A baker's dozen of modern books on golf that you need to read
1-2. Golf In The Kingdom, The Kingdom of Shivas Irons
Michael Murphy, Michael Murphy
Mike Murphy’s two volumes on Shivas Irons are modern classics. The second volume was his response to the multitudes who, like Area 51 fanatics, reported Shivas sightings from 1975 until 1995, when Murphy finally put to rest the questions about his hero. Like the final Star Wars, you can’t believe it’s over. You wish it would go on in a magical forever.
3. Fearless Golf
We amateurs all stink. We border on suck. Do you know why? Because we never prepare the mind for golf. Gio Valiante will teach you how to do just that.
4. Missing Links
The expression “I laughed so hard I wet my pants” can never be applied so repeatedly as when describing my experiences with this book. If you know Reilly from the back page of SI, know that Who’s Your Caddy? is flat-out funereal compared to this gut-ripper. I laughed so hard that … you guessed it, I wet my pants. And that was the third time I went cover to cover with this tome.
The coming-of-age book is poorly written by adults, and exquisitely written by teenaged or early-twenties first-timers. This book is an exception. It takes you along for the greatest golfing joyride of all time, even though you never leave small-town Oklahoma. Read it yourself, then pass it on to your golfing youngsters. Better yet, give it to a kid who doesn’t golf; she or he will be hooked.
6. Forbidden Fairways
Whatever you think you know about African-american or colored or negro or black participation in golf, is nothing compared to what Calvin Sinette is going to teach you. The very first book that I ever read for review. As Tiger Woods sheds the final traces of “black golfer,” this book is more important than ever.
7. Lazy Days At Lahinch
G. A. Finn
In contrast to Only Golf Spoken Here, a novel written by a golfer, this is a collection of Irish stories, written by a writer. Finn gladly takes a back seat to his characters and actions. You will feel warmed by the fire and Irish whiskey when you cry tears as the final tale unfolds.
8-9. The Legend of Bagger Vance and Gita On The Green
Steven Pressfield and Steven Rosen
The book is as good as the movie was bad, and the movie was terrible. It was so bad that I won’t include on my list of great golf movies (which includes, incidentally, Dead Solid Perfect, Follow The Sun, and … well, that’s it so far.) Pressfield is a brilliant writer who sidetracked his way into golf. Rosen the scholar understands Hinduism and what the images and figures that Pressfield selected for his novel represent. Like a low handicapper who forces you to play up to her or his level, both Stevens will force you to think outside the domain in which you operate. And a dose of intellectualism, combined with a helping of golf, is never a bad thing.
10. The Confidential Guide To Golf Courses
This book will probably never be reprinted. Sadly, you can’t find it on Abebooks for less than $750. In it, Doak takes every architect to task for his failings, and recognizes the greatness in those who have stood the test of time. His arrows are untainted, and his intent is pure. In one paragraph, he lambastes Jack Nicklaus for designing a majority of his courses in the way that he played the game (high, long fade required!) In the next, he congratulates the Golden Bear for Desert Forest and Harbour Town.
11. The Feathery Touch of Death
It is rare that a mystery is written with all ends tied in the end. Rarer still that it can be set in the home of golf, St. Andrews, during Open Championship week. Rarer still that it can hold your attention until the very end, and keep you guessing as to the culprits and victims. This is that novel. It deserves wider recognition than it has ever received. Reprint, please!
12. Sir Walter And Mr. Jones
Stephen R. Lowe
The non-fiction work that won a USGA book award not long ago, this definitive history of the competitive lives of Hagen and Jones is absolutely necessary for any reader who wants to know what truly makes great golfers tick, and how they react and respond to the manifold pressures of tournament play and life.
13. Golf Dreams
If the afore-mentioned mystery is a rarity in the annals of golfing literature, ever more the dodo is an entire volume on golf stories by a true master of writing. Imagine Twain, or Faulkner, or Steinbeck, devoting more than a line or a paragraph to the game, and you have Golf Dreams. Best of all, Updike remained a chop his entire life, so he writes not of his exploits, but instead, of his frustrations and under-achievements.
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I used to look up to Feinstein, but I'm on sabbatical right now. He is an embedded journalist who stepped on a landmine in my book. Got a little too close to the war and forgot his role. I agree on that topic, though, about the Open. We all have "that course" in our 'hood that we absolutely, positively know would host a great Open championship. You know what, I'm going to write a blog on this topic. Look for it in the next day or two. I'll give you credit.
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