Bobby Jones? Stewart Maiden? Harvey Penick? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Sometimes a golfer who is looking down a narrow fairway becomes overly cautious when striking the ball. The resulting golf shot travels off course or is too short. There is a popular piece of advice to counter this self-defeating tentative behavior. Here are three versions:
Hit ’em hard; they’ll land somewhere.
Hit it hard; it’ll come down someplace.
Knock hell out of them. They’ll land somewhere.
I’ve heard this credited to golfing great Bobby Jones, coach Stewart Maiden, and best-selling author Harvey Penick. Could you explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: QI believes this guidance originated with the prominent Scottish golf teacher Stewart Maiden whose nickname was “Kiltie”. Part of this advisory statement was recorded in a newspaper article printed in January 1928. Maiden was hired to instruct a “famous society woman” in the finer points of the game, and he used exuberant language: 1
She met “Kiltie” at the club and the ball was teed up for the first drive. She listened for the mystic words that were to mean “open sesame” to her in the world of golf. Maiden without hesitating, instructed:
“Get up there, Madam, and knock hell out of it!”
In September 1928 the top golfer Bobby Jones whose full name was Robert Tyre Jones Jr. wrote approvingly in his syndicated newspaper column about the counsel provided by Stewart Maiden during a major tournament. Jones contended that tight fairways and closely guarded greens were troublesome primarily because of their effect upon the player’s mental state. Anxiety and tenseness disturbed proper play. Hence, Jones endorsed maintaining an “aggressive frame of mind”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2
Stewart Maiden expressed the whole idea in a characteristically brief telegram to Watts Gunn. Watts had had a very bad first round in the open championship at Oakmont last year, driving literally all over the course. Next morning he received this message from Stewart.
“Hit ’em hard, they’ll land somewhere.”
And that is a very splendid attitude to cultivate. Even the narrowest fairways are wide enough for a well-hit shot. The difficulty arises when we allow the sight of them to upset the manner of hitting.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1928 January 1, The Sunday Times-Signal (Zanesville Signal), Tutor of Champions Going Back to Native Scotland, Quote Page 11, Column 4, Zanesville, Ohio. (NewspaperArchive) ↩
- 1928 September 19, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Narrow Fairways Are Mental Hazard to Jones, as to Others by Bobby Jones, (Article subtitle: ‘Hit ‘Em Hard, They’ll Land Somewhere,’ Was Stewart Maiden’s Advice), Quote Page 8, Column 6, Richmond, Virginia. (GenealogyBank) ↩