Top 10 golf books of 2009

Sports Illustrated: The Golf Book
Sports Illustrated: The Golf Book.

1. Creating Classics: The Golf Courses of Harry Colt; Author: Peter Pugh and Henry Lord. Publisher: Totem Books.
Colt indeed created classics, the reach of his imprint as architect, remodeler, thinker, and theorist spreading from Old World outposts — Sunningdale and Swinley Forest; Royals Liverpool and County Down — to Pine Valley in New Jersey. This large-format appreciation, thoroughly researched and splendidly illustrated, examines the man and his achievement in a style as captivating as the courses themselves.

2. Golf's Dream 18: Fantasy Courses Comprised of Over 300 Holes From Around the World; Author: David Barrett. Publisher: Abrams.
The title's a mouthful, which is fitting, for what Barrett's cleverly assembled is a series of arguments masquerading as a coffee-tabler. His intriguing collection of loops — scenics, historics, strategics, etc. — builds to a single, tantalizing all-world 18 that hops from Machrihanish to Pebble Beach with stops at Augusta, Ballybunion, Royal Melbourne, and the National Golf Links. It's a flight of fancy worth booking.

3. Ancestral Links: A Golf Obsession Spanning Generations; Author: John Garrity. Publisher: New American Library.
Garrity, an SI contributing writer, mines what sounds like an old premise — the search for familial roots in the Old Sod — and surfaces with a gem: a refreshing memoir rife with history, poignance, good humor and the wherewithal that keeps playing a single hole — the 17th at Carne on Ireland's west coast — over and over and over again as stirring the umpteenth time as it was the first.

4. Jenkins at the Majors: Sixty Years of the World's Best Golf Writing, From Hogan to Tiger; Author: Dan Jenkins. Publisher: Doubleday.
Finally, a way to rein in the riotous Texan: corral his majors efforts. Whether the 94 selections, many of which first appeared in SI, represent a compilation of golf's greatest hits or Dan's hardly matters; across six decades, it's dead-solid-perfectly clear that the two have become indistinguishable.

5. Shooting for Tiger: How Golf's Obsessed New Generation Is Transforming a Country Club Sport; Author: William Echikson. Publisher: Public Affairs.
Consider the progression: a) Tiger marks his turf, b) a new generation begins prowling, and c) parents fixate over their cubs' quests. By following a year of AJGA competions, Echikson neatly balances a compelling, if cautionary, tale on the thin line between superbly talented young players and the pressures — internal and ex- — that can push healthy drives into the overcooked and overdriven.

Want a second opinion? Check out Travelin' Joe's Top 10 Holiday Gift Books

6. A Course Called Ireland: A Long Walk in Search of a Country, a Pint and the Next Tee; Author: Tom Coyne. Publisher: Gotham Books.
Who wouldn't want to navigate every links on the Emerald Isle? Coyne's twist is that he not only walks the 900 holes he plays, but every step of the coastal trek that connects them, as well. The craic's in this: He didn't just schlep a set of clubs around for 16 weeks; he carried along his wit, his thirst, his fine eye for detail, and his curiosity — on and off the golf course — about Ireland and the Irish.

7. Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America; Author: Darius Oliver. Principal photography by John and Jeannine Henebry. Publisher: Abrams.
Oliver's Brobdingnagian sequel to his 2007 globe-trotter may narrow the scope of the planet to America's borders, but it still delivers a salivating assortment of eye candy distinctly Godivan in its tastes. Just try averting your eyes from such a sensual canter through the nation's most storied — and photogenic — fairways.

8. Golf in America; Author: George B. Kirsch. Publisher: University of Illinois Press.
For all the snobbery attached, golf, at its heart, is a democratic proposition. By examining how America's average Joneses — in addition to its Bobby Joneses — have shaped the game, Kirsch's comprehensive social study ultimately cuts across barriers of race, class and gender to accomplish something golf histories have essentially avoided: giving duffers their due.

9. Golf: The Art of the Mental Game; Author: Dr. Joseph Parent. Drawings by Anthony Ravielli. Publisher: Universe Publishing.
Add a gallery of graceful Raviellis to some solid Parent-ing and the result is an instructional marvel: 100 insightful tips — aimed at shrinking runaway numbers by expanding golfing minds — that are as luscious to look at as they are profound in their usefulness and simplicity.

10. The Science of Golf; Author: John Wesson. Publisher: Oxford University Press.
Granted, not every golfer cares about Newton's laws, D'Alembert's paradox, Stokes's model, or the Magnus-Robins effect, but all impact the game, and Wesson, a retired physicist, interprets them with a facility that would have helped Einstein understand golf's mysteries. His Mr. Wizard approach to winds, muddy balls, the probability of aces, and the bias of handicaps only amplifies his wizardry.

SHAMELESS PLUG BONUS SELECTION
Sports Illustrated — The Golf Book: A Celebration of the Ancient Game; Edited by Kevin Cook. Publisher: Sports Illustrated. OK, we admit it unabashedly: this is sheer self-promotion, but when we dusted our shelves and drawers, we found so much to crow about we decided to share. Iconic images. Selections from the pens of Grantland Rice, Bernard Darwin, George Plimpton, Herbert Warren Wind, Dan Jenkins, and Bud Shrake right on to today's Golf Plus gang. Then, to round things out, we scoured the photo collections of the USGA and the World Golf Hall of Fame. Gave it all shape and texture. So, pardon our pride as we say this, too: It'll look fabulous on your coffee table.

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