Bob Danziger - Same Length Long Golf Clubs and Jack Earle
I fell thirteen feet when a ladder broke, severely injuring my back and causing a lifetime of challenges.  I was eighteen at the time and had been an avid golfer.  A 4-handicap, I broke par three days in a row for the first time, and then a week later I broke my back.  I wanted to play again - badly - but each return to the game stopped as the back deteriorated.

After the accident I took up T'ai Chi and it helped a lot.  I learned to twist or to bend - but I could not do both.  

I was watching an LPGA tournament and a very young and very tiny pro used a long driver, standing up virtually straight, and won the tournament.  I wondered if we could make a golf club long enough for me where I could swing without bending.

We could, we did, and launched me on a path of discovery through circus giants, family stories, inspirational humanity, the inner workings of the USGA and Royal and Ancient, and the joy of stealing a few extra years of playing this great game.

Same length clubs have become popular now due to the success of U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion Bryson DeChambeau.  Not all the clubs in his bag are the same length.  Irons and woods are different lengths.  In my case, because I couldn't bend and have relatively short arms, all my clubs, from woods to wedges, are all the same length - 51.5 inches.  These are some of the extra-long, all the same length clubs Callaway and Cobra made for me between 1997 and 2005 next to the standard length clubs:

Background Info


I broke my back in the late 70's.  I was 18 at the time and had just started breaking par.  I spent many years trying to find a way to play again, and in the early 90's Callaway made me a set of clubs all 51.5 inches so I could swing without bending.  I got about ten more good years of golf before the back deteriorated and I'm not playing now - only chipping a few balls now and then.  I designed a all-terrain Walker/Chair to allow me to maybe play a few holes.


The USGA passed a rule in the early 2000’s limiting all clubs except putters to 48 inches.  In corresponding with the USGA and their historian, Rand Jerris, and to the best of their knowledge, I had the longest set in the world, and the only set in the world made illegal by the new rule.  However, Rand also mentioned a set of clubs given in the USGA Museum that belonged to a circus giant in the 1920's.


This is where the adventure begins.


After much Googleing, Newspaper Archiving, USGA records searching, and some luck, the story of Jack Earle -  sideshow freak, golfer, poet, painter, sculptor, inventor,  storyteller, silent film star, traveling salesman, musician, and friend of crippled children. Jack the Giant's best friends were the munchkins in Wizard of Oz.  His clubs weren't actually that long by modern standards (in fact his driver was 50 inches and his putter was only 30), but they were made in 1924 using hickory shafts and very early versions of metal shafts.  In fact his steel shafted-clubs were made the first year steel shafts were allowed by the USGA (and 3 years after the Western Golf Association).  Jack was 8 feet 7 inches tall.  It is likely but undocumented that he knew Leo Diegel through a mutual acquaintance in Tucson.  Leo Diegel was also a contemporary of the "Seven Golfing Turnesa Brothers" who are connected to this story through a son, Joe jr., who was on the road for Titleist for many decades and whose bad back and short arms required him to make an extremely long golf club set in the 19560's.  Another fun coincidence is that Jack Earle's cousins were close friends of my grandfather, and through all this I learned some heartbreaking facts about my own father.


Then, through contacts in the Sideshow world I'd made researching Jack, I found Gil.  Gil Reichert was also a sideshow giant, 8 feet 4 inches.  There is very little in the public record regarding him compared to the rest of us.  A couple of small-town newspaper articles describe his clubs as 12 inches over standard - and they were stolen at least once.  Gil was also on the House of David basketball team.   All the House of David teams featured players who wore very long beards.  Babe Zaharias later pitched for the House of David baseball team - she didn't have to wear the beard.  If the newspaper accounts are accurate then some of Gil's clubs are longer than mine and some shorter.


The last member of this unusual foursome is Joe Turnesa jr. who hurt his back working for Titleist in the early 60's and made a set that was all 9 to 16 inches over standard.  Joe was with Acushnet his entire career.  When I spoke to him in 2000 I was playing at Kapalua and he was managing tour support for Footjoy.  When I started doing research to find out about Joe's clubs I first Googled him and discovered the Turnesa family.  Starting over 100 years ago with the Italian immigrant orphan Vitale who, desperately needing work, and in a place that his sainted wife could be healthier, found a job shoveling dirt for a golf course being built in Elmsford, NY.  Six of his seven sons became professionals - Joe Sr. played on the first two Ryder Cups and won 15 PGA events.  Brother Jim won the PGA.  Brother Wil stayed an amateur but won both the U.S. and British Amateur and captained the Walker Cup Team in 1947.  The Turnesa Brothers still hold the record for most brothers to win PGA events (4 brothers, 24 events).  Vitale became the first of now four generations professionally involved with  golf who have been a part of the fabric of almost every great golfing event in the history of American Golf.  In 2008 Marc Turnesa win the PGA event at Las Vegas  -almost exactly 100 years since his grandfather made that fateful walk from New York.


This is a story of inventing your way around problems.  This is a story of the 20th century viewed through a prism of the fringe of physicality.   This is a story of the generosity, both personal and corporate, unique to the golf range and the club designer. As I mentioned, I am not a professional writer, but I have been a professional researcher, and I've done a lot of research in connection with these stories.  


Dear Bob,

Many thanks for sharing all of your research with us.  This is terrific information to add to our files, to help enhance our understanding of the clubs and of Jack Earle.  The amount of information you’ve found is impressive, and tells a good story. 


We do have occasion to see Mr. Trevino at the Senior Open from time to time, and if I get a chance to see him this summer I’ll be sure to ask.





