One of the real treasures of televised golf is Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf. Created in 1961 to showcase some of the world’s best golfers on the most picturesque golf courses, it is one my favorite YouTube viewing pleasures.
Most of the greats have been featured on the telecast including Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jimmy Demaret and more. The telecast ran from the 60s to 1970, and then picked up again in 1994 with a match featuring Greg Norman and Nick Faldo.
The scenery, dialogue, and shotmaking is all something the golf lover will appreciate. There’s also something about these telecasts that recall a simpler time and nostalgia. It’s interesting to contrast the earlier broadcasts with the later ones and the advancement in golf balls and equipment. What was a more game of precision became a power game.
I’d like to list here, five of the most memorable Wonderful World of Golf telecasts. I’d love to hear what you think were some enjoyable episodes.
Jack Nicklaus vs. Sam Snead
Held at Nicklaus’s favorite venue, Pebble Beach, this 1963 match featured an emerging young talent vs. one of the best in the game. And, it was a match that sea-sawed from Nicklaus to Snead, until the young, up-and-comer prevailed. The episode displayed how talented young Nicklaus was and the power he brought to the game. He made it look easy.
Tony Lema vs. Peter Alliss
Just months after filming this Wonderful World of Golf episode, British Open Champion “Champagne” Tony Lema and his wife died in a plane crash. Aired the next year, host Jimmy Demaret mentions this tragic event before play begins and Sarazen pays another tribute at the end. Ironically the plane crashed into a water hazard on a golf course near Chicago after it ran out of fuel. This was a tight match that came down to the final hole between two excellent young professionals.
Ben Hogan vs. Sam Snead
Incredibly, two of the finest players to play were featured in a WWG episode. Ben Hogan and Sam Snead played Houston Country Club in 1965. While these two players were in the twilight of their careers, the ability with which they played was on display. Hogan never missed a shot, but Snead was able to stay within striking distance. It truly is a treasured episode that many golfing aficionados will appreciate.
Gene Sarazen vs. Henry Cotton
Again, here is another match between one of the all-time greats of the game, at the “home of golf”, Saint Andrews. Sarazen plays host to most WWG episodes, but this time stepped up to the tee to take on Cotton, a 3-time winner of the Open. Sarazen, one of five golfers to complete the career grand slam stands out in this close match. Interesting to note he demonstrates the sand wedge at the end of the show – a club that he helped bring to the masses. Update 1/12/22: Unfortunately, this video was pulled from YouTube. It still is one of the best matches to watch, due to the history of these golfing greats.
Byron Nelson vs. Gene Littler
In 1962, this match between one of the best at the time (Gene Littler), and one of the greatest to have played (Byron Nelson) was another match of the young vs. the older generation. Nelson showcased his stellar iron play at one of the world’s best golf courses, Pine Valley.
What a treat to have these vintage matches between some of the greatest golfers at the world’s best courses. What do you think were some memorable Wonderful World of Golf episodes?