The Making of the Masters

August 1, 2011

We all know Bobby Jones co-founded Augusta National. But what do we know of his partner Clifford Roberts? The Making of the Masters provides extended insight into this lesser known golf god.


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Roberts was the chairman of Augusta for an exceedingly long time: from its founding in 1931 until shortly before his death in 1977. The Making of the Masters was published in 1999 by Simon & Schuster and was written by David Owen. Following in the footsteps of one of golf’s greatest writers, Herbert Warren Wind, Owen writes for The New Yorker and is a worthy successor. When writing the book he was granted access to the archives of Augusta National, which is rare, and thus the book has an unusually detailed look behind the scenes.

Although the book’s title is The Making of the Masters it is really more of a biography of Roberts, since he is so intertwined with the club. Augusta’s records include Roberts’ letters and the book makes clear that there are many historical inaccuracies about Augusta that have been perpetuated over the years. Owen points these out quite often, although not in an obnoxious way.

The book is filled with hundreds of fascinating facts about Augusta. The original business plan called for 1,800 members. Today there are about 300. The club had an extremely difficult time staying afloat and getting members in its early years due to the Great Depression. Tens of thousands of membership forms were distributed by Roberts and Jones in the early thirties. All that an invited recipient had to do was fill out the form and send it back. Today this is unfathomable, but at the time, there were virtually no takers.

Like Charles Blair Macdonald, Cliff Roberts was a Wall St. Stockbroker (a partner at Reynolds & Co.), although he started out from modest beginnings. He dug potatoes for money to buy schoolbooks and at one point was a traveling salesman. He struggled early on and had serious financial difficulties as they were building the club. It is commonly believed that Jones conceived of the club and Roberts financed it. Owen shows how it was virtually the opposite. It was Roberts who suggested Augusta, Georgia as the location of the club and it was Jones who helped raise money to build the course.

The first chapter is entitled “The Benevolent Dictator” and that is certainly Roberts’ reputation. Owen provides a more balanced view of Roberts, who actually comes across as a decent, generous and loyal guy, although quite stubborn and with a wicked temper. He was also one of President Eisenhower’s closest friends. Not only did he manage Ike’s personal money, but visited the White House so often that there was a bedroom reserved for his exclusive use.

When the overall master plan for Augusta was drawn up by the Olmstead Brothers the course was to be surrounded by housing, although with one exception they were never built due to lack of demand. One house was built behind the first green and there is a picture of it in the book. The club acquired it years later and in one of Roberts’ last acts he made sure it was knocked down.

During the Second World War Augusta was used to graze cattle and raise turkeys when it wasn’t open for play. German P.O.W.’s were used to help restore the course before it opened in 1944. The P.O.W.’s were engineers from Rommel’s Afrika Korps. This little story seems fascinating enough that it could be an entire book. Imagine being captured on a desert battlefield in Egypt and then shipped to Fort Gordon in Augusta. One day your camp commander tells you you’ve been hired out as a day laborer to build a bridge over Rae’s Creek on Amen Corner. It is such a bizarre turn of events that it boggles the mind.

As Peter Dobereiner correctly observed about Roberts, “Everything about Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters had to be the best, and if it was not the best then it would have to be improved every year until it was.” This is Roberts lasting legacy and the reason why we adore everything about the Masters. My own personal thanks go out to Roberts for ensuring that the pickle and pimento sandwiches are still inexpensive today and for the minimal commercial advertising the event still has. All these little things cumulatively add up to make the Masters the greatest sporting event in the world. They are pure genius and the book makes clear that Roberts was the driving force behind them.

After a long and debilitating illness which included dementia, Roberts shot himself near the par three course at Augusta in the middle of the night in September 1977.

Most of the books we write about are rare, scarce or collectible. This book is none of these. It is widely available for $10, but is worthy of being proudly displayed on the collector’s bookshelf. Owen’s writing continues to prove George Plimpton’s observation about sports writing: the smaller the ball, the better the prose. There have been many books written about Augusta. This is one of the best.

