In the late 1930s, Grout took a job in Hershey, Pennsylvania, as an assistant pro to Henry Picard. During that span, Picard won two major tiles — the 1938 Masters and the 1939 PGA Championship. Picard was a disciple of Alex J. Morrison, whose unorthodox approach to golf instruction — he used visual aids such as high-speed photography and introduced the concept of centrifugal force in the golf swing — was innovative (and somewhat controversial) for its time.
What Morrison taught Picard, Picard taught Grout — and Grout, in turn, taught Nicklaus. Three major points of the golf swing were emphasized:
- Hold the head still
- Stay balanced through proper footwork
- Swing with a wide arc to hit the ball as hard as possible
Power, from Grout’s perspective, was the first priority. Accuracy could be refined later. As a result, Nicklaus became golf’s longest hitter, overpowering courses. In 1961, Nicklaus broke the face insert of his driver nine times. In 1963, he won the long-drive contest at the PGA Championship with a drive of 341 yards.
Another thing Grout taught Nicklaus — to be self-sufficient in swing adjustments. Though Grout accompanied Nicklaus at many tournaments, he never set foot on the driving range at those courses. He wanted his prized pupil to figure things out himself.
“You never saw him on the practice tee,” Nicklaus said. “He taught me to be able to make my own changes, make my own adjustments, work on the things that I needed to work on so I could concentrate and I could understand how to play the game.
“That was the important thing — that I knew how to play the game. Jack Grout didn’t care about that he knew how I had to play the game. He wanted me to know how to play the game.”