The Enigma That Is Sarazen's
double eagle 4-Wood
The USGA Museum recently acquired the 4-wood said to
be used by Gene Sarazen to make his legendary double
eagle at the 1935 Masters. But is it really
April 16, 2009
By David Normoyle
On Dec. 2, 2008, the USGA Museum came into possession of a
golf club with a mysterious history. The club was rumored to
be Gene Sarazen's famous double eagle 4-wood from the 1935
Masters. Yet how could the staff of the USGA Museum verify
whether this really was the club he used to hit that famous
shot? Sarazen died in 1999, and on at least three separate
occasions "The Squire" himself gave away a club
that he claimed was
club. With Sarazen gone, how are we ever to know the
|The sole of a Gene Sarazen 4-wood,
first photo above, that was allegedly used to record his
famous double eagle at the 1935 Masters. A Golfing
magazine ad, second photo, from May 1935 depicts the
Wilson 4-wood model used by Sarazen. (USGA Museum)|
At the USGA Museum, the attempt to solve this curatorial
dilemma, and the inquiry into the history of the club, has
become nearly as compelling as the shot itself.
In the 74 years since Sarazen's miraculous stroke that
Sunday at the Masters, and his victory in a playoff the next
day, scores of news articles have contemplated the fate of
the famous club and the hazy facts that have long surrounded
As a matter of policy, the USGA requires that donations to
the Museum possess a clear provenance and offer a significant
contribution to the story of golf in the United States.
Though the true nature of the club is unclear, its provenance
is solid, and it certainly makes a contribution to the story
of golf in America. Sarazen's miracle shot propelled the
nascent Masters tournament to the front pages of newspapers
across the country and gave the tournament - and golf - a
much-welcome boost during the depths of the Great
Understanding the true nature of this enigma has required
some basic detective work from the Museum staff to establish
what is clear beyond doubt about the club. This much is known
to be true:
- The club is a Wilson TurfRider 4-wood from the
mid-1930s and matches the contemporary descriptions of the
club Sarazen used to make the double eagle on Apr. 7, 1935.
He said so in a telegram to the president of Wilson
Sporting Goods on April 8, in an article he wrote for
in May 1935 and in numerous advertisements that appeared in
golf magazines of the era touting the club as the one he
- The club now in the possession of the USGA Museum was
once owned by Gene Sarazen and used by him in competition
at the 1939 St. Paul Open. In a story by Al Wold that
appeared in the Minneapolis
on July 31, 1939, Sarazen is reported to have given his
caddie, Thor Nordwall, his "famous No. 3 wood
[sic]" from the 1935 Masters in appreciation for the
young man's services. "He's the best caddy I've ever
had," Sarazen was quoted as saying.
- Nordwall, not knowing the club's purported identity,
actually used the club for some time before discovering,
around 1970, the newspaper article from 1939 claiming the
4-wood was actually the famous double eagle club.
- For many years, Nordwall, who emigrated from Sweden to
Minnesota when he was a child and who is now in his late
80s, sought a permanent home for the club. He ultimately
donated it to the USGA in December 2008.
Based on that provenance, there's a reasonable case to be
made that this is
club. The club was owned by Sarazen and used by him in
competition four years after the 1935 shot, and there is a
newspaper account quoting Sarazen that this was the actual
double eagle club. But there is some compelling evidence that
calls this particular account into question.
The club itself has two distinctive markings that offer
further clues as to the club's true identity. One is the word
"Do-Do" inscribed along the leading edge of the
brass soleplate. The second is the club's patent number,
painted in white on the wooden sole.
First, let us consider the patent number.
On May 19, 1936, the U.S. Patent Office granted Patent
2,041,676 to James P. Gallagher, designer of the TurfRider
club. The patent had been applied for on May 9, 1934, almost
a year before Sarazen's shot at the 1935 Masters. That proves
that the TurfRider sole was in existence at the time, though
it does call into question the presence of a patent number of
the sole of the club. The patent was not granted until more
than a year after Sarazen's shot; the patent number would not
have been known in April 1935, nor could it have been on the
club at the time of the double eagle. In order for this to be
the club, the patent number would have to have been added
more than a year after the fact.