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Miracle at Merion

July 15, 2011

Miracle at Merion: The Inspiring Story of Ben Hogan’s Amazing Comeback and Victory at the 1950 U.S. Open is the winner of this year’s U.S.G.A. book award.


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The incredible story of Ben Hogan’s victory just sixteen months after suffering near-fatal injuries in a head-on car crash with a Greyhound bus. Legendary sportswriter Red Smith characterized Ben Hogan’s comeback from a near-fatal automobile crash in February 1949 as “the most remarkable feat in the history of sports.” Nearly sixty years later, that statement still rings true. The crowning moment of Hogan’s comeback was his dramatic victory in the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia, where his battered legs could barely carry him on the 36-hole final day. Miracle at Merion tells the stirring story of Hogan’s triumph over adversity—the rarely-performed surgery that saved his life, the months of rehabilitation when he couldn’t even hit a golf ball, his stunning return to competition at the Los Angeles Open, and, finally, the U.S. Open triumph that returned him to the pinnacle of the game.

While Hogan was severely injured in the accident, fracturing his pelvis, collarbone, rib, and ankle, his life wasn’t in danger until two weeks later when blood clots developed in his leg, necessitating emergency surgery. Hogan didn’t leave the hospital until April and didn’t even touch a golf club until August. It wasn’t until November, more than nine months after the accident, that he was able to go to the range to hit balls. Hogan’s performance at the Los Angeles Open in early January convinced Hollywood to make a movie out of his life and comeback (Follow the Sun, starring Glenn Ford). Five months later, Hogan completed his miraculous comeback by winning the U.S. Open in a riveting 36-hole playoff against Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio, permanently cementing his legacy as one of the sport’s true legends.

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Sign Here Please

July 1, 2011

How much value does the author’s signature add to a golf book? In this newsletter we explore the question.

In general, a signed copy adds quite a bit to the value of the book. For purposes of our discussion we have ignored books that were issued in a signed state when printed. These are almost always limited editions. Included in this category are the myriad of modern signed slipcase editions and older volumes such as Robert Clark’s A Royal and Ancient Game or Bobby Jones’s Down the Fairway. We have excluded these because the value of the signature cannot be separated from the book since it was issued as such and it is relatively easy to determine their value by looking at their condition and at prices of recent sales.

A little background on how signed copies are often described will be helpful. There are many ways a signed copy can be described aside from purely indicating it is signed. An “Inscribed Copy” is one where the author has written a small inscription of note to an individual, often at their request. A subset of an inscribed copy is a “Presentation Copy” or one that was done as a gift by the author, often spontaneously. It is not always possible to tell the difference, and in our experience it doesn’t really matter to the collector. Presentation copies with a demonstrated relationship between the author and the recipient (an “Association Copy”) are indeed more valuable than those merely signed one after another by the author sitting a table at Barnes & Noble.

The prices indicated below are estimates of what a book signed by the author are worth, assuming at least good condition. Like the pricing of most items, the value of a golf book with a signature is determined by supply and demand. Palmer, Player, Nicklaus and Snead signed a lot of books, thus, although between them they have won 41 major championships, their signed books are not the most valuable.

One of the most valuable singed golf books we found in our research was by George Fullerton Carnegie whose Golfiana or Niceties Connected with the Game of Golf, third edition, published in 1842 sold for $31,000 in 1998. Subsequent copies without Carnegie’s signature sold for about $5,000 less.

Similarly, a signed copy of Aleck Bauer’s 1913 book Hazards sold for $11,500 in 2009, $2,000 more than an unsigned copy two years earlier. Our overall survey of the field shows that the rarest signatures are those of Alister Mackenzie, Jerome Travers, Aleck Bauer, James Braid and Walter Travis.

ESTIMATED VALUES OF SIGNED GOLF BOOKS
The estimates below are just that – very broad estimates. The intent of the classification below is to show the relative value of the signatures.

