Calvin Peete

The incredible true story behind Calvin Peete's legendary accuracy


Calvin Peete is one of the most successful African American golfers of all time. He won the Players Championship and was a member of multiple Ryder Cup teams, but his defining on-course achievement was becoming perhaps the most accurate ball strikers in golf’s history .

No one in the men’s game hit more fairways more often than Peete, and he did it with a homegrown swing born from the most modest of upbringings.

It’s a golf swing which may look peculiar to us, but take a closer look and you might understand just how he became an accuracy machine.

Watch the video below to learn how.

It’s hard to overstate just how accurate Peete was from tee-to-green. He led the PGA Tour in Driving Accuracy 10 times in the period from 1981 to 1990, averaging nearly 82 percent of fairways hit.

To put that in context, that’s better than Lionel Messi's penalty success rate over his career (77 percen). It's a higher percentage than the NFL's single-season pass completion record (Drew Brees 74 percent in 2018). It's better than Michael Jordan's free throw percentage during his 1998 MVP season (78 percent). Over a decade, Peete hit more fairways than Roger Federer won tennis matches in his career (82 percent).

Peete also finished inside the top two in Greens in Regulation on tour in five of those years. And if you’re wondering how many balls he hit out of bounds in the 1,200 rounds over the course of his entire career, the answer is simple: an astonishing one.

It's no wonder Lee Trevino's nickname for him was Xerox. He just kept hitting fairways, over and over again.

To better understand Peete’s swing, you have to first understand where he came from.

The freak accident

Peete was one of 18 children growing up and spent most of his youth on a farm in Florida. He didn’t take up golf until he was 23 years old. When he was a child he fell out of a tree and badly broke his left arm and elbow. Without the money to see a doctor, Peete’s arm healed incorrectly, which is why he was never able to full straighten his left arm.

This became the defining quality of Peete’s golf swing, and in many ways, its greatest asset.

While other players create speed and power by stretching and lifting their arms up and away from their body, Peete’s perpetually bent left arm meant he couldn’t do that.

The limited mobility in Peete’s left arm meant his only option was to keep his left arm tethered really closely to his body throughout his entire swing.

This is a trait another legendary ball striker, Ben Hogan, considered hugely important in his own golf swing.

Because the arms and the body remain so closely connected throughout the swing, it meant that as Peete rotated through on the downswing, his arms and body turned through in one singular motion, similar to how a figure skater pulls their arms close to their body, when they begin to spin fast.


What he lost in power, Peete more than made up for in accuracy, as he told Golf Digest in 1982:

"In a way, the crooked left arm does me some good. It naturally stays close to my side on the downswing and through the ball. This helps me swing the club down on an inside path, and my left arm folds naturally after I've hit the ball."

The final ingredient to Peete’s legendary accuracy, in his own words, was his ball position.

The reason why this is so important, as Peete says, is because the bottom of golf swings work like an arc. They go from high, to low, to high again.

If the ball position moved around, it meant Peete would hit the ball slightly differently every single time, which would rob him of the consistency he needed.


Peete wanted to hit his driver slightly on the upswing, which meant placing the ball inside his left heel. That’s why he was so focused on making sure it was in the same spot, every single time.

The end result was a man who discovered on his own what worked for him. He rose from nothing to become one of the greatest black golfers to ever play the game, and one of the best ball strikers of his generation.

Watch the full video below...