This is the story of a small black box and its contents. By small I mean maybe four inches by seven inches and three inches deep. When I first saw the box, it had several old rubber bands around it—real rubber bands, not the synthetic kind, dating probably to the 1930s. The box was from a larger cardboard carton, one of about 20 that lined the wall behind me.
It was a spring morning in 1995, and I was alone in a conference room at the Atlanta law firm of Alston & Bird. I was researching a book, which I have since published, titled Bobby Jones: The Greatest of Them All, and the trail had led me to Atlanta and the firm, which was established by Robert Tyre Jones Jr. while he was still playing tournament golf.
There was a real sense of history in the room. Whenever I looked up from the long, polished table where I worked, I gazed upon some striking Jones artifact. The walls were covered with framed photographs: Jones as a child; Jones in a rain slicker in 1927, his hand on the U.S. Amateur trophy; Jones with President Eisenhower. On the far wall hung an original architectural rendering of the Augusta National Golf Club, signed by Jones's codesigner, Alister Mackenzie.
There were also the boxes of Jones memorabilia that his family and firm had generously said I could look through. The legal documents didn't interest me, but there were hundreds of photographs, newspaper clippings and letters from people Jones had met during his remarkable life.
Then I came upon the black box. I took it out of the carton, pulled off the rubber bands and opened the top. Inside was a stack of photos, maybe 150 in all, of Jones swinging golf clubs. It was obvious that the pictures were taken for instructional purposes, and each was numbered on the back. Also in the box was a sheaf of pages torn from a yellow legal tablet. The pages were headed with the words Grip, Putting, The Woods, Long Irons, Short Irons, Bunker Play, etc. Below had been written, in pencil, the numbers of the pictures and, next to each number, brief comments about swing mechanics.
I couldn't believe what I was looking at. I felt like Howard Carter, the fellow whom Lord Carnarvon bankrolled in the '20s to help him find King Tut's tomb. If you remember the story, they found the tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, dug their way down to the burial vault and reached a stone wall. They pulled out a single stone, and Carter leaned in with a candle, the first person in over 3,000 years to gaze upon the gold sarcophagus and all the treasures the grave robbers had never gotten to. Lord Carnarvon, peering anxiously over Carter's shoulder, said, "What do you see?" Carter said, "Wondrous things."
I felt the same excitement. I was holding something like lost treasure, something that probably hadn't been looked at for more than 60 years. I recognized Jones's handwriting, and I knew from all the research I'd done that the photos had never been published. The pictures were sharp, for the most part, and Jones's prose was extremely descriptive and efficient. There were some cross-outs, but one thing was obvious: It was the master's own words in his own hand.
Returning to the larger box, I discovered a viewfinder and six film-strips. The strips corresponded to the swing photos and fit into the viewfinder, so it was pretty clear that Jones had created these strips for one of his day's alternative media.
Anyway, I knew that I wanted to do something with this rare find. The Jones family gave me permission to publish the photos and instruction, but I wasn't sure how to proceed. I didn't want to change a word of what Jones had written, but I thought the concepts should be updated. I showed Ben Crenshaw, the two-time Masters champion, my find, and we decided to photograph him in the same positions as Jones and then have Ben provide a modern commentary on his technique. The result of our collaboration, Classic Instruction ($25, The American Golfer and Broadway Books), is to be released next month.
Ben has an amazing eye for detail. He looked at a close-up of Jones's grip and said, "He must have had tendinitis." I studied the picture, which I had been looking at for two years, and sure enough, Jones's right-hand middle finger was noticeably swollen. It was Ben's idea to have our art director, in the putting photos, drop a dotted white line from the player's eyes perpendicular to the ground. Ben said, "Many teachers today teach 'eyes over the ball,' but I say you want your eyes to be inside the ball." When we drew lines from their eyes to the ground, both Jones and Crenshaw were in the same position—eyes above the putter hosel, not the ball. Jones, of course, was one of the greatest putters ever, and Ben certainly belongs in that company, too.