Less Than $100
Arnold Palmer
Sam Snead
Jack Nicklaus
Gary Player

$100-$500
Tiger Woods
Ben Hogan
Bernard Darwin
Chick Evans
Henry Longhurst
Byron Nelson
Gene Sarazan
Herbert Warren Wind

$500-$1000
Tommy Armour
James Barnes
Glenna Collette
Walter Hagen
Francis Ouimet
J.H. Taylor

$1,000 – $2,000
Violet Flint
Robert Hunter
Bobby Jones
C.B. Macdonald
George Thomas
Harry Vardon

$2,000 – $3,000
A.W. Tillinghast
Willie Park, Jr.
Ian Fleming (Goldfinger)
Horace Hutchinson

More than $3,000
Alister Mackenzie
Jerome Travers
Aleck Bauer
James Braid
Walter Travis

Although not the highest value signature, Bobby Jones’ is very sought after. Jones signed books in several different forms. He often signed as “Robt T. Jones, Jr.” but also sometimes as “Bob Jones”. His later signatures are a bit shaky due to his illness. It is best to be cautious when buying something with Jones’ signature on it. Unless it is a signed limited edition (Down the Fairway), an association copy where you can clearly establish provenance, or have the signature authenticated, be cautious of forgeries.

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The Club Menu

June 15, 2011

In addition to classic golf books and those that tell great stories, we also like quirky golf books. A new find certainly fits the bill. The Club Menu : Signature Dishes from America’s Premier Golf Clubs was published in 2009 by Pindar Press.

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Although kind of a goofy idea for a book, it works really well. It features some  interesting dishes from some of the top golf courses in the United States:

Ballyneal’s Pheasant Sausage

Baltusrol’s Blueberry Pancakes

Cherry Hill’s Cherry Pie

East Lake’s Ginger Snaps (a favorite of Bobby Jones)

Maidstone CLub’s Chowder

Merion’s Shephard’s Pie

Oakmont’s Big Mouth Sandwich

Riviera’s Kobe Beef Sliders

50 clubs/dishes are featured in total but the book’s coup de grace comes from Bandon Dunes. For anyone who has been to the remote Oregon outpost and enjoyed Grandma’s Meatloaf, the recipe is here!!!

A personal favorite I ended up making was the Olympic Club “Burger Dog” garnished with relish, mustard, pickles and onions, which sounds odd, but is fabulous. When professional tournaments are held at Olympic (site of the 2012 U.S. Open) they sell over 2,500 a day.

The book has nice pictures of each dish presented and brief but interesting stories about the dish and the club. Bon appetite. Would make a nice gift for the lover of food and golf.

Although certainly unique, it is not the first golf book published about food. Soups Salads and Dips for the 19th Hole was published in 1986, although it was only 24 pages and privately printed.

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The Story of Golf at the Country Club

June 1, 2011

We have always taken an unusual approach to writing about golf books. Rather than just copying press releases or dust jacket blurbs, we actually read the book. It was with great anticipation that we bought The Story of Golf at The Country Club, which was published by the club in 2009. The Country Club (Brookline, MA) didn’t really need another club history, having produced two before, in 1932 and 1982. Lovers of golf history should be glad they did.

Written by John de St. Jorre, the book raises the standard by which club histories will now be judged to a new level. The book is so well done it was the winner of the 2009 USGA Herbert Warren Wind Golf Book Award, the second time a club history has received this honor (the first was Heather and Heaven by Phil Pilley in 2003 regarding Walton Heath). We have written about books authored by de St. Jorre before, as they are some of our favorite golf books: the Legendary Golf Clubs series and the Links Club history. The winning streak remains in tact with this beauty.

Larry Hasak designed the book, which is illustrated with more than 200 photographs, many of them not seen before in the previous histories. The book was published in a limited edition of 1,300 in a green hardcover with gilt borders and the Country Club mascot on the cover. It is accompanied by a hard green slipcase, also with gilt borders and the club logo on the front.

The book is chocked full of both black and white and color photos and iillustrations. One that stands out is a crisp group picture of the 1910 U.S. Amateur held at The Country Club. Charles Blair Macdonald is seated in the center of the photograph with his fellow competitors surrounding him. They are all dressed very smartly in suits, wearing the fashion of the times: straw hats and bowler hats. Macdonald looks so powerful you can almost understand how he was able to bully himself into a victory in the first U.S. Amateur. The other competitors around him look in awe. Macdonald is often described as larger-than-life and it is evident in this dramatic photo.

