Born in Grouville, Jersey, Channel Islands, Vardon, whose mother was French and father English, did not play much golf as a youngster, but showed natural talent for the sport as a young caddie in his teens. Harry and his brother Tom Vardon, younger by two years and also interested in golf, were very close. Their golf development was held back by poor family circumstances; and their father was not supportive of his sons' golf interest. Tom actually made the move from Jersey to England first, to pursue a golf career. Harry followed Tom to England in the spring of 1890, taking a job as greenkeeper at age 20, at Studley Royal Golf Club, Ripon, Yorks. A year later he became club professional at
Bury Golf Club and in 1896 the club professional at Ganton Golf Club, in Yorkshire. Harry was the better player of the two brothers. By his early 20s, Harry developed a demanding practice program, the most ambitious seen to that time. He was the first professional golfer to play in knickerbockers – discarding the "proper" dress of an Englishman in an uncomfortable shirt and tie with a buttoned jacket.