The 'Great Triumvirate' of Golf

Great Triumvirate golfers J.H. Taylor, James Braid, Harry Vardon

The term "Great Triumvirate," when used in a golf context, refers to the three greatest golfers of the late 19th/early 20th century period who dominated golf in Great Britain: Harry Vardon, J.H. Taylor and James Braid.

All three were British: Braid was a Scot, Taylor an Englishman, and Vardon was born in the Channel Islands.

Between them, they won 16 British Open titles, all of those wins coming in a 21-year span from 1894 through 1914. To put that another way, of the 21 Open Championships played from 1894 through 1914, only five times did someone other than the Great Triumvirate golfers win it.

British Open Wins for the Great Triumvirate Golfers

These are the Opens won by each of the three Great Triumvirate members (you can find recaps and final scores for each Open mentioned in this article on our British Open Winners page):

  • James Braid: Braid won five British Opens — 1901, 1905, 1906, 1908 1910
  • J.H. Taylor: Taylor also won five times — 1894, 1895, 1900, 1909, 1913
  • Harry Vardon: Vardon holds the record to this day with six Open wins — 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914

Taylor was the first member of the trio to win an Open, Vardon was the last. Vardon and Taylor each won Opens in three decades; all of Braid's wins happened in the first decade of the 1900s.

These golfers didn't dominate only the Open, but also all of British golf. For example, one of the other big tournaments of the early 1900s was the News of the World Match Play. From its founding in 1903 through 1912, Great Triumvirate golfers won seven of the 10 tournaments.

Others Who Won the British Open During the Great Triumvirate Years

As noted, the three golfers who make up the famous trio won 16 of 21 Open Championships from 1894 through 1914. And in the ones they didn't win, one of them — sometimes two of them — finished second.

Here are the other golfers who won the Open during that 21-year-span:

  • 1897: Harold Hilton (runner-up: Braid)
  • 1902: Sandy Herd (runners-up: Braid, Vardon)
  • 1904: Jack White (runners-up: Braid, Taylor)
  • 1907: Arnaud Massy (runner-up: Taylor)
  • 1912: Ted Ray (runner-up: Vardon)

In addition to his six victories, Vardon was a runner-up in the Open four times. Taylor had six runner-up showings and Braid had four second-place finishes.

Other Great Triumvirates

The term "great triumvirate" didn't originate in golf with the threesome of Vardon, Taylor and Braid. The term was earlier applied to three American politicians of the first half of the 1800s: Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun.

The phrase is sometimes used in another way in golf, however. The troika of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead are sometimes called "the American Great Triumvirate."

Photo credit: J.H. Taylor, James Braid and Harry Vardon photographed in 1905; public domain

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