-----Original Message-----

From: Bob Danziger Sent: Wednesday, January 05, 2005 9:12 PM

To: Rand Jerris

Cc: Carter Rich

Subject: Fw: Research Notes


Dear Rand - I have completed a pretty extensive look at the life of Jack Earle.  The summary results are set out below.  I will be happy to send you all of the scans of the original documents, notes, pictures, etc.  The files pretty big so you may need it by disk.  I will try to send the full file in a seperate email so you have a good provenance on the clubs in your collection.


The only thing I would recommend you do in addition to my work is to see if you can interview Lee Trevino on his role in donating the clubs and his relationship with Myer Erlich.  I have no way of getting to him but you may.


I must say that Jack Earle is an excellent example for all of us who invent our way around problems to do the things we want to do and have to do.  I can't think of a better person to carry the message for those of us who have made special clubs to steal a few more years of playing golf.


Bob Danziger


Jack Earle's Golf Clubs in the collection of the United States Golf Association

There is one historical point or coincidence that is worth noting for the record regarding Jack Earle, the former circus giant who's clubs are in the USGA collection.  The correspondence from the USGA indicated that his clubs were made in 1924 by the Chicago Golf Company, and include two steel-shafted clubs - a brassie and an un-named club (both over 48").  This is of interest because 1924 (April 12, 1924) is also when the USGA first legalized steel shafts, and more than five years before the R&A legalized steel shafts (The Rules of the Green; A History of the Rules of Golf; By Kenneth G. Chapman: Triumph Books 1997).

Jack Earle with Harry Doll - they were best friends having met in the freak show for the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. Harry Doll was the patriarch of the Doll family who were the munchkins in the "Wizard of Oz."
Gil Reichert succeeded Jack Earle with Ringling Brothers and was also an avid golfer

World’s Longest Clubs? 



(Note:  This story was written before Tom Preece moved from Callaway to Cobra.  Cobra made me two set of golf clubs to conform to the 48” rule, again going way over business as usual to make me special sets for my special needs.  I remain astounded at these acts of kindness and generosity.)


My golf clubs are all 51 and ½ inches long.  Paradoxically, the United States Golf Association (USGA) passed a rule last year that makes clubs over 48 inches illegal.  While the rule does not apply to putters, all my clubs, which I’ve used for years, are now uniquely not regulation.  This distinction pleases me, however, because the USGA ruling carved me a tiny slice of golf history.


And, as you’ll see more below, I likely have the ONLY full set of clubs that are longer than 48 inches. 


Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not upset, I’m not going to sue anybody.  In fact, I’m delighted, thrilled even. 


There are a lot of stories here:  a story about the history of the rules; a story of one golfer overcoming his physical challenges to steal a few more years of playing; a story of the almost zen teacher type relationship between a serious student and great golf professionals, a story of club designers and craftsman; all laced with a classic story of technology development.


I don’t know about you, but I like the lore of golf’s rules.  Golfers are trusted to call penalties on themselves - the part of golf that exemplifies honor.  From Tom Watson to Roberto Divicenzo and thousands of examples famous and obscure golfers have called penalties on themselves, often at the cost of tournament victory.


The rules changed and now I get to call this one on myself.


Was it unfair?  Since when did golf guarantee fairness?  Isn’t one of the sublime challenges of golf overcoming adversity?  Isn’t every bad bounce an opportunity to hit a great shot?  Isn’t every ironic twist of the wind just another solidarity with Tom Morris, even Shivas Irons?


I think so.


And, as an added bonus, it appears I may have the longest set of clubs in the history of golf.  What guy wouldn’t love that?


Aimed at curbing the problem of ever-longer drives, the new 48 inch rule (along with rules on “spring-effect” club faces and club head size) provide boundaries for future club development, and limit the impact of ever-increasing length off the tee, especially by elite golfers.


My personal physical challenges (back and size) created a need for special clubs so I could play.  At the time these clubs were invented my back problems sharply limited my ability to bend and twist.  On the other hand I’d been doing T’ai Chi off and on for 30 years and knew I could twist if my posture was quite upright. 


A number of club lengths were tried and 51 ½ inches was the shortest club we could make that did not require me to bend excessively. 


The pros, club makers and I all knew that the length of the clubs could make their use difficult.  However, I also believed from my martial arts experience and years of playing many musical instruments,  that if I got my hands into the right positions with the right tempo the clubface would be at the right place at the right time.  And I knew from learning to play musical instruments that if I practiced something enough I’d eventually own that movement.  I believed I could “dig it out of the ground” like Hogan.  I knew I was no Hogan, but I could still “dig.”


USGA Historian Rand Jerris was kind enough to look into this for me.  Below is our exchange of emails:


To: Rand Jerris
Cc: Carter Rich
Subject: History of the 50 inch wedge


Dear Rand:


Below is [part of] an email I sent to Carter Rich with respect to the USGA's relatively new rule on limiting club length to 48 inches.  I had previously corresponded with Andy Mutch on this topic and I would very much appreciate your input as well.  In particular my query to you relates to question number three below:


3)     On a related note, you [Carter Rich] told me that you were unaware of any entire sets of clubs that were greater than 48 inches.  I have also asked this question of Mark O'Meara, Chi Chi Rodrguez, Jeff Sluman, several PGA club professionals, club manufacturers, shaft manufacturers, and Andy Mutch, former USGA historian, as well as reviewing books on the history of the golf club.  No one is aware of any set of clubs that is all greater than 48 inches.  Could you ask around among your colleagues and perhaps review the comments to the USGA's proposed club length limit rule to see if anyone is aware of such a set beside mine?  Is it likely true that I have the only full set of clubs in the world made non-conforming by the 48 inch rule?


Any help you can give me on these questions from a historical perspective would be most appreciated as being a piece of a small corner of golf history would be really special for me.


Thank you in advance.


