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Winter reading tips: Books for hibernating (or traveling) golfers

By Kiel Christianson, Equipment Editor and Senior Writer

Snow starts to fly, and golf balls stop. But the flights of fancy of the hibernating golfer know no seasons. Short of a golf vacation to the Sun Belt, nothing's better to keep your eyes and mind focused on the course through the winter months than a tall stack of golf books. Here's the shortlist of our recommendations for this winter.

Little Balls Big Dreams
Little Balls, Big Dreams is worth buying just for the title.
Little Balls Big DreamsPops and SunshineThe Seventh at St. Andrews

Little Balls, Big Dreams, by James Wolfe

This unassuming but entertaining little novel ($12, Windstorm Creative) by a Rockford, Illinois-based writer is worth picking up just for the title. (Might even be a nice, not-so-subtle gift for that lay-about brother-in-law of yours.) It tells the story of a weekend hacker who is suddenly transformed into a tour-quality player by virtue of a magical hole-in-one. The freewheeling, up-and-down plotline brings to mind that old saying, "Be careful what you wish for."

The Seventh at St. Andrews: The Castle Course, by Scott Gummer

It's not every day a new sister course is built for The Old Course at St. Andrews. In fact, the last (The Eden Course?) one was built in 1914. In June 2008, however, The Castle Course at St. Andrews will open to worldwide fanfare and almost limitless expectation.

Former GOLF Magazine editor Scott Gummer has produced what just might be the most comprehensive, meticulous and insightful chronicle of any golf course's construction ($26, Gotham Books).

Castle Course architect David McLay Kidd extended Gummer unprecedented access to the process, and intimate insight into his own mind and heart, as well as the very soul of the new course. This isn't a dissection of golf course design. It's a unique window into the organic process of how a course gestates, grows and is born.

Pops and Sunshine, by Dave Andrews

I usually don't devote much time to self-published books, but given the dire state of golf publishing, I bent my rules a bit for this touching little novel ($20, popsandsunshine.com).

It's the story of an aspiring FUTURES Tour player who is on the verge of giving up her dream of making it to the LPGA. In her last-chance tournament, she's befriended by a retired widower who sees his own deceased daughter in the golfer.

Now I'm not saying the book couldn't have used another couple of rounds of editing, both for style and for formatting (it's not always clear what's a new paragraph). Nevertheless, the story is moving, and most of all, it drives home the fact that life on the developmental tours is tough and tenuous, and not in the least glamorous.

The Final Missing Piece of Ben Hogan's Secret Puzzle, by V.J. Trolio with Dave Hamilton

The "secret" to Ben Hogan's swing has grown legendary, and it has spawned novels and more than one instructional program.

Yet another instruction book ($30, VJE, LLC) is on the market this winter by the inventor of The Putting Arc. The particular secret examined in this volume is Hogan's weight distribution and pivot axis: The author claims that Hogan centered his weight over his left foot, and pivoted around that axis. This is in stark contrast to most amateur golfers, who tend to distribute weight evenly and then slide off the ball on the backswing and then struggle to transfer their weight on the through swing.

To my critical but admittedly amateur eye, the move described here in words and pictures (and even physics schematics!) looks very much like the much-ballyhooed Stack and Tilt.

The Game Before the Game, by Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson (with Ron Sirak)

This compact volume ($22.50, Gotham Books) is billed as "The perfect 30-minute practice," and it is choc-full of drills, exercises, stretches, and mental imagery techniques. Frankly, some of the quasi-neuro-psychological bits are flaky. Case in point is an exercise to promote the two hemispheres of your brain to communicate with one another. Unless you are lacking a corpus callosum, your brain will do this quite naturally.

Other tips sound great if you're a tour pro or belong to an exclusive club. For example, one drill is to head out on the course by yourself and play a round with two balls, using the better (or worse) of each pair and hitting two more shots from there.

Nevertheless, there's lots here to pick and choose from, and plenty to ponder on those snowy weekends.

And hey, what else have you got to do until the spring thaw?

Kiel ChristiansonKiel Christianson, Equipment Editor and Senior Writer

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Hilarious Golf Novel - Confessions of a Sandbagger

    JJGowland wrote on: Dec 13, 2007

    Golfers and non-golfers are enjoying my golf novel.
    "Confessions of a Sandbagger"
    It makes a great tournament prize and can be fun to give anonymously to your favourite competitor.
    Reviewers are saying it's Hilarious,


  • Pops And Sunshine

    Rob wrote on: Dec 11, 2007

    I've read this book, and I have to agree with this review. It's a touching story, that any golfer can connect with. The authors love of the game is evident, as well has his respect for the players on the FUTURES tour.
    Anyone who loves golf, and loves a good story should read this book!


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