10 Best Books of 2012

10 Best Books of 2012

American Triumverate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and the Modern Age of Golf

Throughout the year, Golf.com reviewed all the latest golf books to hit the market. Now we look back, and rank our top 10 books of the year.

1. American Triumverate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and the Modern Age of Golf
Author: James Dodson
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

The always engaging Dodson marks the joint centenary of the births of Nelson (February), Snead (May), and Hogan (August) with a skillfully twined celebration of their lives and legacies. The real celebration at "Triumverate's" heart is the way the game survived the Depression, thrived in its wake, and reconceived itself as a professional carnival, in no small part to the remarkable convergence of the trio's very presences — their titanic abilities, their outsized personalities, their unmistakable images and their uncanny knack for capturing imaginations, which they continue to do.

2. 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 than prevailing in a play-off. The Fleck saga would be golfing fantasy if it weren't, in fact, so terrifically real; Sagebiel's scrupulously reported chronicle chronicles it with verve.

Related: Read an exclusive excerpt from "The Longest Shot"

3. The Golden Age of Pinehurst: The Story of the Rebirth of No. 2
Author: Lee Page
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press

Just as history coats the golf course, it pours off every page of "Pinehurst"; indeed, the old photos that fill this affectionate sweep through No. 2's beginnings to its dramatic new restoration are alone worth the tariff. But past, significant as it is — and as well-told as Page presents it — is prologue. The story of how architects Coore and Crenshaw firmed up No. 2's future by recovering the legacy left by Donald Ross over his almost half a century at the resort has real presence, not just for Pinehurst, but for anywhere that a golfing Turner or Titian has been marred by modern moustaches.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. King of Clubs: The Great Golf Marathon of 1938
Author: Jum Ducibella
Publisher: Potomac Books

How crazy is this? A Chicago stockbroker short of cash literally bets the mortgage that he could play 600 holes over four straight days in eight cities from coast to coast. So crazy that you couldn't possibly make it up, that's how crazy. It's a wild ride, and a wild story, all the wilder that it's true, and it only grew wilder, crazier and more compelling with each stop. And how crazy is this: the hero, 32-year-old J. Smith Ferebee, returns home without having lost a single ball.

7. Unconscious Scoring: Dave Stockton's Guide to Saving Shots Around the Green
Author: Dave Stockton with Matthew Rudy
Publisher: Gotham Books

What separates Stockton from the pack? The simplicity of his approach and the clarity of his presentation. When it comes to the short game, all you have to remember is how to hit it high and how to hit it low, and when to opt for which. Once that's determined, the unconscious part comes in; step in for the shot and step out of your own way. Does it work? Ask Rory.

8. Introductions by Bernard Darwin
Editor: Dick Verinder
Publisher: Dormy House Press

Darwin, golf's Shakespeare, wrote so long and so superbly about the Royal & Ancient endeavor, that it's easy to overlook the wideness of the swath left by his pen. By anthologizing the numerous introductions that Darwin cobbled together for his own volumes as well as those of others, Verinder's put together a marvelous selection from a marvelous wordsmith on areas ranging from Sherlock Holmes, Dickens, and English cooking to, of course, the game he loved so much and upon whose literature he cast such a giant shadow. Privately printed, it's available here.

9. 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.

10. The War By the Shore: The Incomparable Drama of the 1991 Ryder Cup
Author: Curt Sampson
Publisher: Gotham Books

Remember when the Ryder Cup was just a quiet biennial sideshow? Of course not, because it all changed so radically at Kiawah that the pre-1991 memory chips have virtually disappeared; the Cup's been a flag-waving us-vs.-them beatdown ever since. How'd that happen? Taking us on and off the course and inside the minds of the participants, Sampson carefully recreates the atmosphere and events surrounding one of the game's wildest weeks, then filters it neatly through both sporting and political perspectives. The postscript to the gathering, though short, is stunning in its bittersweet boys-of-summery aftermath.

Related: Read an exclusive excerpt from "The War By The Shore"

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