Bob Danziger



Here’s Rand’s reply:


From: Rand Jerris

To:  Bob Danziger

Cc:  Carter Rich

Sent:  Friday, November 05, 2004, 7:11 AM

Subject;  RE;  History of the 50 inch wedge


Dear Bob,


Many thanks for your email.  I’ve spent a few days looking into your question, and really haven’t come up with anything that quite matches your custom set.  There is an interesting set of clubs in our collection from the 1920’s that belong to a circus giant.  I’ve measured these clubs, and while almost all of the clubs exceed 48”, the wedge and putter measure approximately 45”.  These are the closest parallel that I have been able to locate, but again, they fall a few inches shy of yours.  One other possibility – and unfortunately we have no way to check up on this – is that there have been many professional basketball players well over 7 feet tall who have been passionate about golf, and I wonder if any of these gentlemen ever had a custom set of clubs made.  Certainly there has never been anything mass produced and mass marketed of this length, and there simply aren’t records of custom clubs.


Please let us know if we can be of any additional assistance.

Best wishes,
Rand Jerris

USGA Museum and Archives


The circus giant was Jack Earle (born Jacob Ehrlich) who was with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus in the 1920’s.  Mr.  Earle, over 8 feet 6 inches tall, was also an actor, sculptor, painter, saxophone player, storyteller, skeet shooter, big game fisherman, animal trainer, silent movie star (appearing in over 45 films), chess player, photographer and poet.  He was also an extraordinarily kind man devoting a large part of his life to visiting crippled children’s hospitals and telling them stories for hours on end about boys and girls who made friends with giants.  After retiring from the circus he made his living as a traveling salesman for the Roma Wine Comapany.  Here’s a picture of him with a normal putter:


Jack Earle’s clubs, however, are considerably shorter than mine.  The Jack Earle set was made by the Chicago Golf Company in 1924.  The club head sizes are consistent with the clubs of that era.  The clubs were contributed to the USGA museum by Jack’s brother Myer, who persuaded Lee Trevino to present them to the USGA.  The club lengths are:

Brassie      50” shaft, metal

[Unspecified name]  49” shaft, metal

Mid-Iron        42.5” shaft, hickory

Mashie        40” shaft, hickory

Niblick        39” shaft, hickory  

Putter         37.5” shaft, hickory


I do know one other story in addition to me, Jack Earle, and the possible NBA center.  Joe Turnesa , who worked for Footjoy doing tour support, told me in a conversation in 2000 that he made a set of clubs of graduating lengths (mine are all the same length) that were all 16 inches over standard.  He told me he’s durt his back in the 1960’s and that’s why he made the clubs – essentially the same reason as for myself.  After a few years his back healed but he kept on with the longer clubs, playing to a low single digit handicap. If my understanding of our conversation is correct than Joe would have the longest set of clubs.  I’ve tried to contact Joe through Titleist but he has retired and they’re going to try to find him and have him get back to me.   I wonder whether our long club Joe Turnesa is related to the great PGA tour pro Joe Turnesa who was a contender in the Walter Hagen - Bobby Jones era.


Some of you may also know that the Tommy Armour Company made and sold (briefly and not well) a set of clubs where all the irons were one length (I think 5 or 7 iron length), and all the woods were the same length as the 3-wood.  I’ve also heard several stories about golfers who had made sets all the same length. 


There you have it.  To the best of our knowledge I have the only complete set of clubs made non-conforming by the new 48 inch rule. 


In the process of doing this work we heard from several pros and club makers that uniform lengths would result in all the clubs going the same distance.  Obviously this is incorrect.  Some unusual gaps do appear, but experience has proven distance control to be excellent.  Loft is significantly more important than club length.


Most people seem amazed at the wedges, which are 15 inches longer than normal clubs.  How can I play the short game?


I believe that anybody who plays the game of golf well practices a lot to develop the swings, learns how to maintain the swings, and learns how to fine tune when necessary.    Experience has shown me that I can improve with practice, but fine tuning my short game for competition took longer than for normal clubs.


Two other rules points are worth knowing about. First is that the USGA has a “Modified Rules of Golf” developed for the physically challenged golfer and that the USGA is considering further development of the Modified Rules in ways that may well accommodate my situation and dozens of others.  The proposal as described to me is quite clever and clearly draws on the Casey Martin experience in a creative way that also promotes fairness.


Second, under the existing rules, the USGA allows a caddy to do all of the ball marking, teeing up, fixing ball marks, identifying and picking up a ball as long as you declare to your fellow players before teeing off that you are designating the caddy for this purpose.  Of course if the caddy makes a mistake the golfer pays the penalty.  This has come in incredibly useful for me and I think would be very helpful for many golfers as they get older or stiffer.  It also brings you closer to some of the most interesting people in the game – the caddies.  I might add here that both my father and I supported ourselves at times in our lives as caddies.


There are three PGA Golf Professionals, a model maker turned golf club craftsman, and Callaway who made this dream come true and invested it with skill, spirit and generosity.


Riley Summers was an Assistant Golf Pro at Brentwood Country Club in Los Angeles.  Riley was the first person I talked to about my desire to find a way to play again and we kicked around a lot of ideas, including some pretty wacky ones like putting a club head at one end of a Bow (as in bow and arrow) so I could hold the club almost straight out.  Fortunately this wasn’t necessary.  Riley and Bob Harrison, Brentwood’s head professional, got some 54 inch long driver shafts and I set out to find someone who would make me some long-shafted irons.  I went to a dozen shops and no one would try.  Finally, a friend recommended John Wong’s Superior Golf in Montebello – a melting pot working-class area with nary a private club in sight.



