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  • Alistair Tait

The Cack-handed Golf Tour

Ever played with anyone who hits a golf ball cack handed. Thought so. Me too.

So are there enough cack-handed golfers to fill out an amateur tour? Never!

Namesake Alan Tait disagrees.

The Scot, the same Alan Tait who once set a course record 64 around Carnoustie, is putting together the first Scottish Cack Handed Mini Tour after announcing the first Cack Handed Scottish Open Amateur Championship, which is pencilled in for August. As you can see from his Facebook post, he’s already lined up a few decent venues.

Now there’s a tour with a difference. Would love to cover one of those events.

I’ve seen golf played cack handed. And to a high level. Scotland’s John Gallagher nearly played in the Open Championship and Masters with a left hand below right grip. Gallagher said he’d never had a golf lesson in his life, but arrived at Royal Birkdale for the 2005 Amateur Championship with a plus 2 handicap.

“I once changed to orthodox for two or three weeks, and everything went wrong,” Gallagher said. “I feel much more comfortable this way, and I’ve managed to keep improving. My swing is all about timing, but there is no way I will change now.”

He made it all the way to the final against Ireland’s Brian McElhinney. On another day, Gallagher could have made history by becoming the first cack-handed Amateur champion, but he succumbed 5&4. Shame.

"It’s scary to think of my grip at Augusta,” Gallagher said on the eve of the final. “I can’t wait to hear what the TV commentators say about my swing.”

Neither could myself and the other journalists lucky enough to attend that year’s championship. No disrespect to McElhinney, but most of us were rooting for Gallagher for obvious reasons.

The Scot went on to win the 2007 Scottish Amateur at Prestwick, but never made it to the European Tour. Gallagher wasn’t the first cack hander to play for Scotland. Jim Hay did so in the 1970s with a left hand below right hold on the club.

Comb through the record books, and finding other cack handers who found success with their unorthodox method is hard to find. South African golfer Seesunker “Papa Doc” Sewgolum is arguably the most famous of the left hand below righters. Like Gallagher, he was self taught. He learned to play the game in the caddie yard using second hand clubs.

Sewgolum won three Dutch Opens (1959, 1960 and 1964), two Natal Opens (1963 and 1965), and finished 13th in the 1963 Open Championship. He might have won a lot more had he not grown up in South Africa under apartheid. He succeeded despite apartheid. Sewgolum’s story is one of the saddest in the history of the game.

Compatriot Vincent Tshabalala achieved a modicum of success on the European Tour using a cack-handed grip. He won the 1976 French Open, and recorded two second place finishes on the Senior Tour after turning 50.

Canadian Callum Davidson plays the MacKenzie Tour and uses a cack-handed grip. Like many youngsters, it was the first grip Davidson used when he first began the game. As he told Score Magazine’s Jason Logan last year, he’s never seriously thought about swinging a golf club any other way.

“There were times when I thought: What if I change? But I never really gave it a real go of trying to swing with a normal grip. I always just thought: What’s the point?”

And there’s the rub: why change something that works?

Former Royal Lytham professional Eddie Birchenough was coach to Russell Claydon for most of the Cambridge man’s career. Claydon had an unorthodox grip in which he overlapped three fingers of his right hand over his left, and he regriped the club at the top of the backswing. Yet he featured on the victorious 1989 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team, and went on to win the 1998 BMW International open on the European Tour in a career that saw him finish no worse than 82nd on the money list between 1990–1999.

I once asked Eddie B if he’d ever thought of changing Claydon’s grip. The respected teacher simply said:

“Why would I do that? It works, and that’s all that matters.”

There’s more to holding a golf club than the Vardon method. You’ll discover that if you sneak along to one of Tait’s tournaments this summer.

#JustSaying: “I have always been interested in how golfers would play if they went on using the grip all children instinctively adopt, left hand below right, when they first handle a club and hit a ball. Later they are shown how to play ‘correctly’! But what is correct?” Sir Henry Cotton

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1 Comment

Jan 24, 2022

Josh Broadway played the KFT Tour (and maybe the PGATour I can‘t recall) with a cack handed grip. When growing up I always heard tales of a fellow named Palmer Lee who played that way. The old gentleman who would tell me tales regarding Palmer Lee always said “Palmer Lee, that cross handed SOB”! Mr Lee used to have his number it seemed!

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