The best 7 golf books of all time

For the keen golfer, there is absolutely nothing better in the world than being out on the course on a sunny day. Coming a close second is being out on the course on a rainy day.

Unfortunately, we can’t be out on the course all the time, because things like work and doing the shopping get in the way, so the next best thing we can do is read about golf. Naturally, there are hundreds, if not thousands of books about every aspect of golf, so how do you sort through and find the wheat from the chaff? We guess you might need a little help, so here’s our take on the seven best golf books of all time.

The modern fundamentals of golf – Ben Hogan

$12.18 (Hardback) $6.88 (Paperback)

One of the greatest golfers ever is Ben Hogan, who wrote The Modern Fundamentals Of Golf. Hogan believed that, with dedication and patience, any golfer at all can learn how to shoot in the 70’s. The Modern Fundamentals Of Golf is not so modern today, having first been written as a series in Sports Illustrated back in 1957. However, what Hogan teaches, is as valid in 2015 as it was nearly 60 years ago.

Sports Illustrated described the series as follows: “The greatest golfer of our time has distilled all of his knowledge, his experience and his perceptions into five extraordinary lessons which he believes will enable the average golfer to shoot in the 70s.”

The book is divided into sections covering the grip, stance and posture, the first part of the swing, and the second part of the swing. This is a masterful study of the basics of golf which, once learned, will simply make you a better all-round golfer.

One of the problems many golfers have is that they get into bad habits which become just that – habits. By going back and re-learning the basics of the game, you will start to recognize where you are going wrong, which enables you to overcome those ingrained habits with ease. Whether you’ve been playing golf for a week, or for fifty years, The Modern Fundamentals Of Golf is a must-read book for any serious golfer who has the urge to improve his or her game.

The Greatest Game ever played – Mark Frost

$8.16 (Kindle), $13.53 (Paperback) 

download (16)Mark Frost is a television scriptwriter (Hill Street Blues), producer (Twin Peaks) and novelist. His book The Greatest Game Ever Played, refers not to the sport of golf as a whole, but to the story of the 1913 US Open when six times British Open champion Harry Vardon was defeated by a 20 year old amateur from Massachusetts, Francis Ouimet. Vardon and Ouimet came from two completely different social backgrounds, and two different generations. In particular, Ouimet was of working class stock in the days when golf was regarded by many – and especially his father – as a game for the wealthy only. Vardon was arguably the finest golfer of his generation, and his record of six British Open victories has never been beaten, or even matched.

Both men had problems to overcome. Ouimet struggled against his working-class background to play against, and with, men of higher social standing, and far greater wealth then he had ever seen, playing a game that his father considered demonstrated only too well the evils of capitalism. Vardon had a long battle with tuberculosis before he became fit enough to resume the sport. Mark Frost demonstrates very well the grim determination that drove both men to reach the top of their game. He brings to life, stroke by stroke, a match that changed the face of golf for ever.

The Greatest Game Ever Played is a book that should be in the collection of every serious golfer. Touchstone Pictures brought the film rights and made this classic David and Goliath story into a movie. You can get a copy here.

A Good Walk Spoiled – John Feinstein

$10.92 (Paperback), $49.92 (Audible CD), $1.38 (Paperback)

download (17)Describing the game of golf as “a good walk spoiled” has been variously attributed to Mark Twain, H.S. Scrivener, Harry Leon Wilson, William Gladstone, a pair of tennis players referred to only as “The Allens”, and several others. It does seem doubtful that Twain said it, since the earliest attribution to him was in the Saturday Evening Post of 1948, yet he died in 1910.

Nevertheless, whoever first said “a good walk spoiled”, it has now been used as the title of a book by John Feinstein, of A Season On The Brink fame. A Good Walk Spoiled describes life on the PGA tour of 1993/1994 when he walked the links with the greats such as Greg Norman, Tom Kite, Davis Love III, Paul Azinger, Tom Watson, and the two hundred or so other professionals, all battling to become this week’s super-hero.

Feinstein deftly gets inside the heads of people such as Nick Price, who managed a 50 foot putt at the 17th which saw him become British Open Champion, John Daly – who upset both his fellow pros and the establishment with allegations of drug use on tour, and Paul Azinger who revealed that he had cancer.

There is tremendous pressure at the top of the game, where last year’s star player can become this year’s nonentity almost overnight, and the ever constant need to stay on form can tax even the top handful of players, to say nothing of the non-star players all fighting for a place on the tour. It can, and does, also have an effect on family life.

Feinstein has a lively style, and shows that, almost to a man, golfers have a political standpoint which is to the right of right, and have much self-pity about the amount of tax that they have to pay on their enormous earnings.

A Good Walk Spoiled is an entertaining account of life at the top of the game, and is another book that should be on the shelf of every avid golfer.

Golf is Not a Game of Perfect – Bob Rotella

$9.32 (Kindle), $19.58 (Hardcover), $5.10 (Paperback), $14.23 (Audible CD)

download (19)Dr Bob Rotella, known to his many golfing clients simply as “the doc”, has produced an outstanding book entitled Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfect. Many of the top golf pro’s are clients of “the doc”, including Tom Kite, Nick Price, Brad Faxon, John Daly, Davis Love III, and several others – and with good reason.

Rotella argues – quite logically – that the whole point of playing golf is to have FUN. Nobody forces you to play golf. There are no laws which say that you must play 18 holes every week. You do it because you enjoy the game, or at least, you should. You are pushing your own boundaries, in order to see how much you can improve, and you get an immense amount of satisfaction when you realize that you have, indeed, achieved just that.