John had been a technical model maker for a major engineering outfit and had left to be his own boss, closer to his family, and because he loved golf - serious about the rules too.  A bunch of people of all classes and backgrounds frequented the place drawn by the friendly ribbing, conversation, the Dad’s Root Beer and John’s great skill.  Among the denizens was Tweet – a retired master machinist and toolmaker who helped John out from time to time. Tweet could play too.  Medium single digits player.  John worked too hard, he was low double digit.


John crafted me the set of clubs that made it all possible – and everybody in the shop helped cause it was a lot of work.  The long driver shafts worked for woods but not for irons.  John glued extensions into 1-iron steel shafts, and put shock absorbers under shock-absorbent grips.  Tweet bent and ground knockoff irons so that lie angles and club head weights were close to identical.  Other irons and woods required lots of lead tape to get the weights right.  The standard weight was one pound.  Hundreds of hours went in to making these clubs.

Probably the most unusual club we made was this giant wedge I could disassemble and pack in a suitcase so I could practice my short game when I traveled on business.  Whiffle balls in my hotel rooms and Hyde Park, and disbelieving stares at driving ranges in Tokyo passed a lot of lonely hours.


Notice the extreme amount of lead tape needed to make the fairway woods near the same weight as the irons -


Around this time Riley Summers left golf to pursue another career, and Bob Harrison became my golf pro, teacher, coach and very good friend (and Southern California PGA Teacher of the Year 2002-2003).  More about them and Laird Small, the third PGA Professional and head of the Pebble Beach Golf Academy, later.


Two hour lessons once or twice a week.  Hours and hours on the practice range and chipping green every day.  Exploring  the Inner Game of golf and everything we could imagine in our journey to playing the game well.


After doing this for about a year I’d worked my way down to a 12 handicap (I’d been a 4 before the accident, and had broken par three days in a row for the first time the week before the accident).  I decided to treat myself to a round at Pebble Beach.


I arrived at Pebble Beach, dropped off my clubs and parked the car.  When I got to the first tee area all of my clubs had been taken out of my bag.  Apparently a major corporate outing was under way and a number of pros including Chi Chi Rodriguez and Mark O’Meara were clustered around the first tee examining my clubs.  Three of the younger pros asked if they could try the clubs.  The first pro shanked his ball into the hotel rooms on the right.  The second dribbled the ball a few yards up the fairway, and the third also shanked it.  I got some nice applause when I put my 2 iron about 220 yards up the middle.


Then on the fourth tee I saw Chi Chi with a group over on the famous 17th tee.  I went through my pre-shot routine, addressed the ball, looked up and not three feet away Chi Chi stood and said to me “Hit the ball.”  The golf gods were with me and I lofted a 260 or so yard drive with a nice little draw in to A position.  Without smiling, moving, and in a stern voice, Chi Chi said, “Do it again.”   I teed it up, did my pre-shot routine, and hit one of the best shots I ever hit, the second ball landing within a few feet of the first shot and bounding up the fairway another 20 yards or so.


There was a moment of silence, Chi Chi looked at me hard in the eye, shook my hand and said,  “You are a tremendous athlete”.  No one had ever said anything remotely like that to me before.  I certainly had never thought of myself that way.  To say that Chi Chi’s comment inspires me, propels me, and warms me even these many years later is an understatement.  It also released a part of me that got me repeating this story until my wife and friends became truly sick of hearing it.  What I found from Bob Harrison and many others I’d told the story to is that they had similar experiences of Chi Chi saying or doing something that inspired and warmed them - special man.  


Where Chi Chi’s comment has been most valuable to me is in my confidence that I can find athletic solutions to overcome my physical challenges instead of being dependent solely on drugs and surgeries and external assistance.


At a certain point it became clear that clubs designed for me from the ground up would be necessary for me to advance.  The set John made proved the concept, but the prototype set had to make a lot of compromises and adapt a lot of equipment for unintended uses.  All the grinding and gluing created some visual problems and some randomness in club performance.  The engineering and manufacturing requirements  for a totally new design existed only at the best and biggest club manufacturers.


So Bob Harrison suggested I write a letter to Callaway where he knew some folks.  I explained my situation and they invited Bob Harrison and I to come down to Carlsbad, and visit with their Research and Development department.


We met in the club-fitting room used for their PGA pros, and Tom Preece then-of Callaway and a few others looked at my clubs and watched my swing on what was then futuristic launch monitors and other camera gadgets.  To this day I don’t know why but they agreed to try to make me a club, and if that worked out maybe a whole set.


It turned out to be quite a challenge to make a reasonably light club with uniform club head weights, uniform lie angles, and with a tip strong enough that the forces in a golf swing wouldn’t shear off the head from the shaft.  To accomplish this Callaway had to design custom-weighted tungsten inserts for the Big Bertha irons so that the irons were the same weight as the lightest club – the driver.  Because we needed to have the lie angles all be the same, about the same lie angle as the driver, they had to use a special titanium for the club heads so they could be bent as much as 9 degrees – versus the maximum 1 degree normally allowed.  And most challenging of all, Callaway had to design an entirely new shaft with a super-strong tip made of materials and manufacturing methods that were not yet in use.


And they did it, they pulled it off.  In my opinion a tremendous engineering achievement in materials science, CAD/CAE/CAM, and mechanical engineering.  I felt the beneficiary of a miracle.  A few years later, after I’d moved to the Pebble Beach area and was taking lessons from Laird Small, Callaway made me yet another set of clubs based on the X-14 irons where we kept the lie angle constant but allowed the club head weights to vary.  Laird also had Callaway modify the flanges on the wedges to correct some technical problems that resulted from the radical change in lie angle


It is safe to say it was one of the finest experiences I have ever had with a company in any field. 


And the clubs are beautiful – black shafts with “Callaway Golf, R&D Prototype, Specially Designed for Bob Danziger” stenciled on each one.  Prized, prized possessions.  I won the lottery – or at least it felt that way.


