Golf Books From 2012

JULY
Kiawah Golf: The Game's Elegant Island
Author: Joel Zuckerman
Publisher: The History Press

An odd duck of a volume, "Kiawah" is part paean, part carnival barker, and heavy on the kind course photographs designed to let loose a golfer's pheromones -- which it, indeed, will do. The text is pheromone directed, as well, thick in its unvarnished praise for the island, its loops, and a few of its movers and shakers with quick looks at the history of the PGA Championship and the '91 Ryder Cup to try adding ballast. Still, "Kiawah" floats away on warm air of its own overkill, the kind of book that seems tailor-made primarily to decorate the coffee tables of the rooms in The Sanctuary, Kiawah's swank hotel.


Golf Is ...: Defining the Great Game
Editor: Paul Dickson
Publisher: Dover Publications

Golf is a game that lends itself to compilations of quotations; there have probably been more mots dropped through the centuries than putts. Dickson builds his small volume around a single theme -- getting a grip on with what makes golf golf -- and it certainly has its charms ... and not just from the usual suspects. For example, it would be worth remembering that "In golf as in life it is the follow through that makes the difference," even if it didn't come from such a masterful miner of the human condition as Samuel Beckett, the Irish Nobel laureate, who -- no joke -- liked to habituate the golf course when he wasn't just sitting around waiting for Godot.

JUNE

The Upset: Jack Fleck’s Incredible Victory Over Ben Hogan at the U.S. Open
Author: Al Barkow
Publisher: Chicago Review Press

The ultimate hero. The ultimate underdog. Put them head to head and, well, we all know how this one turned out. The indefatigable Barkow takes on the indefatigable tale of the ’55 showdown at Olympic in day-by-day and -- for the playoff -- lively hole-by-hole and shot-by-shot detail. As improbable as the outcome always is, so is this: Almost 60 years ago, an American golfer had incorporated yoga into his mental game, and for one amazing week, it helped him find Nirvana.

Bobby’s Open: Mr. Jones an the Golf Shot That Defined a Legend
Author: Steven Reid
Publisher: Corinthian Books

All these years later, we still can’t satisfy our jones for Bobby -- and why should we? Reid, a doctor, works to examine Jones’s complex mind by stitching the various strands that Jones had to pull together to win his first Open championship. The telling’s a bit clinical, but the story nonetheless thrives, especially in the analysis of Jones’s miracle recovery on the penultimate hole of his drag-out with Al Watrous over the storied links of Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s.

The Golf Majors: Record & Yearbooks, 2012
Author: Alun Evans
Publisher: Evanstar Publishing

If the more than 700 pages of Evans’s epically comprehensive journey through the Majors in “From Old Tom To The Tiger” (see April) is just too much of a trek, he cuts the load in half here by jettisoning his detailed write-ups for events prior to the millennium. All the stats – in all their glory – remain. If the heft has shrunk, the addiction potential happily hasn’t.

MAY
The Longest Shot: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan and Pro Golf's Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open
Author: Neil Sagebiel
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

All these years later, we still marvel at the improbability of a municipal pro from Iowa catching the mighty Hogan on the final hole of regulation and then prevailing in a playoff. The Fleck saga would be golfing fantasy if it weren't, in fact, so terrifically real; Sagebiel's scrupulously reported book chronicles it with verve.

The 100 Greatest Golfers Ever
Author: Andy Farrell
Publisher: Elliott & Thompson

From Allan Robertson to Rory McIlroy, Farrell, the former golf correspondent for The Independent in Britain, taps a collection of the 100 finest swingers - male and female -- of all time, groups them by era to weigh them against their peers, and gives each a short bio and assessment. Debates? There are many. Fun? Just consider his final five pairings in the race for the best through the ages: Young Tom Morris and Harry Vardon, Joyce Wethered and Mickey Wright, Seve and Arnie, Tiger and Hogan, and last off the tee, Jack and Bobby Jones. Who wouldn't pay to follow those matches?