The Country Club has a rich history, which is detailed in the book. In addition to being a founding member of the USGA and hosting 15 USGA championships, the club has an interesting history aside from golf. In its early days, it had a racetrack with a grandstand and a steeplechase course. I have been fortunate to have played at The Country Club and fondly remember the breadth of the non-golf activities such as curling, ice skating and tennis and the book gives a good feel for them.

The amazing stories of Francis Ouiment’s victory in the 1913 U.S. Open and the American victory at the 1999 Ryder Cup are well known, and they are given their approporiate place in the book. What gives the book depth is the rich history and detail Hasak and de St. Jorre present on lesser known, but still very important parts of The Country Club’s history such as Amateur and Women’s competitions.

A non-golfer who read this book without any prior history of the game would not only learn about the history of The Country Club, but also would have a very good history of the game itself in the United States. This is both a testament to the importance of The Country Club in the game and to the way the story is brought together.

I’m sure de St. Jorre and Hasak had thousands of pictures to draw from when compiling the book and their curatorial skills in selecting the appropriate ones is outstanding. The pictures are weaved into the text in a way that makes history come alive. The Story of Golf does a great job combining text and images seamlessly into one narrative where they feed off each other. Additional standout pictures in the book are: a full page image of Ted Ray with a pipe hanging out of his mouth; Ouimet shaking hands simultaneously with Vardon and Ray in a crumpled suit after his playoff victory; a picture of a young Bobby Jones with his wife, and a color photo of Francis Ouimet and Jack Nicklaus. The picture of the European Team at the closing ceremony of the 1999 Ryder Cup truly looks like it was taken at a funeral.

It has been a while since I turned every page of a golf book with rapt attention and a smile on my face at all times. What a book.

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Best Selling Golf Books

May 23, 2011

Each quarter we update the list of the top 10 best selling golf books as sold on Amazon. Click on the either the text of the image of the book to buy through Amazon. As of May 2011:

1. Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan, published in 1985.

2. FINALLY: The Golf Swing´s Simple Secret: A revolutionary method proved for the weekend golfer to significantly improve distance and accuracy from day one by J.R. Tamayo and Jaeckel, published in 2010.

3. The Timeless Swing by Tom Watson, published 2011.

4. Play Your Best Golf Now: Discover VISION54′s 8 Essential Playing Skills by Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson, published 2011.

5. Seven Days in Utopia: Golf’s Sacred Journey by David L. Cook and Tom Lehman, published in 2009.

6. The Best Instruction Book Ever! Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers Show You the Fastest Ways to Shoot Lower Scores! (Book + DVD) by the Editors of Golf Magazine, published in 2007.

7. GOOD GOLF IS EASY – the fastest, easiest way to consistent, enjoyable golf and to lower scores for amateur golfers by John Norsworthy, Mark Mansfield and Morgan Mason, published 2011.

8. Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible: Master the Finesse Swing and Lower Your Score (Dave Pelz Scoring Game Series) by Dave Pelz, published 1999.

9. Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game by Joseph Parent, published in 2002.

10. The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever by Mark Frost, published in 2007.

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Next up on the tee…

May 15, 2011

Some interesting golf books on the way. First among them, due to be published in October, is Brassies, Mashies, and Bootleg Scotch: Growing Up on America’s First Heroic Golf Course written by William Kilpatrick, Jr. The book cover has an illustration of The National Golf Links as seen from the air. As one of the best places to play golf in world, our hope is there will be some good stories about life at The National.


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Also, Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias by Dan Van Natta, Jr. holds promise based on the author’s prior books about Presidential golf. Due out in June it looks like it will be a serious book at 416 pages and published by Little, Brown.


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Cheers, and enjoy the summer.

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Play Your Best Golf Now

May 7, 2011

I’m usually not a big fan of golf instructional books. I think the best way to get a better swing is to work with a golf professional. Having said that, the newly published Play Your Best Golf Now is an important exception. Just published by Gotham Books and written by Pia Nilsson & Lynn Marriott (with Ron Sirak), the book focuses on the mental side of the game.


