Walter lost the tip of his index finger on his right hand in an accident in 1901, and his father taught him to play billiards left-handed. Much of his childhood was spent practising billiards for up to twelve hours per day, under his father's tutelage. The family were itinerant, and moved from town to town often. His first professional game was played at the age of only 13 years.
By the age of 16, Walter was regularly making of over 1000 during practice at the London Tavern, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, where Fred Lindrum II was running a three-table billiard parlour. By 1921 Walter Lindrum was defeating his older brother, Fred III, then the Australian Champion. Walter refused to play his brother for the title of Champion of Australia.
During the mid 1920s Walter Lindrum's standard of play was without effective competition in Australia, with many players refusing to play against him. As a result, exhibition matches were often organised, especially with New Zealand champion Clark McConachy.
It was not until 1929 that Willie Smith, considered by many to be one of the best English billiards players of the time, visited Australia and played three fairly even matches against Lindrum. With both players being one match up, Lindrum was forced to abandon the third game midway through, upon the imminent death of his girlfriend. While technically the match was a forfeit, Smith refused to accept the trophy and insisted it be awarded to Lindrum.
Smith, McConarchy and Lindrum departed Australia in September 1929 for a tour of England.
Between 1929 and 1933 Lindrum dominated the English billiards scene. Often he would start conceding up to 7000 points to his opponents. Lindrum and his main rivals, McConarchy, Smith, Joe Davis (Champion 1928–1932) and Tom Newman, were called in the press "the big five". Lindrum won the World Professional Billiards Championship in 1933 and held it until his retirement in 1950.
On 19 February 1931 Lindrum gave a billiards exhibition for the King and other members of the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace. King George V presented Lindrum with a pair of gold and enamel cuff links bearing the royal monogram. These formed part of Lindrum's essential attire for the remainder of his playing career.
After that debacle and his winning of the 1933 World Championship, Lindrum argued that he should be allowed to defend his title in Australia. The 1934 match was organised to coincide with the Melbourne centenary celebrations in September 1934. His challengers were the New Zealand Champion, Clark McConachy, and United Kingdom Champion, Joe Davis. Lindrum won this title, but in subsequent years the title became dormant for lack of challengers, until Lindrum relinquished it upon retirement.
The title of World Professional Billiards Champion next passed to McConarchy in 1951 who held it until 1968, when he was defeated by Rex Williams.
On 30 July, 1960 Walter Lindrum died while on holiday at Surfers Paradise. His body was buried at Melbourne General Cemetery. His grave attracts tourists due to the billiard table design of its monument, complete with balls and cue.
Lindrum was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and the Western Australia Sporting Hall of Champions in 1985. His house in Melbourne at 158 Kerferd Road, Albert Park, is noted for its historical association with him by the Port Phillip Council.
In Melbourne, the Hotel Lindrum on Flinders Street has incorporated much memorabilia associated with Walter Lindrum. The building formerly housed the Lindrum's Billiard Centre run by Walter's niece, Dolly. One of the original tables from the Billiard Centre has been fully restored there by the original manufacturing company.
During 1930 in Manchester, Lindrum set a record aggregate of 30817 during the fortnight match against Willie Smith. In this match he made 10 breaks over 1000 with a highest of 2419. In his final match of the tour against Smith in London, Lindrum's performance set numerous records: the highest individual aggregate (36256), the largest winning margin (21285), a record match average (262), and a record number of four-figure breaks (11). Smith, although beaten, had played excellently with an average of 109 per innings for the match.
His record break of 4137 was made in a match he lost against Joe Davis at Thurston Hall, London on 19 January 1932. Lindrum occupied the table for 2 hours 55 minutes, for about 1900 consecutive scoring shots. He also holds the record break for each country that he played in, the fastest century break (46 seconds) and 1011 points in 30 minutes.
In 1933 on a tour to South Africa Lindrum claimed a new world record for fast scoring when he completed 1,000 points in 28 minutes in Johannesburg.