Harvey Penick's Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings From a Lifetime in Golf - 20th Anniversary Edition
Authors: Harvey Penick and Bud Shrake
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

There's a reason this is the best-selling golf book of all time, and two decades since it first appeared, the wisdom and gentle story telling within remain as timely - and timeless - as ever. If you haven't read it, there's no time like now to dip in.  

The Rules of Golf in Plain English
Authors: Jeffrey S. Kuhn & Bryan A. Garner
Publisher: University of Chicago Press

The rules are the rules, and as much as we bristle about the arcana of their general presentation, we need them. It's the pairing of the authors that makes this third edition of "Plain English" - updated for the 2012 changes - so trenchant. Kuhn's a lawyer and USGA rules official, and Garner's penned the best modern guide to English usage. Together, they unravel the mysteries, rule by rule and clause by clause so even non-lawyers and language whizzes can revel in their understanding.

Great Golf: Essential Tips From History's Top Golfers
Editors: Danny Peary and Allen F. Richardson
Publisher: Triumph Books

Every guru has his or her path, which may be why so few golfers reach Nirvana. Still, fundamentals are fundamentals, and this instructional shelf in a single volume offers essential teachings - in their own words - from the giants of practice (Bobby Jones, Nicklaus, Hogan, and Babe Didrickson all the way back to Whigham and Vardon) and theory (Ernest Jones, Percy Boomer, Bob Toski and Jim Flick) alike. Put them all together and what do you get? Either the most well-oiled swing of them all or total paralysis by analysis. No matter, for in the end, the real takeaway is the history lesson embedded in the historical march of its tips.

Golf Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Golf
Author: Matthew Silverman
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Silverman (no relation to the author) fills up 180 pages with lots of stuff no golfer needs to know, but all golfers can appreciate. Why can't you ground your club in the sand? Why is golf called golf? (And no, it's not just because all the other four-letter words were taken.) Why are golfers expected to call their own penalties? Why is 18 the magic number? See inside for answers to that - and a good bit more that won't shave strokes but makes for better golfers.

On Par: The Everyday Golfer's Survival Guide
Author: Bill Pennington
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

From its inception in the New York Times, Pennington's "On Par" page regularly flirted with bogey, and what is essentially a compilation between covers stays the course. Short of George Plimpton, the Everyman Persona wears thin fast, especially when it overswings for laughs and hits it fat. Which is too bad, because there's a genial writer at work here as willing to share his enthusiasm for this maddening endeavor and where it's taken him as he is eager. If only he carried less schtick in his bag.

1,001 Pearls of Golfers' Wisdom: Advice and Knowledge, From Tee to Green
Editor: Jim Apfelbaum
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Essentially a slimmed down version of Apfelbaum's "Gigantic Book of Golf Quotations," "Pearls," even at a fraction of the heft, continues to talk the talk, filled as it is with some of the best things ever said about the game. It's OK to cheer the concept. As Babe Ruth once told the respectful gallery surrounding him, "How about some noise. How do you expect a man to putt?" Precisely…

APRIL
From Old Tom To The Tiger -- The Golf Majors, 1860-2010: The First 150 Years
Author: Alun Evans
Publisher: Create Space

The latest update of Evans's epic reference is nothing less than an heroic overhaul of what was already one of the game's cornerstones of essential information. Every British Open, U.S. Open, Masters, and PGA is treated -- and this is a treat from cover to cover -- to a detailed narrative followed by detailed results that include round-by-round scores of each participant, the leaders at the end of each day of play, and the low scores of each round. But that's only half the fun packed into almost 750 pages of very small type. The book's second half provides a dossier for every player ever to start in a Major event followed by a collection of championship records -- from wins and streaks and margins to oldests and youngests and longests and shortests. Compared to what Evans has cobbled together, winning, say, 18 Majors seems comparatively easy.

Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius
Author: Lorne Rubenstein
Publisher: ECW Press

There's never been anyone in the game quite like Canada's Moe Norman, the iconic ball striker with the one-off swing and one-off personality. Rubenstein, the lyrical chronicler of the marvelous "A Season in Dornoch," weaves the fascinating strands of Norman's odd and idiosyncratic walk through life with great compassion and understanding in a celebration that's part biography, part memoir -- the two crossed more than paths through four decades -- and as enlightening as it is endearing.