My part of the bargain was to figure out how the clubs performed under a given set of conditions, so Bob Harrison and I then spent hundreds of hours doing something I would recommend to any golfer.  We found a practice fairway and worked the opposite direction from any target so that I wouldn’t unconsciously adjust my swing to get more or less distance.  We got a friend to act as spotter and Bob stayed with me.


I would swing, say a full swing, full speed 7 iron and Bob would determine if it was a good swing.  If it were, Bob would determine if the wind was excessive either with or against, and if everything was OK he would raise his arm and the spotter would go to where the ball landed.  Bob would then use a scope to get the exact yardage, but not tell me what it was.  Then, when we had five good swings with the wind just right, we’d average the results.  We did this for nine different swing speeds and club positions for each of three wind regimes.  You can see an example below.





With a Slight Wind

No wInd

Against a Slight Wind








Full at ¾ speed






Armpit at ¾ speed






Low Hard






S   9:30 ribs






S   9---  hip






S   8:30 pocket






S   7:30  shin

91 Yards, 20 Yard Roll



S   7---   ankle

5.7 Yards, 12 Yard Roll



S   6:30  putt

3+ Yards, 10 Yard Roll











I worked my way down to (high) single digit handicap, broke par occasionally on the front or back nine.  Did pretty well in some tournaments, although I’m basically a range rat and loved hitting 2, 3, 4 hundred balls a day.  Loved it.


I showed flashes of the short game I’d need to really improve, and I worked at it as much as my back would allow. 


In the two years before my back took a turn for the worse I had the chance to take a number of lessons from Laird Small, head of the Pebble Beach Golf Academy and PGA Teaching Professional of the Year.  He was taking my game to a new level, and I’m hoping to get back there soon.


The story is a pretty cool one, I think, about history brushing me with niche in the annals of golf.  The part of golf history where I win the Master’s was apparently already taken.  Oh well.  But it’s more about Callaway, for reasons I still don’t know, performing small miracles to make these clubs for me.  . And it’s especially about the countless kind and encouraging words I have received at the range, or the course.  Thank you.


I’m not going to write here about my specific physical challenges and the range of things I’ve needed to do as my conditions developed, evolved, and unfortunately, sometimes deteriorated.  I would, however, be happy to correspond privately with anyone who’d like to or needs to explore this further (my email is listed above).


Do you, the reader know some basketball players or others who have sets longer than mine?  What about long club stories?  I’d love to hear about them.  Please email me with any information you might have.


  •  Jack Earle was born in Denver Colorado in 1906 as Jacob Erlich [Often incorrectly spelled as Ehrlich]  Only a fragile four pounds when born, his parents were worried about him surviving.His family called him Jake  He had two brothers, Myer and Ben.

  • At ten years old he was over six feet tall.

  • Lived in El Paso, Texas growing up“Jacob would avoid people by walking the alleys on the way to school so he could hide if he saw someone coming.”

  • At 13 he was over 7’ 1” and traveled with father to Los Angeles.

  • Century Comedies Jerry Ash and Zion Meyers offered him a job in the movies because of the stir he made in Los Angeles.

  • Jacob took the screen name Jack Earle, and appeared in many movies.

  • “Over the next few years Jack Earle was busy in the movie making business, and going to school.  He appeared in films like Hansel and Gretel in 1923 and Jack & the Beanstalk in 1924.” 

  • Appeared in 48 movies with stars of the day including Baby Peggy

  •  “Jack's movie career came to an end during the filming of one of his movies when he fell from the scaffolding he was standing on.  The scaffolding broke loose and Jack fell to the ground were he broke his nose and ended up in the hospital. While he was in the hospital his eyesight became blurry and within days he lost his sight completely.  As his doctor examined him he found a pituitary tumor.  The tumor had pushed up against his optic nerve during the fall.  For the next four months Jack underwent X-ray therapy.  His eyesight returned and it was thought the treatment may have stopped his growth.”  Another version of this story is that he was thrown from an antique automobile (what was antique in 1920?)  Late in life Jack is quoted as saying he was thrown from a truck.  The Saturday Evening Post says, “Jack's cinematic career ended disastrously during his forty-ninth picture when he fell from a scaffolding attached to one of the studio's so-called comedy cars. He crashed fourteen feet to the ground and was simultaneously beaned by a timber that had broken loose.  He woke up in the hospital with a cracked nose and blurred eyesight, and within three days he was totally blind.”     

  • Jack also did vaudeville in the Chicago area and elsewhere.

  • At approximately 17 he was eight feet six inches tall.
  • “Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus passed through El Paso, at the time they had a man working for them who was billed as the worlds tallest man, at seven feet five inches tall Jim Tarver was still thirteen inches shorter then Jack the Giant.  The circus offered him a one year contact which turned into fourteen years.”

  • Jack said that “he didn’t want to be a sideshow freak but that he needed to make a living” 

  • “He speaks a little disdainfully of what was euphemistically called his  "show"; the immobile hours on the bare stage, the thoughtless youngsters' who banged his shins to prove that he was not on stilts, the staccato of embarrassing or foolish questions, the ubiquitous drunks looking for a fight.  He soon lost count of the number of times he had one of the midgets sit on his palm to demonstrate the thirteen- inch span of his fingers”

  • GOLF

  • Fond of golf.  Enrolled as a golf student in a Chicago golf school.  Jack had special extra-long set of clubs made for him by the Chicago Golf Company in 1924.  The golf club heads were normal size.

  • The clubs were contributed to the USGA museum through Lee Trevino by Jack’s brother, Myer Erlich, in 1972.  Myer was an avid golfer and knew Lee Trevino through their connection to El Paso.

