Recently I read Leigh Montville’s 2006 biography of Babe Ruth, The Big Bam.
Ruth, of course, was baseball’s first great home run king who played in the late teens, twenties and thirties for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and, briefly, the Boston Braves. The Babe ended his career with 714 home runs, a record that stood for nearly 40 years until Henry Aaron bettered the mark.
After growing up in a strict Baltimore orphanage, Ruth had an appetite for life away from the baseball diamond that would make most hedonists blush.
One of his passions was golf. The Babe had limitless energy and would often play 36 holes a day, especially during spring training in St. Petersburg, Florida.
I found this in an article from the St. Petersburg Times about a 1925 visit:
He loved it here. He loved our weather, especially when it was sunny, when he could sneak out in the morning before practice and play golf. He loved our courses, especially the wide fairways that could contain his mighty drives. He was a lousy putter; the man didn’t know his strength and sometimes threw his club in disgust when the ball rolled past the cup. But he laughed afterward.
Indeed, the Sultan of Swat could hit a golf ball prodigious distances. He was known to hit 300-plus yard drives in the days of primitive golf club technology — actual wooden clubs with hickory shafts.
Despite his poor putting, Ruth could shoot in the 70s, and when he retired he sometimes played in exhibitions with celebrities and top golfers of the day, including another “Babe,” women’s golf phenom Babe Didrickson Zaharias.
The Armchair Golfer
10 thoughts on “Babe Ruth, the Golfer”
That man was a freak of nature. The only other person that compares to him is John Daly, but I have no idea if Daly has ever picked up a baseball bat or not. I don’t think Daly is even a good comparison though, because Ruth was one of those maddening people who could play any sport at a high level.
I have a friend like that–he drives me crazy.
Tom is right Ruth was a freak of nature.
300 yards with wood clubs is insane, imagine him hitting one of today’s 460cc drivers.
Freak of nature is dead on. Before Ruth came along no one in the major leagues had hit more than 15-18 homers in a season. He revolutionized the game with his power and hit for a pretty good average, too, about a .340 lifetime mark.
No surprise that he was good at golf, another game that made use of his mighty swings and terrific hand-eye coordination.
Remember, the Bambino was also a pitcher for the Red Sox and led them to the World Series title in 1918.
A fat body, sure. But a natural athletic talent.
Here in Plattsburgh, NY is one the oldest municipal courses in the country, Bluff Point. Babe played here in the height of it’s resort fame. Pictures are still there, but the chatter has died off. Enjoyed your column. Bob
Actually the Babe could not hit his driver very far at all. Sam Byrd (one of Babes best friends) hit his 5 iron farther then the Babe could hit his driver!! Sam said Babe had a GREAT short game. Babe Ruth, Sam Byrd, Joe Louis and Grantland Rice used to play together quite often during the off season. After playing with Babe and the Yankees for 9 years Sam went on the win over 25 Professional golf tounaments!!
Steve Wozeniak PGA Director of Instruction Bellevue/Lake Spanaway Golf Courses
Steve: Did you pick that up from what Jimmy Ballard said?
Accounts I’ve read said Ruth was pretty good, about a 5 handicap. As far as distance, Montville wrote that the Babe hit some unusually long drives. Byrd, also a Yankee slugger, must have been been exceptional on the links. As far as the Babe’s short game, the St. Petersburg Time article referenced in the post said Ruth was a lousy putter (and hit mighty drives). They were there, I assume. Guess we can’t know for sure.
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It is interesting that the accounts on the Babe vary so greatly. That seems to be the sotory of Babe's Life.
I can't believe he was so good at baseball but at golf as well, he's not nearly as well known for this.