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Nilsson and Marriott are the #1 and #2 ranked female instructors as ranked by Golf Digest. They work extensively with professional golfers including major winners. Their advice is practical and includes many exercises that you can practice at home. Their intention is not to change your swing, but focuses on getting the mind out of the way when you play.

Easy to focus on and common sense changes are suggested such as changing grip pressure, techniques to say in tempo and techniques for staying in the present. Plus, what’s not to like about a book that uses simple wisdom such as this, “Anger makes you stupid, while joy allow you to access a peak-performance state.”

The book is helpful in life and in golf (aren’t they the same?). This is the best book on improving your game I have seen since Zen Golf.

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Glotta: A Poem

May 1, 2011

Who much is an early mention of golf in a pamphlet worth? Try $50,400.

Glotta: A Poem is a pamphlet published in 1721. The author of the poem was James Arbuckle, a student at the time at the University of Glasgow. The 22 page pamphlet sold on eBay in January. The copy that sold had a few superficial tears to the title-leaf which were neatly restored and it was dis-bound. Our congratulations to the lucky seller in New Haven, Connecticut who has done well for himself. Apparently, the seller was a professional who had done his research prior to listing it for sale.

ARBUCKLE, James, Student in the University of Glasgow. Glotta, a Poem, humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable the Marques of Carnarron … Glasgow, Printed by William Duncan, and are to be sold in his Shop in the Salt-Mercat, 1721. (Foxon A 281, D & M 160, D & J A9090).

The first edition of Arbuckle’s best-known poem is often cited as ‘Glotta, or the Clyde, a Poem’, but that is merely the unauthorized title attached to it by a reprint of 1810. Born in Belfast, Arbuckle was crippled from childhood. He flourished as an undergraduate and divinity trainee at the University of Glasgow in 1716-24; later he returned to Ireland, where he became a leading newspaper journalist, political essayist, Shaftesburian philosopher, and writer of ‘some witty and ingenious pieces in the poetical way’. He died in 1742.

From the Donovan and Jerris bibliography, “Arbuckle penned this poetic description of a journey along the River Clyde (“The Glotta”), tracking its course from the uplands to the sea and describing the various cities and towns along the way. A short section of the poem is devoted to Glasgow Green, where Arbuckle observes an idyllic gathering of golfers at play in the winter months. Of particular significance are the allusions to match play, feather balls, and long nose woods.”

According to golf bibliographers Cecil Hopkinson and Donovan/Murdoch, this poem constitutes “the first important contribution to the literature of golf.” It precedes, by no less than twenty-two years, of Thomas Mathison’s more celebrated ‘heroi-comical poem’ The Goff.

Glotta is legendary among golf-book enthusiasts: Richard Donovan in 1987 admits to ‘having not, to this day, seen a copy of it’. The English Short Title Catalog (ESTC), a database of holdings by major institutions records just ten copies including those held at the British Library, the Bodleian Library at Oxford and the National Library of Scotland This previously unrecorded copy stems from the collection of Douglas Grant, the first Professor of American Literature in the UK, and Chair of the department at the University of Leeds and was obtained at an uncatalogued auction in North Yorkshire, England in 2010.

Apparently there is money to be had in old golfing poetry. The last Glotta to come up for auction was in 1985 and sold for £5,500. A copy of the third edition of The Goff published in 1793 sold at auction in 1990 for $70,000.

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Miracle at Merion awarded 2010 USGA Book Award

April 15, 2011

The USGA announced on March 8th that Miracle at Merion: The Inspiring Story of Ben Hogan’s Amazing Comeback and Victory in the 1950 U.S. Open has won its 2010 Book Award.

The USGA Book Award is awarded each year to a book that “recognizes and honors outstanding contributions to golf literature while attempting to broaden the public’s interest in, and knowledge of, the game of golf.” The award is named in honor of Herbert Warren Wind.


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Written by David Barrett, the book has all the elements required of a great golf book: a compelling story, a worthy hero and a world-class course. The book would make good summer reading and get you excited about one of our favorites courses and host of the 2013 US Open: Merion.

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