  • Jack’s clubs were probably the longest set ever made to that time, and may still the second or third largest set behind Robert Danziger’s.
Jack Earle’s club lengths (2)
Brassie                              50” shaft, metal
[Unspecified name]            49” shaft, metal
Mid-Iron                           42.5” shaft, hickory
Mashie                              40” shaft, hickory
Niblick                              39” shaft, hickory  
Putter                                37.5” shaft, hickory
  • Jack was a good friend of Roy Drachman who was Tucson City Golf Champion and was involved in bringing  the Pro Leo Diegel to Tucson, and in helping develop the first made-for-television golf match Leo Diegel created the Tucson Open, and was reported to give Walter Hagen one-a-side.

  • There’s a great golf gamesmanship story where Hagen, posing as Diegel, called a priest and told him he was despondent and going to commit suicide.  Diegel was a devout Catholic.  The Priest went to Diegel’s house and stayed with him all night despite Diegel’s protests.  Diegel was so exhausted he lost the next day’s match to Hagen.

  • Roy Drachman went to school with Jack’s brother Ben.  Roy says Jack enjoyed surprising people with his great height.

  • Used as an exhibit/witness in a libel suit.

  • Deputy Sheriff from El Paso, Texas.

  • Trained African Pygmy Elephants.

  • Sold thousands of rings made of lead that said “Jack Earle Giant” on them. My grandfather may have provided the lead.  He’d buy back any that did not bring luck to the purchaser. 

  • “Liked midgets best, and counted many as close friends.”   “Most of all he liked the Dancing Dolls, the family of four little people whom we met in an earlier chapter. A familiar sight in the circus was the giant walking between the tents, his big voice booming in reply to a high-pitched remark from little Harry Doll or some other midget who was perched on his shoulder. In Jack's first season with the circus, Harry, in particular, was very helpful to him.  On Jack’s first day in the sideshow he felt ill at ease when the midget Harry Doll pointed out to him that there were more "freaks" in the audience than there were on the sideshow platform.”

  • Harry, Daisy, Tiny and Grace Doll,- a famous family of midgets, subsequently became Jack's most intimate friends, and he still visits them every winter in their home at Sarasota, Florida.”

  • Jack also worked with and is pictured with with Major Mite (Clarence Chesterfield) who was 2’2” tall during his tenure with Ringling Brothers

  • “On the road he was wedged into Ringling's famous Car 96 with the rest of the freaks.”

  • “He suffered from claustrophobia and other terrifying complexes, and he had only scorn for the people who stared at his great frame. "There were times," he says in painful reminiscence, "when I wished I had never been born. I hated the world."”

  • Described as most talented of a long line of Ringling Brothers Circus giants.  
  • Weighed 385 -pounds.
  • Jack stayed with the circus until the late thirties early forties, and traveled with many circuses.   He left the Ringling Brothers circus at some point and started his own sideshow which he took to Australia and New Zealand. 
  • During World War II was classified 1-A by his Draft Board but was rejected by the army when he reported for duty in October 1943.  He reported for duty with Charles Amasalian who was 4 feet 11 inches who was also rejected by the army despite being classified 1-A.
  • Painting and Sculpture:  “Professional caliber painter” of still-lifes and delicate landscapes.
  • Delphic Studios in New York City staged an exhibition of his work.
  • Two versions of how Jack entered art school:  “The interest in the art began when he did a head in clay of an Australian bushman exhibited by the circus. John Ringling saw the work, sensed the fact that his giant was talented, and sent him to an art school to study sculpture.  There he became interested in the field of painting and studied with the Mexican painter Emilio Cahero of El Paso.”  Jake’s nephew says that Jake was a extraordinary artist and that he was with some of the sculptors who were making objects for the Ringling circus - animals and such - and that he did some things with clay that got their notice and they - the circus artists - arranged for him to get a scholarship to art school. 
  • Worked in watercolors and oils, watercolors only after becoming traveling salesman.
  • Sculpted in clay and other mediums.                             
  • Jack leaves the circus and sideshow for good after 14 years.  He moves back to California.
  • After Jack left the circus he represented the Treasure Island World Fair.
  •  Sometime later Jack became a traveling salesman for the Roma Wine Company  and worked his way up to public relations.
  • There are two Roma Wineries, named as such in different contexts.  The first was founded in 1889-90 in Sonoma by the Scatena brothers who initially called it the Santa Lucia Winery before it was named the Roma Winery.  It was sold in the 1920’s to the  Domitilli and Massoni families, who sold it in 1944 to the Alta Vineyards Company.  Finally the Roma Winery ended up in the hands of the Seghesio wine family who purchased it in 1949 to add to their current winery holdings.  Another Roma Winery was founded after Prohibition by John Battista and Lorenzo Cella, who expanded their operation to become the single biggest producer of California wines in the days following Repeal.  This winery was later taken over by the Cribari family, and the Cribari label was bought by the Wine Growers Guild in 1970, which later became the Guild Wineries.”
  •  During Prohibition the Cella brothers shipped grapes and produced cooking sherry, wine sauce, concentrates, and sacramental wines.  Cella Brothers advertised the the Roma Wine Company as the largest winery in the world.  After selling to Schenley in 1942, by the 1950’s Roma was the best selling wine in the United States. Roma is still a wine brand owned by Canandaigua. [note – Roma is not listed on their web site.  Other brands include Manischewitz, Almaden, Inglenook, Cribari and Taylor.  Cribari is the name Roma was changed to at least in part.]
  • Part of his route included Humboldt in far northern California.  He stayed at the Humboldt Inn where they made him a special bed. He spoke to service clubs in the Humboldt area.  
  • Spent up to 11 months per year on the road as traveling salesman. 
  • “Jack travels constantly through forty six states, crisscrossing the land three or four times a year.”
  • “Learning to overcome the hardships of traveling – such as having to buy my socks a gross at a time and sleeping doubled up in train berths wasn’t the chief difficulty.  It was psychological – getting people to realize that, despite my size, I was just a normal person trying to earn a normal living in a normal manner.”
  • Other Special Issues of Extreme Height:  “He wanted to drive a car like other men, for in-stance, but no ordinary car would hold him. He finally had to remove the front seat of a large five -passenger coupe, add nineteen inches to the steering column, and drive it from the rear seat. Even then he discovered that the steering wheel blocked his view, so he sawed off the upper half.”
  • Visiting the homes of newly found friends, Jack disconcerted housewives by noticing dust on high shelves and moldings that others could not see. "I used to dust the moldings at home for my mother," he says with a grin, "and I just couldn't resist poking my fingers into dusty places."
  • “He found his huge fingers would not fit the holes on a dial phone, so he has to use a pencil instead.”
  • “He wanted to ride the subway-an ambition still considered balmy by some of his New York friends- but gave it up on the first try when his skull connected with the blades of a ceiling fan. He has to avoid night clubs because they are badly lighted and he always crashes into things-such as unused chandeliers-that are suspended from the ceiling.”
  • “The first time he was given a wrist watch by his employers, he found that the strap was three inches short. He couldn't wear it until his brother, an El Paso jeweler, designed a special gold clasp to bridge the gap.”                 
  • “Jack still takes a giant's view of guest towels in the average house because they're never large enough to dry fingers that have the same diameter as a fifty cent piece.”      “Jack can't ride a Pullman car without in-structing goggle-eyed porters how to combine two drawing-room berths into one”.     “In most hotel rooms he has to have two beds, placed end to end, and made up with an intricate overlapping of sheets.”                                  
  • "There are also merchants in strategic locations from coast to coast who can handle the unique emergencies that arise in his daily life. There is a Hollywood tailor, for instance, who makes a new suit for Jack four times a year, an undertaking that would intimidate the stoutest haberdashering heart. Jack's suits, which cost $185 [in 1950] each and require elaborate blueprints so that pockets, cuffs, lapels and other parts are in proper proportion, use up eight yards of cloth and cannot be pressed on ordinary machines. His shell-rimmed glasses, shirts, hats and gloves are all made to order. He has to buy socks a gross at a time because the mill won't tool up the special machinery for less, and his handmade shoes – “I really get a bargain on  those," he laughs-are twenty-five dollars' a pair, a price on which the manufacturer takes a sizable loss.                                  
  • Wore a four-and-a-half-carat diamond ring.                  
  • Jack had “no permanent home, because the average house might have to be completely remodeled to fit his needs.”                                                                       
  • Jack lived in hotels where the management was familiar with and willing to assist him with his special problems. 

