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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Golf Clubs as Bird Sanctuaries

April 1, 2011

The rarest Bobby Jones golf book? Golf Clubs as Bird Sanctuaries, published in the 1920s by the National Association of Audubon Societies. The 64 page softcover book was put together by the Golf Club Bird Sanctuary Committee which included both Bobby Jones and fellow future Augusta member and golf writer Grantland Rice (see our October 2010 newsletter for more on Rice). The book isn’t dated, but was published in the late 1920s.

The President of both the National Association and the Golf Club Bird Sanctuary Committee was T. Gilbert Pearson, who was one of the founding members of the conservation movement in the United States. The National Association of Audubon Societies is now called the National Audubon Society. The cover of the book includes a picture of an idyllic golf course on rolling hills with birdbaths, bird houses and enough birds flying overhead to give Alfred Hitchcock ideas.

The book was published because the Audubon Society got frequent requests from golf clubs about how to make their courses friendly to attract and retain birds (we’re assuming that the dreaded Canadian Geese were excluded!). On second thought, attract birds for what purpose? “Pheasants are quick to avail themselves of protection. On shooting days they often parade up and down the green on golf course sanctuaries to the distraction of passing gunners.” Imagine putting that in your club newsletter today?

The book is quite well done and profusely illustrated. It is very practical and has chapters dedicated to Winter Feeding, Planting to Attract Birds and Fruits Attractive to Birds.

Some of the pictures can only be described as bizarre; page thirty-two has a young woman dressed like a Greek statue eating grapes off a tree. The committee also had a good sense of humor; in the back they list a rogue gallery of enemies of birds with ominous looking pictures: Owl, Opossum, Weasel, Rat, Skunk, Raccoon and Gun! They advise the greens keeper, “One does need to be alert, however, for the occasional criminal.”

The back cover illustration has a golfer in the rough mistakenly playing his ball and a small bird is nearby quoted “Hey! That was my Egg !x?!!” and miraculously the egg cracking open in mid air with a newborn chick flying out.

“The cheerful sons, the bright bits of color and the amusing antics of the birds are a decided asset to any club wherever located.”

Leave it to Bobby Jones to combine ornithology and golf.

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Toy Town Golf Course

March 1, 2011

Always on the lookout for rare golf club histories, we stumbled upon a real gem this past summer. The Toy Town Golf Course, located in Winchendon, Massachusetts was designed by Donald Ross. Winchendon is located in Northern Massachusetts and was known at the time as “Toy Town”.

Could it be that a course we have never heard of has a club history worth more than the most storied courses in the world like Shinnecock, Cypress Point and Royal Liverpool? Indeed. This rarity can be found very seldom and when it is, it sells for thousands of dollars.

“Toy Town” was so named by Paul E. Converse, who was the driving force behind making the entire town over in the image of toys. Converse served in the Civil War and when he returned home his business fortunes declined. McClure’s Magazine did a fascinating profile of him in 1913 and tells his story well. At the time, almost all toys in the US were imported from Europe, and Germany in particular dominated the market. Converse saw a market opportunity to makes toys in the U.S. and built a factory there which was very successful. Winchendon was gripped by toy fever at the time or the McClure’s article and it describes getting off the train and seeing the Toy Town Tavern and buying Toy Town chocolates.

The Toy Town Golf Course  (D & J C18700) was privately published c1926 and was written by A.D. Converse, presumably a relative of Paul’s. The book is only 26 pages and contains many photographs of the course. The cover of the book features a child on a toy horse over a golf ball and the words, “Ride Your Hobby at Toy Town.”

Toy Town Golf Course still exists as the Winchendon Golf Course. From their website, “Winchendon is a short, narrow course with small greens (with many breaks) and hilly fairways that are basically untouched from the day Ross redesigned them in 1926. Some of the bunkers and tee sizes have been modified over the decades. It requires an accurate short game, and local knowledge helps the golfer overcome the often tricky lies.”

