What Is The Best Golf Shot Ever?

What Is The Best Golf Shot Ever?
Published: 2021-10-16

Have you ever read one of those “best of” lists and wondered who anointed the list compiler as judge and jury?  

Well, recently those of us in the SportsEdTV golf world asked our digital gurus what were the most often searched golf questions online, a logical extension of our mission to provide valuable golf instruction.

To my surprise, “What Is the Best Golf Shot Ever?” was prominent in the data they found and sent to us.

That sort of lit this golf curmudgeon.  Off to my search, I went, pretty much expecting to find lists showing:

  • Eugenio Saracini’s (Gene Sarazen) 1935 Masters "shot heard round the world" a 235-yard double eagle—albatross to aficionados-on Augusta’s par 5 15th
  • Ben Hogan’s 213-yard one iron struck to Merion's 18th hole in the 1950 U.S.Open
  • Tiger Woods' "better than most" putt immortalized announcer Gary Koch's call as the 60-foot sidewinder at the 2001 Players Championship.
  • Bob Tway’s birdie from the bunker on Inverness Country Club's 18th hole to win the 1986 PGA Championship, snatching it from Greg Norman in one final unexpected albeit perfect stroke.
  • Justin Leonard’s Ryder Cup clinching cross country putt on Brookline Country Club’s 17th hole evoking a loud and controversial celebration by players clad in the ugliest team shirts ever.

As the anointed compiler of this blog, I got to recall those shots, likely because, over decades in and about golf, I got some memory adhesive with personal associations of sorts.

While working in Marco Island, Florida I was scheduled to interview Gene Sarazen but was chagrined when his daughter called to cancel the appointment as The Squire's health was failing fast and he passed a week later.  She gave me one of his famed sand wedges as a consolation.

Mike Zisman, Founder, and CEO of Golf Genius and Merion member hosted my visit to the plaque on the 18th hole, commemorating Ben Hogan’s miracle at Merion and whenever I play my old Connecticut Farmington Woods favorite 17th hole, I can’t help remembering Gary Koch’s ace there when he was a Monday qualifying rabbit for The Greater Hartford Open.

Then of course there was the effort to use Bob Tway's birdie-from-the- bunker shot as the energy to convince Scotch whiskey brand Famous Grouse to underwrite a program to add to golf's ornithological glossary by naming sub-par scores made from sand traps as Grouses for birdies and Famous Grouses for eagle.

Tracing Justin Leonard’s Ryder Cup putt was a gift from Caroline O’Donnell Brookline Champion and USGA Rules official who graciously hosted a round at The Country Club where Francis Ouimet became the first American winner of the U.S. Open.

The above, of course, being proof, how subjective the arranging of a list answering, the What Is The Best Golf Shot Ever? question can be. 

That got me thinking further:

  • What are the best golf shots I have ever seen in person?
  • What are my best golf shots?’
  • What are the best 19th hole “fish story” golf stories I've heard about?

In person, I've had the distinct pleasure of being up-close with Ken Venturi, Lee Trevino, John Mahaffey, and Moe Norman, Bob Rosburg, Ken Ellsworth, Ben Crenshaw.  Undoubtedly the most impressive golf shots I have ever witnessed have flown off the clubface of Canadian Golfing Enigma Murray "Moe" Norman.

Full disclosure, I had the professional pleasure of working on several instructional videos and books highlighting Moe's Way—the unique method of ball striking that earned him a reputation as a Ben Hogan peer as "the best ball-striker in the game."

In that assignment, there have been hours of watching the master amass golf shots by the hundreds in demonstrations and clinics which always left an audiences agape at his control, repetition, and skills.  Here is a link if you’re interested in plodding through more of my Moe Norman reminisces.

My personal best golf shots are always related to some sort of tournament play or competition in which they moved me toward the winner’s circle.  I know there have been better shots, but those made under real pressure are my most memorable.

And finally, there are a couple of 19th hole “fish stories” that always enchant me.

There's the one about notorious gambler Titanic Thompson who having lost a large sum in a morning game demanded a post-lunch rematch.  During the afternoon play, the pair was held up by a gun-toting hoodlum lurking in the bushes, demanding their money.  Thompson, peeled out his wad and handed it to his opponent, squaring the morning debt.

This one is told by David Owen, a wordsmith and golfing fiend who also grew close to Moe in writing about him in Golf Digest:

Sam Snead played an exhibition match with Ed (Porky) Oliver and Moe Norman in Toronto in 1969. On one par-4 hole, a creek crossed the fair­way about 240 yards from the tee. Norman, a Canadian pro who lived in the area, reached for his driver. "This is a lay-up hole, Moe," Snead warned him. "You can't clear the creek with a driver." "Not trying to," Norman said. "I'm playing for the bridge." Snead's and Oliver's tee shots ended up safely on the near side of the water. Norman's drive landed short-and rolled over the bridge to the other side.”

All of which supports the premise that "best of lists" are like beauty—which lives in the eyes and minds of beholders.