  • “Jack was a carefree driver until he had an accident one winter in Colorado. The car overturned and he was trapped inside.  His back was wrenched so severely that he had to go to the Mayo Clinic for treatment.”                                                                         
  • “Jack used to bowl along the highways at a dizzy clip, but he has slowed down since the car skidded on an icy Colorado road several years ago and turned over. . 'The road crew that found his Herculean body stuffed under the dashboard tele-phoned for a tow car and understand-ably reported that two men had been hurt. Jack never really recovered from this violent impact, and has already visited the Mayo Clinic four times for treatments on his wrenched back. "I suppose it was quite an event when I showed up in Rochester," he admits modestly. "They had to put two dia-thermy tables together and use two ex-amination booths. They had a staff meeting for me, and a seminar with all the endocrinologists. If nothing else, the world will remember me as the greatest guinea pig the Mayos ever had.”                        
  • One of the ablest merchandising specialists in the wine business.

  • During the period Jack Earle was with the Roma Winery it went from being a small provider of bulk wine to the largest wine seller in the country.                  
  • “To promote the biggest winery in the world Roma hired the biggest man in the world, Jack Earle.”           
  • “Constantly visited crippled children’s wards and hospitals in the San Francisco area where he told original stories he created about boys and girls who had giants for friends.”
  • Broadcast original fairy tales over a west coast radio system.                                                                         
  • Wrote a whimsical children's book.                                
  • Very artistically talented and worked in a variety of mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, poetry, storytelling, and played the saxophone, piano and sang.                                                                       
  • Jack was published in a book called The Long Shadows.                                                                       
  • “He has taken prize-winning photographs, usually of strong but sad human faces.”                                           
  • Fixture in San Francisco which was the closest place to home he had.                                                             
  • “Here, [in San Francisco] once a year, he puts on white whiskers and a red coat to act as a giant Santa Claus in orphanages or hospitals for children.  Dogs and children have a curious warm affinity for him, and hundreds of youngsters in the San Francisco area have learned to play the “Jack Earle story game,“ a pantomime in which his windmill arms and hands magically turn into enchanting birds, fish, trees, river and hills.  It is in San Francisco, too, that he has the only chair in the United States large enough to hold him comfortably. It was made for him by his company,  and in it he has spent many a spare hour creating advertising ideas or painting water colors and oils, which he always gives away. On weekends he visits Harry Serlis, the com-pany vice-president, or plays chess with Ken Pearson, his oldest friend and advertising manager for the firm.”                         
  • Roma Wine Company had headquarters in San Francisco.                                                                          
  • Jack spent about two months a year in San Francisco.                                                                         
  • “While there [in San Francisco] he occupies a huge room in the Palace Hotel and sleeps in a nine-by-six-foot bed which has what must be the largest sheets in the world. Jack's few personal possessions are also stored there-a shotgun with a stock as big as a canoe paddle, special coat hangers big enough for two average suits, fishing rods only slightly smaller than a flagpole, extra custom-made belts and suspenders and other odds and ends, mostly odds. Jack also garages his trick car in San Francisco, and uses it on his Pacific Coast routes. The machine was altered for him by a Bakersfield mechanic and is probably the only expensive car in San Francisco without theft insurance. No one else, with the possible exception of another giant, can drive it.”                                              
  • Only met one person taller than him in his whole life – Robert Wadlow of Alton, Illionis who stood 8 feet 9 and one-half inches.  “Wadlow was then almost nine feet tall, and Jack was so flabbergasted to find himself looking up instead of down that his mind went blank and the hateful question popped out automatically. "Hey, Bob," he blurted, "how's the weather up there?" Wadlow took it gracefully, and Jack says it taught him a lesson. "People still ask me about the weather up here," he says, "but I don't really mind it any more. I can even shoot back an answer: hot air at the summit, somewhat cooler in the foothills."”                                                                     
  • Jack was also reported to be an excellent skeet shooter, skilled chess player, a gamefish angler of note in Florida, and an avid reader.                              
  • 22-size shoes and 18-size gloves.                                      
  • On November 4, 1950 the Saturday Evening Post ran an article titled Private Life of  a Giant.                                