But that's not the only thing that had to be added. The
existence of the phrase "Do-Do" engraved on the
sole both adds to the story and confuses it.
In a telegram dated Apr. 8, 1935, Sarazen referred to the
shot at Augusta National as his "dodo," a reference
to the legendary, and long extinct, dodo bird. If, on a golf
course, a birdie is somewhat rare, an eagle rarer, and an
albatross rarer still, then Sarazen's "Do-Do," the
double eagle that helped him win the Masters, would truly be
the rarest of bird in golf. But Sarazen said that the
"TurfRider woods made possible that dodo" - not
that the "Do-Do" wood made the shot possible. Fifty
years later, in an interview with Furman Bisher at the 1985
Masters, Sarazen said, "I took the four-wood. It was a
new club which was called a 'Dodo.'"
The 1935 Wilson equipment catalog does not feature the
TurfRider wood in its product line, nor has "dodo"
ever been a euphemism for a wooden club -- like spoon, baffy,
brassie, or driver have been throughout golf history. The
first known graphical connection between Sarazen and the
TurfRider club is in an advertisement from May 1935, touting
Sarazen's great shot and the new TurfRider clubs.
Fortunately, there is an image of a prototype of the club,
but that image differs in two dramatic instances from the
club now in the possession of the USGA Museum.
First, the club has the words "Pat. Pend." on
the sole. This would be consistent with the May 19, 1936,
granting of the patent. Second, where "Do-Do" is on
the purported double eagle club, we find instead the words
|Thor Nordwall, 87, cradles a Wilson
4-wood given to him by legend Gene Sarazen in 1939 for
caddie services. It is believed that Sarazen used this
club for his double-eagle 2 on the 15th hole of Augusta
National G.C. at the 1935 Masters. (Photo courtesy of
Warren P. Ryan)|
It is difficult, given the lack of evidence, to make a
compelling argument that the phrase "Do-Do" could
have been engraved on the sole of the club
Sarazen made his double eagle. The "Do-Do"
engraving and post-dated patent number create a classic case
post hoc ergo propter hoc
, the logical fallacy where subsequent events cannot be the
cause of an event itself.
Adding further confusion to the story is the existence of
as many as a dozen replica clubs that were made by Wilson in
the late 1930s. Not enough is known about the production of
these clubs to draw any real conclusions. However, the
replica clubs could very well have had the patent number on
the sole if they were made after May 19, 1936. And the phrase
"Do-Do" could certainly have been engraved on the
sole of these special replica clubs, whether they were used
exclusively by Sarazen or employed by Wilson Sporting Goods
to promote its connection to one of golf's pivotal shots.
The mystery surrounding Sarazen's double eagle club
endures, and the true nature of the USGA Museum's Sarazen
club remains unclear. There is no conclusive proof that this
club. But the USGA Museum staff has not come across any
evidence that conclusively disqualifies the club, either.
Baseball has Babe Ruth's "called shot" in the
1932 World Series. Football has Franco Harris's
"Immaculate Reception" in the 1972 NFL playoffs.
Both were pivotal moments in their day, but the mystery
surrounding them - did Ruth really point to the spot of his
home run? Did Harris really make that amazing catch? - allows
these bits of sporting folklore to endure long after the
moments themselves fade from memory, long after they are
surpassed by more dramatic home runs and more spectacular
It was Sarazen's miraculous shot, not the playoff victory,
that mattered, just as Ruth's home run and Harris's catch
live on when we forget whether the Yankees won the World
Series or the Steelers eventually won the Super Bowl. It was
the mystery of the moment that counts. The moment is why
people watch sports - to say you were there when something
Visitors to the USGA Museum for generations to come will
now have the opportunity to look at the Sarazen club and
wonder if it is really the club that struck that historic
shot at a Masters long ago.
David Normoyle is the Assistant Director of the USGA
Museum. Contact him with questions or comments at
. For information about visiting the USGA Museum in Far
Hills, N.J., including hours of operation and travel