Rotella has a number of maxims, the first of which is that on the first tee a golfer should have only two things in mind: first, he is there to have FUN. Second, he must correctly focus his mind on each and every shot. It really is that simple.

Next, when you hit the ball into the rough, the sand, or the trees, you have to accept that you are faced with a challenge. You can overcome the challenge. If you moan or whine about a bad shot, all you are doing is looking at the negative aspects. That will depress you. If you look at it as a challenge, it will inspire you – and you will feel a whole lot better if you take up the challenge and succeed!

Third, when preparing to take any shot in golf, the most important thing is to be decisive. It is more important than making the “correct” choice. In other words, don’t dilly-dally. Make a choice. Stick to it. Play the shot. Certainly, it may not go as well as you hoped, but at least you have played the shot, and are on your way to the next one.

Rotella also says that having confidence is crucial to great golf. He defines confidence as the aggregate of the thoughts that you have about yourself. In this instance, he could be wrong, because if your thoughts tend towards the negative, you will have the opposite of confidence.

The thinking behind his approach seems to be that if your thoughts are positive, you have a much better chance of playing a good shot, than if they are negative. If you look down the fairway and think “I probably won’t make a very good shot here”, then you probably won’t. The opposite is also true. In other words, believe and you will achieve. If you don’t, you won’t.

Strangely enough, what Rotella is telling us here is nothing new. He is not telling us HOW we should play the shot, but rather how we should think about the shot. It’s the WAY in which he manages to put his ideas across that persuade top golfers to pay him a considerable amount of money for his advice. A book definitely worth reading.

Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia – Tom Cox

$6.68 (Kindle), $0.77 (Paperback)

download (20)Next, if you want to read a really funny book (and who doesn’t?), Bring Me The Head Of Sergio Garcia by Tom Cox should fill the bill nicely. This is a hilarious account of Cox’s year on the pro circuit in 2006. He had been a gifted amateur in his teens, but then gave the game up. However, the longing never quite disappeared, and at the age of 30, he decided that he would try to become a professional. He signed up for the Europro Tour, and very quickly discovered that professional golf is not as glamorous as one might think.

In his first ever professional game, he was disqualified on the second hole for playing the wrong ball, and then made the unfortunate discovery that his cat had used his bag that morning as a cat toilet.

Things went from bad to worse. He achieved the worst score ever in a qualifying round in the Open when he finished 23 over par. During a televised match at Bovey Castle, he lost two balls on the last hole, took 57 minutes to play it, and only saved scoring a 10 by holing a 30 yard putt.

In short, during his year on the pro circuit, he failed admirably, but lived to tell the tale. This is a really funny book, and will appeal even if you are not a golfer.

Dream on: The Hackers Guide to Break Par in a Year – John Richardson

$2.94 (Kindle), $10.70 (Paperback)

download (21)John Richardson is a Northern Ireland weekend golfer who regularly played over 100, but then one day decided to set himself the challenge of playing just one par round. He also gave himself a time limit of twelve months. In essence, he had to improve his score by around 30 over that time frame. Dream On: One Hacker’s Challenge To Break Par In A Year is the story of how he finally achieved his target.

It seems that while juggling family and work commitments, John spent a large amount of time at the driving range, but, of course, this gets you only so far. Finding the balance between working on your swing, fitness, short game practice, playing, and the mental aspects of the game, is hard enough for professionals who have all day, every day, in which to do it, let alone a weekend golfer. There are several things to take away from John’s book, not the least of which is remembering the basics. As another reviewer remarked, it is very easy to concentrate on swing planes and wrist angles, yet forget about posture, stance, and grip.

This book shows just how much dedication and practice is needed in order to get to a respectable score, and is a must-read for all golfers, regardless of their present abilities. It also gives a lesson to non-golfers who want a fun read which shows how determination and commitment can overcome almost any obstacle, no matter how high the mountain may seem at the outset.

At its most basic, golf is a very simple game. The object of the exercise is to get the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible. That almost makes it sound tedious – it should be easy, shouldn’t it? So why do an estimated 45 million people world-wide spend so much time and money on what is a seemingly straightforward exercise?


A Master’s Guide To The Art Of Scoring Your Best When You’re Not Playing Your Best –Raymond Floyd

$10.21 (Hardcover), $10.54 (Paperback)

download (22)Unfortunately, golf is also a game where you will make mistakes. The trick is to make as few of them as possible. The Elements Of Scoring: A Master’s Guide To The Art Of Scoring Your Best When You’re Not Playing Your Best, by Raymond Floyd, is a guide to how to make fewer of those mistakes, and lowering your score.

Floyd says that there are ten mistakes that amateurs make, which pro’s never do. He tells you to play to your strengths, and forget about your weaknesses. He explains why the six foot putt is the most important shot in golf. Forget your first tee nerves, and simply concentrate on the rest of the round.

This book shows you that paying attention to the way you play, regardless of your abilities, or lack of them, will help you lower your scores and make you a better player. Not only that, at the end of the day you will have more fun, which is what golf should all be about.

So those are what we consider the seven best golf books of all time. Each of them will teach you something about the game that you may not have considered before. However, they are not simply instructional books, but are all presented in a way that is fun and easy to read. They help you to get more enjoyment out of your golf, which is what every one of us wants.

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