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The Best Books in Golf

There are a lot of books out there on the wonderful game of golf but not too many are worth keeping and reading again.

You will notice there are no instruction manuals in our list, because trying to learn how to play golf from a book is like trying to become a great lover by reading an illustrated magazine on self-abuse. Also, best means most enjoyable either because of their excellence or excrescence.

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The Rub of the Green, William Hallberg

Often mysteriously overlooked but, with the exception of PG Wodehouse, the only good novel featuring golf ever written. Its hero goes to gaol but dreams of turning the prison swamp into a great two-hole course trouble is, he needs the help of the frankly mad and disordered ground staff to realise the dream. I laughed until I wet myself. Her Majesty the Queen.


The Greatest Game Ever Played, Mark Frost.

The story of how an unknown American amateur, Francis Ouimet, took on two of the game s greats Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in the US Open; matched them for 72 holes and then beat them in the playoff. So well-written (by a man who really knows his craft) and absorbing that you forget you know the ending.

An achingly beautiful and yet powerful homage to the indomnitable spirit of the down-trodden lumpen proletariat, evoked in a lyrical paean of sensitivity, encapsulating all that is esoteric but vibrantly alive in the unending quest of the individual to rise above the circumstances of his birth. Lee Westwood.


My Autobiography, Bernhard Langer

The title is the most original thing about it and it takes true genius to make a life as rich and interesting as Langer s read like a recipe for beans on toast. Ghost-written by a man described as a writer and a director of Christians in Sport. The second part of the description may be true, the first definitely isn t. It starts with the words: I was born in Anhausen, near Augsberg in Southern Germany on 27 August 1957, and then gets really dull.

The world is full of books, and this is one of them. Arnold Palmer.


Four-iron in the Soul, Lawrence Donnegan

A season as a Tour caddie (to Ross Drummond, and whatever happened to him?) The idea s been done before, but not by someone with Donnegan s eye for detail, sharp observation and wit. Full of great anecdotes did you know that Al Capone cheated at golf and greater characters. Say that about me again and I ll deck you. Blind-boy, Pirate, Dustbin-Legs, Road-Runner McGhee, caddie to the stars.


Tarbuck on Golf, Jimmy Tarbuck

No, of course not just wanted to make sure you were paying attention. Shome mishtake shurely, Sean Connery.


Nice Jumper, Tom Cox

As Neil Sedaka almost said, growing up is hard to do. But if you become obsessed by a nerdy game, which means that everyone else at school thinks you re the un-coolest thing since permed hair for boys, adolescence becomes a torturous journey in which all you do is play with your balls. The difference is, all your mates are doing it in the privacy of their bedroom while you re out in public, striding the fairways. He could have my babies any time. Laura Davies.


Bud, Sweat and Tees, Alan Shipnuck

The story of the 2002 US PGA champion Rich Beem, never knowingly confused with a mild-mannered, teetotal, sexual hermit, and his even more outrageous caddie, Steve Duplantis. It s Tin Cup made real but without the irritation of Kevin Costner. He could have my babies any time. John Daly.


Strokes of Genius, Thomas Boswell

Thoughtful, beautifully-written essays on the enduring and eternal appeal of golf, the landscapes over which it is played and the people who play it at the highest level. What more do you want?

"I liked the bit where the big shark ate all the tourists". Sandy Lyle.


Fairways and Greens, Dan Jenkins

An anthology (that means collection Lee) by the best golf journalist still working. Jenkins is American, old, irascible, bad-tempered and very funny. He cut his teeth writing about Ben Hogan for a local Texas newspaper and followed the miserable bastard for the rest of his glorious career, taking in every Major and big star since. No respecter of reputation, he tells the truth and can be forgiven anything including his love of playing golf from a motorised buggy.

"It s got a lot of words, hasn t it?" Robbie Williams.


The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, Ben Hogan

Okay, we ll break our own rules on no instruction books because this is, simply, the best ever written, by one of the greatest players to squint into 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 learnt almost all he knew about golf by hitting balls and thinking about the results before hitting some more his practice routine made Vijay Singh look like a layabout. Larry Nelson was one of many to learn the game entirely from this book and went on to win three Majors and his first nine Ryder Cup matches on the bounce. And even if you never read the thing, you should have a copy on your bookshelves.

a) to suggest you know something about the game
b) in homage to the great man.

"I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole", 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 bullshit and manufacturers shovel it towards us by the bucketful. The net result is that we spend far too much money on clubs that are ill-suited to our swing and game, persisting in the delusional belief that we can buy better scores. That s the bad news. The good news is that you can improve 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 inside knowledge up to here but most importantly, never forgets that he s talking to technical morons, and therefore makes the study of equipment easy and understandable. You should never spend more than 10 on a piece of golf equipment without first reading this book.

"My coefficient of restitution has never been better". Tiger Woods


Decisions on the Rules of Golf, The R&A and USGA

No, really, this is truly an excellent book and one that will give you hours of harmless fun. We all find the Rules incomprehensible but this at least helps understand not only the laws themselves but the rationale behind some of the dafter things we can and cannot do on the golf course. It is astonishing the sort of questions that people ask our legislators. For example, someone enquired: If an opponent or fellow competitor is asked to attend the flagstick and refuses, do I have any redress? (which we interpret to mean: Can I thump him? ) and was told No . It conjures up all sorts of images of feuding golfers having a bad tempered match to the point where one rejects the suggestion that he should hold the flag and the other gets so het up about it that he asks his club secretary to write to the R&A.

"Doh!" Homer Simpson.


The Golf Omnibus, PG Wodehouse

The master of all humourous golf writers, Wodehouse has been oft imitated but never bettered. He has introduced us all to the idea of a golfer being disturbed by the uproar of butterflies in an adjoining meadow; that a man can hold in contempt only three things slugs, poets and caddies with hiccups; and of another folding his beloved into his arms, using an interlocking grip. The language is a delight and this is a rarity among golf books in that it can be dipped into and re-read time and again with no loss of pleasure, to be reminded, among other things, of the group of golfing rabbits who held another player in high esteem because he once broke 90.

"it ws nt rlly my srt of thng if u no wot I mean (via text)," Michelle Wie


Getting to the Dance Floor, Al Barkow

The past is a different country and they did things differently there, as this enjoyable book so vividly tells us. It describes the earliest days of the US PGA Tour, where it was a struggle for even the best to simply survive, by the simple expedient of talking to them. Many such as Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen will be familiar but many others Bill Spiller, Errie Ball and Leo Fraser, less so. Nevertheless, they all have fascinating stories to tell about life on Tour before endorsements, sponsorship deals, courtesy cars and golf groupies had been invented. Grrr, Tommy Thunder Bolt

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