Joe 'The Pro' Hardwick (1931-2023)

Joe 'The Pro' Hardwick (1931-2023)


Joe Hardwick, a son of Cornwall who became a true golfing missionary by coaching in India and Hong Kong where he was instrumental in founding the then British colony’s Professional Golfers’ Association, has died at the age of 91.

Born in Newquay, Joe turned professional in 1953 and was attached to Coombe Hill Golf Club, Surrey. He was elected to PGA Membership two years later and headed overseas shortly afterwards.

His first stop was the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, India; the second, the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club.

Joe joined the club in 1965 and served it for close on 30 years during which time he became known as 'Joe the Pro', such was the esteem in which he was held by its members, staff, and Hong Kong’s golfing fraternity.

He is credited with improving the club’s standards in a variety of respects, not least its operation and set up of its three courses, as well as catering for all the golfing needs of its members and guests.

“Joe seemed to me to be the ultimate golf professional,” said Alan Walker, a PGA Master Professional and former Association Captain. “He played, coached, repaired clubs, retailed and was listened to by his club and its members."

“Joe was an original pro’s pro and a genuine host whenever PGA Professionals visited Hong Kong,” added Peter Brown, an Honorary PGA Member and close friend.

Coaching was clearly Joe’s forte and he reckoned that by the time he retired in 1995 he had given more than 100,000 lessons, three quarters of which had been delivered in Hong Kong.

Several of those were delivered to a trio of Hong Kong Governors – Sir David Trench, Lord David Wilson, and Chris Patten. Similarly, celebrities including Jimmy Tarbuck, Bob Hope, Bruce Forsyth, former Formula One world champion Nigel Mansell and England test cricketer Colin Cowdrey picked up tips from Joe when they played with him during visits to the colony.

Closer to his adopted home, Joe encouraged young caddies to take up the game and become professionals; former China national coach Peter Tang and the club’s recently retired teaching pro Cheng Kee-hung, were just two mentored by Joe who went on to enjoy successful careers in the game.

“Joe did so much in taking the sport into the community and raising the profile of the game,” said the club’s current captain, Andy Kwok. “An incredibly popular and hard-working professional, Joe was held in very high regard by everyone who knew him and was one of the club’s great characters.”

His influence in Hong Kong golfing circles extended way beyond his workplace, however, especially the part he played in forming the Hong Kong Professional Golfers’ Association (HKPGA) in 1970.

And such has been the success of the HKPGA that, having begun with five members, it now comprises nearly 200. Furthermore, in tandem with Tang, Joe helped lay foundations for golf to thrive in Hong Kong by setting up the Order of Merit, and representing the colony on a global stage, including five times in the World Cup.

It is also testament to Joe’s standing that local professionals continue to compete for the Joe Hardwick Trophy at the HKPGA Championship, while any club pro that makes the cut at the Hong Kong Open is awarded the Joe Hardwick Cup.

“Joe was a pioneer of the game in Hong Kong, and he meant a great deal to me and all the other young pros who were starting out in their careers,” said the current HKPGA chairman, Dominique Boulet, who played on the Asian Tour and now is a commentator for LIV Golf.

“He was always incredibly helpful and generous with his time, giving us great encouragement and belief. For that I will always be thankful.”

Joe was also a leading light in early editions of the Hong Kong Open, an event he contested more than 25 times; his best performance came in 1972 when he finished 25th but his favourite memory was posting a round of 67 when paired with five-time Open champion Peter Thomson the previous year.

He rubbed shoulders with more Open champions in 1987, including Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, and Bob Charles in the inaugural Senior British Open Championship at Turnberry.

Joe retired eight years later and reflecting on his time in Hong Kong, said: “When I arrived in Hong Kong, I never imagined I would stay for as long as I have. I’m proud to have been the pro at such a famous club that is steeped in history and tradition for so long.

“I always tried to impress on the new members the importance of preserving the club’s traditions. Playing golf is not the only part of the game. Sportsmanship, honesty, and club spirit are of far more significance.”

Joe was granted Honorary PGA Membership on his retirement and, dividing his time between Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, and Portugal, continued to play well into his 80s, often as many as three times a week.

And close on 30 years on, not only is he fondly remembered in Hong Kong, but the Hardwick influence lives on in the form of Joann, one of his two daughters. Known as Jojo, and born two months after Joe arrived in Hong Kong, she is a teaching professional at the club and, like her father, a hugely popular figure.

The PGA extends heartfelt condolences to her, Joe’s widow Shirley, and his other daughter Nicola on their loss.



Our Partners

  • Air IT
  • Banyan Tree
  • The Belfry
  • Coca-Cola
  • EVC
  • FootJoy
  • Gleneagles
  • PING
  • St. James's Place
  • Therabody
  • Titleist