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The Chicago Golf Club

February 1, 2011

The Chicago Golf Club is a below-the-radar, historic course located in Wheaton, Illinois, due west of Chicago. The Chicago Golf Club was founded in 1892 by Charles Blair Macdonald. Before he moved to New York and helped organize the Links Club and the National Golf Links of America, Macdonald lived in Chicago. Although Macdonald was born in Canada, he grew up in Chicago and was a successful businessman and a member of the Chicago Board of Trade.

As it turns out, Chicago Golf Club is a club of many firsts – not only did it establish the first eighteen hole course in the U.S., it was the first to adopt out-of-bounds as a rule in the United States, and it was the first club that organized a “caddy-shack” for its caddies to stay in. At the time Chicago built its first eighteen hole course, many clubs in the U.S. were still experimenting with courses of various length – some built six hole courses, others nine, and still others twelve hole courses. Oh yea, and by the way, it was one of the five founding member clubs of the U.S.G.A.

C.B. Macdonald designed the original golf course in Wheaton in 1895. Seth Raynor supervised its construction and made subsequent changes to the course. Macdonald was a famous slicer of the ball so he built the course to favor a slice. The course sits on roughly 200 acres on a rectangular piece of property. The holes essentially are routed in two loops that run clockwise around the property. There is an old, unused polo field in the middle that now serves as a very large driving range. Chicago hosted the U.S. Open in 1897, 1900 and 1911, the Amateur in 1897, 1905, 1909 and 1912 and the Walker Cup in 1928 and 2005.

Their club history, Chicago Golf Club 1892-1992 (Donovan & Jerris G31420) was published in 1991 and written by Ross Goodner and is 157 pages. Aside from an extensive history, the book also includes a color hole-by-hole pictorial analysis of the course and shows off many of the “prototype” holes Macdonald was famous for designing such as a “Redan”, “Biarritz”, “Punchbowl”, and two “Cape” holes.

Goodner was a senior editor for Golf Digest and also wrote a club history for Shinnecock Hills in 1966. Obtaining a copy of the club history is like getting invited to play the course itself: difficult to do.

A previous club history of Chicago Golf was produced in 1967 to celebrate the club’s seventy-fifth anniversary and was written by Charles Bartlett: Chicago Golf Club Diamond Jubliee 1891-1967. It was privately printed. It is only 28 pages and was done in illustrated wrappers (D & J B7450). Bartlett was the golf editor for the Chicago Tribune. The book contains pictures of the club house and of many famous players that have played at Chicago Golf but is not as comprehensive as the 1991 edition.

Macdonald discusses Chicago Golf Club extensively in his Scotland’s Gift: Golf including some pictures of the original course from 1894. George Bahto’s biography of C.B. Macdonald The Evangelist of Golf also includes a nice chapter on Chicago Golf Club.

We have a nice selection of rare and collectible golf books at our website:

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Record Setting Price – Glotta : A Poem

January 21, 2011

The following is a description of a golf related book which sold this week on eBay for $50,400.  The pamphlet was published in 1721 and is purported to be the earliest reference to golf. Our congratulations to the lucky seller in New Haven, Connecticut who has done well for himself. Apparently, the seller is a professional as he has done his research and he has the approporiate bibliographical references listed. The item received 63 bids, but it looks like there were about 5 to 10 serious bidders. Below is the listing in full from eBay:

THE BEGINNING OF GOLF LITERATURE:

A LEGENDARY RARITY

ARBUCKLE, James, Student in the University of Glasgow. Glotta, a Poem, humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable the Marquess of Carnarvon … Glasgow, Printed by William Duncan, and are to be sold in his Shop in the Salt-Mercat, M. DCC. XXI [1721].

8vo, pp. 22, a few superficial tears to the title-leaf neatly restored, no text affected; disbound, a very good copy.