Classic Golf Stories: Twenty-Six Incredible Tales From the Links
Editor: Jeff Silverman
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Prudence dictates we point this detail out from the get-go: the name atop this space and the name attached to this anthology are a DNA match given the proprietor of each is one and the same. Now onto business: Between its covers, "Classics" collects a cadre of memorable scribblers, from the hoped-fors -- Bernard Darwin, Arnold Haultain, Ring Lardner, and P.G. Wodehouse -- to the unexpected, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and H. Rider Haggard, to the sadly forgotten, like Holworthy Hall and Charles E. Van Loan. Decades after their debuts, these essays and stories remain eternally stylish and craving attention. There's even a dollop of fiction by A.A. Milne, more associated, certainly, with Pooh Corner than Amen Corner, but an uncrackable golf nut just the same.

Golf's All-Time Firsts, Mosts, Leasts and a Few Nevers
Author: Al Barkow
Publisher: Taylor Trade

Leave it to the unsinkable Barkow to come up with a lighter-than-air collection of the game's trivia that seamlessly floats from the esoteric to the essential. Don't know who the first movie star was to play on tour (Joe Kirkwood, Jr.), what tournament was the first with a five-figure purse (1926 L.A. Open), who first flew his own plane to an event (Johnny Bulla), or what the location is of the southernmost course on the planet (Argentina's Ushuara Golf Club)? No problem. You'll find the answers here, with hundreds more bits and pieces to delight and amaze. There are even a few pages in the back to insert some arcana of your own.

The Classic Palmer
Author: John Feinstein
Photographer: Walter Ioos
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang

Feinstein's text, a concise coronation of The King, is something of a trinket beside the book's crown jewels: half a century's worth of incomparable photographs of an incomparable subject by an incomparable photographer. It's fair to say magic wasn't captured every time that Ioos pointed his lens in Palmer's direction, but it's hard to make that case from the dozens of pictures assembled for this slight tribute volume. In black and white, Palmer's personality and charisma exude color; in color, they shimmer. Long after his playing days, his playing days still bring chills.

Making the Masters: Bobby Jones and the Birth of America's Greatest Golf Tournament
Author: David Barrett
Publisher: Skyhorse Press

Say this for Barrett: He thinks big. Two years ago, he wrapped his prose around Ben Hogan's miraculous comeback at the 1950 U.S. Open with stunning results. Here, he embraces Jones, Clifford Roberts, the genesis of Augusta and the beginnings of the little golf gathering held there ever April. Once again, his blend of narrative and research gives the past real presence, swinging through the details of the course's creation and the first two invitationals that served as prologue to so much golfing richness that would follow.

The Unstoppable Golfer: Trusting Your Mind & Your Short Game to Achieve Greatness
Aughors: Dr. Bob Rotella with Bob Cullen
Publisher: Free Press

The Rotella juggernaut continues on its ineffable quest to turn the mush most golfers bracket between their ears into a sharp and focused companion on the 18-hole journey. This time, the mental guru extraordinaire attacks the way we attack our chips, pitches, explosions and putts. His therapeutic blend of insight and anecdote has a calming effect. The mind may be its own place intent on inhabiting dark reaches, especially on the golf course, but on Rotella's couch the message is clear: Even a golfer's mind can be trained to see the light.

From Fields to Fairways: Classic Golf Clubs of Minnesota    
Author: Rick Shefchik
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

Think Minnesota, and golf may not be the first thing that pops into mind, but the land of 10,000 lakes is a land overflowing with with the endeavor. Bobby Jones won the third of his five Amateurs at Minikhada in 1927 and kept the Slam alive in 1930 with his Open win at Interlachen. Ross, Tillinghast, and Raynor all left important fingerprints on its terrain. By piecing together more than 20 mini club chronicles, this coffee table contribution impressively documents a substantive, illustrated -- alas, only in black and white -- saga that criss-crosses the state in pursuit of what amounts to an engaging social and sporting history unique to a particular patch of the nation.  