  • “No one ever makes him wait for a seat in a restaurant, for example, and elsewhere crowds open up like the Red Sea when he is coming through. Businessmen who meet Jack never forget him or his name, and when he conducts a sales meeting there are no chair squirmers or wandering minds. "No secretary ever tells me the boss is in conference," he chuckles.”                                                                           
  • "The average man," he says with wry humor, "wants to be different. I, on the other hand, have spent the past ten years trying to be an average man.“                      
  • “He is drawn restlessly to the seashore, and most of his paintings have surf and sand.”                                    
  • Jack’s nephew Andrew does not believe Jake ever had a great love other than his family, did not marry and had no children.                                                      
  • He says himself, "There are thoughts I had as a boy that I still haven't escaped. I remember the grown people laughing at me. But I don't ex-pect the world to be made over just for me. If I had a chance now to become a man of average size, I don't think I'd take it. And when I feel low I can go to my room and lock the door, and I can read or paint or write."”                   
  • Jack died of kidney failure on July 18, 1952 at the Hotel Dieu Hospital and is buried in Texas.  He was 46 years old.                                                                  
  • Jacob Erlich was very quietly spoken, mild mannered, warm, supportive kind and gentle.  Sensitive and artistic, a gentle giant, “his large eyes peered shyly at you through a huge pair of spectacles.”  An exceptional athlete, remarkably intelligent, a loving family person, an extraordinary human being.                                                                                                                                                              
  • A poem by Jack Earle:

Shadowy mists

Swirl and steal

Dawn the cornices

Of my mind,

Quietly at first

Then faster and faster,

Into the deep hiding places

Of my terror

They penetrate,

My steps quicken . . .

And I flee in fear

From the pursuing shadows. 

Below is some correspondence announcing the rule change that allows disabled golfers to use special long clubs if warranted by their disability:

Dear Friends,


I am pleased and proud to forward to you this email from the USGA.  As you may remember the USGA had made all clubs longer than 48", other than putters, illegal for all golfers.  A few of us who have used longer clubs for medical reasons asked them to reconsider.  And even though there are very, very few of us who benefit from this rule change, the USGA (and presumably the R&A) went out of their way to accommodate us.  This the best of what golf represents.


Bob Danziger


Begin forwarded message:

From: Bob Danziger

Date: July 11, 2007 1:12:26 PM PDT

To: "Carter Rich" <>

Subject: Re: Question re long clubs


Dear Mr. Rich:


I can't tell you how pleased and excited I am by your email and the USGA's action.  By coincidence I was on the phone with a gentleman who runs a golf tournament for disabled golfers when I received the email, and he was also very excited.  Our most fundamental excitement comes from the USGA continuing to shepherd the rules of golf so that people of all sorts can go out and play this wonderful game as long as they're not trying to gain an undue advantage.  My heartiest congratulations and deepest thanks to you and all involved.


Yours truly;


Bob Danziger



On Jul 11, 2007, at 9:01 AM, Carter Rich wrote:

Dear Mr. Danziger,


When we last communicated, I think that I mentioned that we were fairly close to a decision regarding requests of your nature.  I am happy to tell you that we have made a medical accommodation for club length in specific circumstances.


Based on the information provided regarding your medical condition, it is possible that you may be permitted to use clubs exceeding the 48” length limitation.  However, you must request permission from the local committee (i.e., the Competition Committee in charge of an event, the Rules of Golf Committee of your course, etc.), which should involve providing them with medical documentation of your condition, if necessary, such as a letter from your treating physician.


If the Committee believes that you have demonstrated a medical need for the exception and that you do not gain an undue advantage over other golfers as a result of using the exception, the Committee may authorize you to use clubs longer than 48”.  However, please note that, in applying this exception, it is required that the shortest club carried by the player is no more than 10” shorter than his longest club.


Should you have any questions or concerns regarding the above, please feel free to contact me.




J. Carter Rich

Manager, Equipment Standards

United States Golf Association

For Johan Aasens "role" in "Should married men go home" the propmakers at the filmstudio made him a set of golfclubs- even though he never took a swing in the movie. He keept the clubs and later he did some golfing. According to letters I have from his manager and some newarticles he liked the game and did play it here and there. fom
Re: World's Tallest fully mobile giant?
by lasoi » 17 Jul 2012, 18:22

Pitz wrote:
In the golf video about Paul Sturgess his teammate says that Paul has an handicap of 4. So if it is true it would proof that Paul has an amazing coordination as a giant.

Yeah I was surprised, and maybe a bit jealous, at how coordinated and limber he appears in the slow motion video of his golf swing. I would hardly have thought it possible for a man of his size.