Old adages have often helped me navigate difficult waters. One in particular rings true this month: “Never discuss politics or religion in polite company.” Since golfers are the epitome of polite company and my mandate is noteworthy books I will limit my comments to the subject at hand, which is an interesting specimen: The first and only golf book whose stated author is a president of the United States.
TRUMP: The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received was published by Crown in 2005 and is 320 pages long. Given the personality, it is no surprise that the “About the Author” page contains a touch of puffery when it notes that the Trump National Golf Club in Palo Verdes is the best course in the state of California. We’ll leave it to our erudite readers to come to their own conclusions, however, in the humble opinion of yours truly there is no greater course in the Golden State than Cypress Point. I would offer as further evidence of maybe a bit of overstatement, that the (at the time) host of The Apprentice hadn’t had a chance to play Pebble Beach, the San Francisco Golf Club, the Olympic Club, the Valley Club of Montecito, Riviera, the Los Angeles Country Club, Spyglass and the Bel-Air Country Club, just to name a few that would undercut the author’s assertion.
The first and only golf book from an American president
The orange-haired POTUS was recently quoted as saying, “I was the best golfer of all the rich people.” After that statement, how could you not be motivated to learn his secrets? I rushed to obtain a copy of the book and my expectations were high—after all, I am always trying to improve my game. I opened the book and began to devour Trump’s words of wisdom, and low and behold, after less than sixty seconds and a scant page and a third, his contributions were done. I then looked through the table of contents, skimmed through the book and tried to find his other musings. After all, with the five-letter title brand-name in all caps plastered in an out sized font across the top of the dust jacket, it seemed to me that I would be hearing from the man himself. But alas, his entire contribution to the book is only 153 words. His introduction explains the “changeover” made from the headline to the contents: “I have personally asked famous and legendary professionals . . . [and others] . . . to share with us in their ‘own words’ the best golf advice they ever received.” Aha. Minor difference. “I received” vs. “they received”. My bad for thinking it would be his advice. Like Trump Water and Trump Steaks, the book is really an exercise in branding. A clearer title for the book should really be its subtitle, The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received, and it should be noted that Donald Trump wrote the introduction. But who am I to give branding advice to the master? No doubt the book sold many more copies because of the way it was positioned.
In any event, the book contains advice from 240 people associated with golf in some fashion, including those who simply play the game. The book has input from several titans of industry, among the advice offered is the impactful “Don’t be rigid” from William Lauder, the President and CEO of Estée Lauder. The book was written in a different era, and it is somewhat jarring to see the CEO of the New York Times contribute a sentence of advice. Perhaps before they started to fail it was wise to take counsel from their chief? Trump solicits advice from two CEO’s whose careers and companies ended badly: Angelo Mozilo at Countrywide and E. Stan O’Neal at Merrill Lynch. Maybe they were better at gauging what to do with the little white ball than with mortgages? Mozilo’s advice is to line up your putt and listen for the ball to go into the cup. O’Neal’s wisdom is that “no one cares about your golf game.” Thanks, guys.
The Trump signed bookplate included in the first edition as seen on the front free endpaper
The book includes a signed bookplate, which in theory is the same as if the author himself signed the book. The bookplates appear to have been mass reproduced and not signed individually, so, like the size of the recent inauguration crowd, it seems less than clear-cut whether this is a signed book, and remains the subject of ongoing debate. Prior to November 8, 2016, this book was cheap and easy to find. No mas. Now that the author is ’45,’ a first edition, signed copy with a dust jacket is tough to find. Is the book collectible? For sure. After all, what other golf book sits on the shelves in the presidential wing of the Library of Congress and in the National Archives?
I always like to end on a positive note, so will finish with the advice offered in the book by the great Yankee philosopher Yogi Berra: “One time I was complaining that my shot was going to wind up in the water. So my friend Kevin Carroll told me that I should think positive. I told him okay, I was positive my shot was going to wind up in the water.”
— John Sabino