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Norman Von Nida may not be well known outside of Australia these days but he sure ought to be.  “The Von” was perhaps Australia’s finest golfers in the mid part of the 20th century. He turned professional in 1933 and proceeded to amass 43 professional tournament wins book-ended by the 1933 Queensland Open and the 1965 North Coast Open.

PGT contributor Apples2967 was lucky enough to spend an extended amount of time learning and playing with The Von and graciously allowed us to recount some of his classic stories here.

Note: text was altered from the original for grammar only.

Enjoy!

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The Von was perhaps the finest bunker player this world has known. His list of students include Gary Player, David Graham, Greg Norman and Vijay Singh.  Some of the best sand players ever. All taught by the Von.

The Von was a firm believer in hard work.  He made it policy that I had to hole 5 bunker shots everyday before I could go onto the course. I missed many tee times lol. I did get good though, even to this day, I have more a chance of holing a bunker shot than I have a 10 ft putt.

One day, Von and I rode out to play a few holes.  With Von being legally blind at this time, this was a rarity but always enjoyable.  Anyhow, on the 15th hole I missed the green in the left bunker.  It was a fairly steep bunker, the pin was tucked close, and the green sloped gently away.  Be aware also that most of the greens in Qld Australia are very firm couch.  Bermuda I think Americans call it.  All shots into these greens  had to be struck so pure and sweet just to stay on the green.  The greens at Kooralbyn were no different.  Exceptionally firm.  You could hear you ball land on the green from 150 m out.  I make this point so you can better appreciate what I’m about to share.

So, I have a very clean lie, I’m using a balata, and I’m super confident standing over the shot. The Von is standing right next to me, silent.  I struck the shot so pure, just perfect, it landed so soft, with great spin.  It landed about 2 meters short, checked, and rolled 3 feet past the hole.   I was very pleased.  Von says, “nearly, not bad, but it needs to be more like this.”

The Von throws the yellow rock, I mean his ball into the sand, waggles twice, wack, this ball landed 2 meters short of the hole, screeches, screamed to a halt, 2 cm short of the cup.  I stood wide mouthed.  It was in that instant I knew I was with a GREAT.  The noise made when his club entered the sand is hard to describe and almost impossible to repeat.  It was the purest of pure sand shot ever hit and it was only The Von and me to see it.  His Top Flight Range ball had just shown my balata what could be done.  As we left the bunker, he turned and said “See, like that, that’s how good you need to be.  Do the work”.

Many times I asked Von what he meant when he said, “more like this”.  I’d say “Yes Von, I see it was an amazing shot, blew my mind just seeing it, but HOW did u do it?”  He would just hold his right hand up, and say “this is what I mean, you must feel the sand with this, and it takes work, so much work, that you can actually feel the granules of sand on the face, you manipulate the sand to control the spin”.

On my last day at Kooralbyn I asked the green staff to set the pin in the same place on 15.  I rode out late in the day, my shag bag full with old soft balatas.  I was going to tackle that shot.  I hit the entire bag, 112 balls, I holed 14, but not once could I get the ball to finish short of the flag. As I finished I was once again reminded how great this man The Von truly was.

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A shot of Von Nida from the 1950 Open Championship:

Photo: George Jackman

3 Responses to “Traditional Golf Instruction – The Von and THAT Bunker Shot”

  1. Avatar of Blade Junkie Blade Junkie says:

    Wonderful anecdote – thanks Apples2967 and PGT !

    The skills of some of the these top pros are almost beyond comprehension for the handicap golfer. Awesome …

  2. Avatar of hickorychris hickorychris says:

    I just love these tales and the almost laconic style with which they are delivered. I wish I had seen it myself and maybe, just maybe, learned something to my add to my game. For the time being I am inspired by reading the accounts you post. Thanks to all.

  3. Avatar of freddiec freddiec says:

    Great post PGT. It was very easy to picture that whole bunker clinic story. Pretty amazing stuff. Those guys really had to have the best technique to play those shots with the gear they played. I can imagine what Vons SW looked like.

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