There are many books on the wonderful game of golf, but they are not worth putting away and reading again. You’ll notice there are no instruction manuals on our list, because trying to learn golf from a book is like trying to become a great lover by reading a self-abuse pictorial. Also, ‘better’ means more agreeable, either because of its excellence or because of its excrescence.
The Touch of Green, William Hallberg
It is often mysteriously overlooked but, with the exception of PG Wodehouse, it is the only good novel ever written on golf. Your hero goes to jail but dreams of turning the prison swamp into a big two-hole course. The problem is that he needs the help of the downright crazy and messy ground crew to realize the dream.
I laughed myself wet. The Majesty of her the Queen.
The greatest game ever played, Mark Frost.
The story of how an unknown American fan, Francis Ouimet, took on two of the game’s greats, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, at the US Open; he matched them for 72 holes and then beat them on the playoff. So well written (by a man who really knows his trade) and engrossing that you forget you know the ending.
“An achingly beautiful and powerful tribute to the indomitable spirit of the downtrodden lumpenproletariat, evoked in a lyrical paean of sensibility, encapsulating all that is esoteric yet vibrantly alive in the individual’s never-ending quest to rise above the circumstances of his birth.” Lee Westwood.
My autobiography, Bernhard Langer
The title is most original and it takes a real genius to make a life as rich and interesting as Langer’s read like a recipe for beans on toast. Written by a ghost man described as ‘writer and director of Christians in Sport’. The second part of the description may be true, the first definitely is not. It starts with the words: “I was born in Anhausen, near Augsberg, in the south of Germany, on August 27, 1957”, and then it gets really boring.
‘The world is full of books, and this is one of them.’ Arnold Palmer.
Four irons in the soul, Lawrence Donnegan
A season as a Tour caddy (for Ross Drummond, and what happened to him?) The idea has been done before, but not by someone with Donnegan’s eye for detail, keen observation and wit. Full of great anecdotes – did you know that Al Capone cheated at golf – and great characters.
Say that about me again and I’ll take you down. Blind, Pirate, Trash-Legs, Road-Runner McGhee, caddy to the stars.
Tarbuck on golf, Jimmy Tarbuck
No, of course not, I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.
‘Shome mishtake shurely’, Sean Connery.
Nice sweater, Tom Cox
As Neil Sedaka almost said, growing up is hard. But if you become obsessed with a nerdy game, which means everyone else at school thinks you’re the least cool thing since permed hair for kids, adolescence becomes a torturous ride where all you do is play with your balls. The difference is that all your roommates do it in the privacy of their bedroom while you’re out in public, walking the streets.
‘He could have my babies at any time.’ Laura Davis.
Buds, sweat and t-shirts, Alan Shipnuck
The story of 2002 American PGA Champion Rich Beem, never knowingly mistaken for a mild-mannered, teetotaling, sexual hermit, and his even more outrageous caddy, Steve Duplantis. It’s Tin Cup come true but without the Kevin Costner irritation.
‘He could have my babies at any time.’ John Daly.
Strokes of Genius, Thomas Boswell
Thoughtful, beautifully written essays on the enduring and timeless appeal of golf, the landscapes in which it is played, and the people who play it at the highest level. What else do you want?
I liked the part where the big shark ate all the tourists. Sandy Lyle.
Fairways and Greens, Dan Jenkins
An anthology (which means ‘collection’ Lee) of the best working golf journalist. Jenkins is American, old, hot-tempered, moody, and very funny. He started writing about Ben Hogan for a local Texas paper and followed the wretched bastard for the rest of his glorious career, assimilating every Major and big star since. With no regard for his reputation, he tells the truth and can be forgiven for anything, including his love of golfing from a motorized buggy.
It has a lot of words, right? Robby Williams.
The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, Ben Hogan
Okay, we’ll break our own rules about ‘how-to books’ because this is, quite simply, the best ever written, by one of the best players to squint in the sun trying to decide if it’s a 6 or 7 iron to the green. Hogan was plagued in his early years by a vicious hook and learned almost everything he knew about golf by hitting balls and thinking about results before hitting some more: his practice routine made Vijay Singh look like a slacker. Larry Nelson was one of the many who fully learned the game from this book and won three Majors and his first nine Ryder Cup matches on the bounce. And even if you never read it, you should keep a copy on your shelves.
a) to suggest that you know something about the game
b) in homage to the great man.
“I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole,” Randy Huckenputz, 53 handicap.
In Search of the Perfect Golf Club, Tom Wishon (with Tom Grundner)
Let’s face it, golf equipment is too technical, we’re all baffled by the nonsense, and manufacturers throw it at us in droves. The net result is that we spend too much money on clubs that don’t suit our swing and game, persisting in the delusional belief that we can buy better scores. That’s the bad new. The good news is that you can get better with the right equipment (but rarely with “off the shelf” clubs), and this book tells you exactly how to find it. The author has credentials and insider knowledge so far, but most importantly, he never forgets that he is talking to technical idiots and thus makes the team study easy and understandable. He should never spend more than £10 on golf equipment without first reading this book.
‘My coefficient of restitution has never been better.’ tiger forest
Decisions on the Rules of Golf, the R&A and the USGA
No, really, this is truly an excellent book and one that will give you hours of harmless amusement. The Rules seem incomprehensible to all of us, but this at least helps to understand not only the laws themselves, but also the logic behind some of the silly things we can and can’t do on the golf course. It’s amazing the kinds of questions people ask our legislators. For example, someone asked: ‘If an opponent or fellow competitor is asked to come to the flagpole and refuses, do I have any rights?’ (which we interpret to mean: ‘Can I hit you?’) and they said ‘No’. It conjures up all sorts of images of quarreling golfers having a game in a bad mood to the point where one rejects the suggestion that he should hold the flag and the other gets so angry that he asks his club secretary to write to the R&A.
‘Doh!’ Homer Simpson.
The Golf Bus, PG Wodehouse
The master of all golf humor writers, Wodehouse has often been imitated but never bettered. He has introduced us all to the idea of a golfer disturbed by the riot of butterflies in an adjoining meadow; that a man can despise only three things: slugs, poets, and hiccuping caddies; and of another folding his beloved into his arms, using an interlocking grip. The language is delightful and is a rarity among golf books in that it can be immersed and reread again and again without loss of pleasure, to recall, among other things, the bunch of golf bunnies who held another player in high regard because he once broke 90.
“Not really my kind of thing if you don’t know what I mean” (via text), Michelle Wie
Hit the dance floor, Al Barkow
The past is a different country and things were done differently there, as this funny book tells us so vividly. It describes the early days of the US PGA Tour, where it was a struggle even for the best just to survive, for the mere expedient of talking to them. Many, like Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, and Gene Sarazen, will be familiar, but many others—Bill Spiller, Errie Ball, and Leo Fraser—not so much. However, they all have fascinating stories to tell about life on the Tour before endorsements, endorsement deals, courtesy cars and golf supporters were invented.
‘Grrr’, Tommy ‘Thunder’ Bolt