Decisions on the Rules of Golf 2012-2013
Author: USGA and the R&A
Publisher: Hamlyn

When the governing bodies revise the rules, as they did in January, they also update the decisions on them, issuing a Talmudic volume of wisdom filled with the kinds of sticky wickets -- "A ball lands against a dead land crab in a bunker. May the crab be removed without penalty?" -- golfers have been known to lose sleep over. Knowing the game means knowing the rules, and knowing the rules means knowing their shadings. And knowing that a dead snake can be both an outside agency or a loose impediment, while a live one is just an outside agency, supplies a palpable sense of relief -- once you've opted to run for cover.  

Golf Rules & Etiquette Simplified: What You Need to Know to Walk the Links Like a Pro
Author: John Companiotte
Publisher: McGraw Hill

"Simplified" lives up to its billing; it keeps things simple. Beyond its ability to demystify the complexities of the rules themselves, the revised third edition simply does what its predecessors did best: give good advice. Like arrive early. Allow the group ahead to move out of range before hitting. Keep the cells silenced. Let the group behind play through if you fall behind. Repair divots. Play from the correct tees. Play the ball as it lies. Sure, lots of that sounds second nature. If you know it, it's still nice to be reminded, and if you don't, there's no time like the present to learn.

Build the Swing of a Lifetime: The Four-Step Approach to a More Efficient Swing
Author: Mike Bender with Dave Allen
Publisher: Wiley

The PGA's 2009 National Teacher of the Year, Bender employs the principles of physics and biomechanics to engineer an efficient swing that anyone should be able to adapt to. He builds his case through explanations and drills, and his advice on alignment, aim and ball position should help golfers at every level. But concepts like swing plane, hand path, and sequencing can be elusive. They're not easily transferred from page to the tee, let alone out to the golf course, without an expert conductor on hand to orchestrate the process.

Golf Resorts: Top of the World Volume Two
Editor: Martin Nicholas Kunz
Publisher: teNeues

Golf is filled with its dream books, those lavishly illustrated volumes that have us salivating over distant ports of call. This is one of them. The photos are lush and beckoning, and each resort includes a useful routing plan of the golf on its menu. But if the flesh is ripe, the bones are wanting; the information about each resort is bare at best, and the text -- single paragraphs per location in English, German, and French -- is surprisingly Spartan for a volume with such sumptuous intentions.

Tales From Augusta's Fairways: A Collection of the Greatest Masters Stories Ever Told
Author: Jim Hawkins with Robert Hartman
Publisher: Skyhorse Press

Unlike most Masters volumes, this one doesn't whisper with reverence. It's not much more than a tossed jumble of anecdotes -- entertaining, even revealing -- about the players and the playground, but what's Augusta without its lore? The gang's all here -- from The Emperor Jones forward -- and while many of the bits have been told time and again, there are nuggets worth digging for . . . like Augusta dictator Clifford Roberts borrowing German POWs from nearby Fort Gordon to help recondition his fiefdom for post-war play. Guess they were the original Hogan's heroes.

Gary Player: Golf's Global Ambassador From South Africa to Augusta
Author: John Boyette
Publisher: The History Press

Who can't appreciate the infectiousness of golf's Pied Piper? Player's a beacon of the game, and his life cries out for a comprehensive telling. This isn't it, and until that bio comes, this is an adequate place holder. To be fair, Boyette, the sports editor of the Augusta Chronicle, wasn't trying to lace up Boswell's spikes here. With a decidedly Augustan spin, he set out to celebrate the three-time champion's return to join Arnie and Jack as an honorary starter this year, and his book does just that.

Tales From Pinehurst: Stories From the Mecca of American Golf
Author: Robert Hartman
Publisher: Skyhorse Press

A reissue of an old chestnut with a new prologue to keep pace with the majestic No. 2's recent restoration, "Tales," true to its title, is the kind of dip-here, dip-there collection of Pinehurstiana that coalesces to remind you of your own sojourns if you've been or your intentions to book a room and a tee time if you haven't. Much of it's the kind of wispy stuff passed on while rocking on the veranda -- Pinehurst is that kind of place -- but there are enough insights into the course itself and the mysteries that Ross continuously wove through it to provide the ballast needed to keep the rest from floating away.

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