First edition of Arbuckle’s best-known poem, in praise of the Glasgow countryside, the valley of the Clyde (‘Glotta’) and university life; it 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, and cruelly ridiculed for that in Wit upon Crutches (1725), sometime attributed to Swift, whom he effectively satirized thereafter–but the two were reconciled in 1737. He flourished as an undergraduate and divinity trainee at the University of Glasgow in 1716-24; later he returned to Dublin, 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.

According to golf bibliographers Cecil Hopkinson (Collecting Golf Books, 1938) and Donovan/Murdoch (revised ed., 1987), this poem constitutes ‘the first important contribution to the literature of golf’. It precedes, by no less than twenty-two years, the unprocurable first edition of Thomas Mathison’s more celebrated ‘heroi-comical poem’ The Goff (1743: a copy of the third edition of 1793 made $70,000 at auction twelve years ago!), and is preceded only by bare ‘references’ in a few seventeenth-century moral, legal, and poetical texts, none of them specifically descriptive. The relevant passage of twenty-two lines evokes, far more adroitly (I think) than anything in Mathison’s mock-epic, ‘the sportive War’, in which youths of Glasgow, ‘arm’d with Lead, their jointed Clubs prepare; / The Timber Curve to Leathern Orbs apply, / Compact, Elastic, to pervade the Sky’. ‘These to the distant Hole direct they drive’, Arbuckle explains, for ‘they claim the Stakes who thither first arrive’. Every modern golfing cliché is addressed, from the golfer’s jittery adjusting stance (‘his Muscles strains, and various Postures tries’), to the stroke ‘discharg’d obliquely’, the ‘winding’ trajectory of the ball as it ‘sings in Air’, the successful descent applauded by the ‘wond’ring Crowds’ for ‘the Gamester’s skill’, and–if a ‘wayward’ shot comes up short–subjected to the ‘scoff’ of the fickle spectators, while the golf-club itself is ‘curs’d in vain’ by the luckless loser. Here is the whole passage:

In Winter too, when hoary Frosts o’erspread,
The verdant Turf, and naked lay the Mead,
*The vigrous Youth commence their sportive War, [*The Game of Golf]
And arm’d with Lead, their jointed Clubs prepare;
The Timber Curve to Leathern Orbs apply,
Compact, Elastic, to pervade the Sky:
These to the distant Hole direct they drive;
They claim the Stakes who thither first arrive.
Intent his Ball the eager Gamester eyes,
His Muscles strains, and various Postures tries,
Th’impelling Blow to strike with greater Force,
And shape the motive Orb’s projectile Course.
If with due Strength the weighty Engine fall,
Discharg’d obliquely, and impinge the Ball,
It winding mounts aloft, and sings in Air;
And wond’ring Crowds the Gamester’s Skill declate.
But when some luckless wayward Stroke descends,
Whose Force the Ball in running quickly spends,
The Foes triumph, the Club is curs’d in vain;
Spectators scoff, and ev’n Allies complain.
Thus still Success is follow’d with Applause;
But ah! how few espouse a vanquish’d Cause!

The rarity of Glotta is legendary among golf-book enthusiasts: Richard Donovan in 1987 admits to ‘hav[ing] not, to this day, seen a copy of it’, and none has appeared in auction records since 1985 (£5500). ESTC records just ten copies in nine institutions (in Great Britain and Ireland the British Library, Bodleian, Brotherton (Leeds), National Library of Scotland (2), National Library of Wales, and the Royal Irish Academy; in North America Harvard, Notre Dame, and McGill (Montreal)). This hitherto unrecorded copy stems from the collection of Douglas Grant (1921-1969), the first Professor of American Literature in the UK, and Chair of the department at the University of Leeds, dispersed–unnamed in a large miscellaneous lot, in an all-but-uncatalogued sale at Leyburn, North Yorkshire–in 2010. Foxon A 281, Donovan and Murdoch, The Game of Golf and the Printed Word (1987), no. 160.

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