguably the finest of them all wasn't captured on TV! It seems unthinkable now, but in 1983, the first match of the Sunday singles at the Ryder Cup didn't receive definitive coverage. 

Consequently, we missed something special. Facing former Masters champion Fuzzy Zoeller at PGA National, Seve Ballesteros found a bunker with his tee shot. Close to the lip, 245 yards from the hole, and without an obvious route to the green, the European talisman pulled a three-wood from his bag, and played the most extraordinary of shots, over the edge and drawing onto the green. He would make birdie to earn a crucial half-point for Europe, who ultimately came up narrowly short of winning despite producing a showing that laid the foundation of future success under captain Tony Jacklin.

18-time major champion and US captain, Jack Nicklaus said it was the "greatest shot I ever saw."

Young Tom Morris, 1870 Open

The superstar of his day, Tommy Morris was a childhood prodigy and the young man who elevated the developing game to previously unseen heights. Winner of four consecutive Open Championships, Morris exceeded the talent of his widely respected father, something perhaps best illustrated by his apparent albatross on the first hole at the venerable Ayrshire links of Prestwick.

Begining the 1870 Open, Morris holed a shot from around 200 yards on the 578 yard hole that was likely assumed to be a par 6, an astonishing achievement considering the hickory clubs and guttie ball that the teenager would have been using. 

Much has been written about the brilliance of Morris and his tragic end, but being transported to capture his genius would be a joy to witness.

Gene Sarazen, 1935 Masters

From its earliest days, the Masters - then the Augusta National Invitation Tournament - produced moments of magic, but few have been more celebrated than Gene Sarazen's "shot heard round the world" that defined the 1935 edition, the second hosted by Bobby Jones at his dream golf course.

Chasing his compatriot Craig Wood, Sarazen, a multiple winner of the US Open and PGA Championship, and the Champion Golfer of 1932, holed a 4-wood from 235 yards on the par 5 15th for an albatross that ultimately secured his place in a 36-hole playoff that he subsequently won.

It remains perhaps the greatest Masters shot that we never saw - but it nonetheless has become timeless. 

Ben Hogan, 1950 US Open

The US Open was first televised nationally in 1954, which is a shame because we missed one of the championship's most indelible shots. 

Just 16 months after having his body shattered in a near-fatal car accident, Ben Hogan came to Merion and won the second of his national titles in 1950. In a tight battle in the final round, Hogan required a par on the notoriously difficult finishing hole on the East Course to make the playoff. His one-iron approach resulted in one of golf's most iconic photographs as the legendary Texan held the finish as his ball flew towards the green.

Hogan made his par and claimed a spot in a playoff with Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio - which he won to complete the "Miracle at Merion."

Old Tom Morris, 1860 Open

It might not have been the greatest shot in golf history, but maybe it was the most significant. Back in 1860, following the death of St Andrews professional Allan Robertson, eight esteemed players gathered at Prestwick to crown the new champion golfer.

Willie Park Sr ultimately won, but it was Old Tom Morris - the club's professional who had been a close friend of Robertson during their days together at St Andrews - who hit the opening shot.

That strike of the ball was the first moment in a story of Open Championships that has spanned over 160 years. If only those men knew at the time what they had started.

So, there you have just some moments that weren't captured by the magic of television. We'd like to know which historic non-televised shots you would love to have witnessed.

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