As he turns 90 today, John Jacobs will no doubt be receiving his fair share of presents.

It will be hard, however, for any of them to match the gifts he has given to the game of golf over the years.

Jacobs is one of the sport’s greatest pioneers – not only known for being the founding father of the European Tour, but for revolutionising the way golf is taught.

A Lyndhurst resident for more than two decades now, he was born, quite literally, into the sport.

He grew up at Lindrick Golf Club, in Yorkshire, where his father was the professional and his mother the stewardess.

“I played from childhood, and I copied people,” he said, revealing the keen eye that would play such a crucial role in his career.

Henry Cotton was the man who Jacobs would model his game on, after seeing him play at the 1938 Open Championship.

It did the trick, as he developed into a fine professional himself, particularly in match play, starring for GB&I in the 1955 Ryder Cup, where he won both his matches and beat America’s star player, Cary Middlecoff.

It was in teaching the game, however, where Jacobs really made his name.

“It took over completely,” he said, describing it both as a “tragedy”, in that it held back his own game, but mainly as “a huge blessing”.

After leaving the Air Force in 1947, he became assistant professional at Hallamshire Golf Club, in Sheffield, where word quickly spread about his ability.

“I learned how to teach people by teaching myself,” he said.

“I just watched the ball – if I hooked it, well, the club face must be closed.

“The face of the club is by far the most important.”

It was that focus on what happens at impact, as well as his assertion that teaching ‘down the line’ and not face-on – or “the blindfold position,” as he calls it – and the simplicity and clarity with which he explained things that have helped form the cornerstone of how many people teach the game today.

Jacobs tutored many of the world’s greatest players during his own career – the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Jose Maria Olazabal are just a small selection of names to have sought his advice.

His legacy reaches far further than in how the game is taught, though.

In fact, were it not for him, the entire landscape of golf in Europe could be completely different.

Jacobs set up the European Tour in 1971, after he and others spent years campaigning for the PGA to improve the professional scene.

“I am proud of that,” he said. “It would have happened, it was bound to happen, but somebody had to do it.

“I got it from a down-market, pathetic British tour, short of tournaments and money, into a European Tour, which was ever so much better.”

Jacobs, who was awarded an OBE in 1997 and inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame three years later, added: “Things have grown naturally with the game, and the players we’ve produced.

“There have been so many good players come through. Rory [McIlroy] today, and so on.”

The Tour has, over the decades, blossomed into a global giant and it is no coincidence that, since its inception, Europe have come to dominate the Ryder Cup – Jacobs himself captained the first two teams that represented the continent as a whole.

Nowadays, back issues mean he is not able to play the game, but he remains an avid watcher, and gets his sporting fix by fishing on the Test.

“I thank God every night,” he said, when asked how much joy golf has given him.

“I’ve had the life of a golf professional, and successful enough to make tonnes and tonnes of friends, both sides of the Atlantic.”

Today, those friends will no doubt be raising a glass to him and to a very happy birthday.