Archive for the ‘First Editions’ Category

I’ll Have Mine Rare, Please

December 1, 2013

Who among us isn’t looking to add a rare golf book to their collection? Discriminating collectors are always on the hunt to add rare titles to round out their library. What exactly is the definition of a rare golf book? Describing a book is an art form, not a science. The book seller, dealer or auctioneer also has an inherent conflict of interest when describing a book, in that he or she will likely fetch a premium price for an item that is considered rare. There are many effusive descriptors for a book that is hard to come by. Creativity is at a premium when describing a book’s scarcity. Consider the following descriptions of a book’s availability, all of which conjure up images of paucity:

1. Difficult to find
2. Uncommon
3. Scarce
4. Very scarce
5. Rare
6. Quite rare
7. Very rare
8. Exceedingly rare
9. Truly rare
10. Impossibly rare
11. Notoriously rare
12. Previously unknown
13. Unique
14. One of a kind

I attempted to list the definitions of rare in order of ‘less’ rare to ‘more’ rare, and you can quickly see it’s a fools game. My own personal favorite hyperbolic description of rarity was for a signed copy of Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons described as beyond rare. Since there are four signed copies on-line for sale and the book comes up for auction frequently, the description is meant to generate excitement to entice a buyer to jump at purchasing the book.  Maybe the seller thought he was placing a meat order rather than describing a book, and wanted his steak barely cooked, but his copy was not beyond rare, whatever that means.

Absolutely or Relatively Rare?

In his masterwork on collecting, ABC for Book Collectors, John Carter makes several delineations on rarity and generally takes a jaded eye toward describing items as rare. His definitions in two categories give a broader perspective on the subject:

Absolute Rarity – A book printed in a very small edition. For example Tennyson’s The Lover’s Tale printed in 1833 in an edition of only six copies or Robert Frost’s 1894 Twilight, of which, only two were printed.

Relative Rarity – A property only indirectly connected with the number of copies printed. It is based upon the number which survive.

Based on Carter’s definition, there are likely very few golf books fitting into the ‘absolute’ category. Almost all described as rare are relatively rare. Carter, I think rightfully, also takes exception to the description of unique and prefers to qualify it as apparently unique because you never know if something truly is. Calling something unique should be done with great caution.

Is a golf book that comes up for auction three times a year rare? Probably not, since over a ten year period thirty copies would have been available for purchase. A hand full of golf books that would be rare when compared to books outside the golf universe include Pen and Pencil Sketches on the Game of Golf by George Aikman published in 1888 in Edinburgh, which has seen only two copies change hands in the last twenty years and The Goff. An Heroi-Comical Poem in Three Cantons, also published in Edinburgh in 1793 and is rarely (no pun intended) seen.

Do your homework

The best advice for a buyer of golf books remains caveat emptor. Unlike twenty or thirty years ago, a collector can pretty easily do his or her homework to determine rarity. In today’s world, an estimate of rarity can be checked on-line against auction records, previous sale catalogs (the sale of Joe Murdoch’s library in 1998 is a good benchmark) or holdings at the British Library, the British Museum or the library of the U.S.G.A. If the libraries’ don’t hold a copy, it’s a pretty safe bet that the book is rare. The other benchmark golf book collectors use is the bibliography of golf books published between 1566 and 2005 produced by Donovan & Jerris and referred to in shorthand as D & J. As has been pointed out to me on more than one occasion, D & J did not catalog every golf book ever published. They attempted to and missed some, particularly more than a few from the Southern Hemisphere. The fact that a book is not listed in D & J doesn’t guarantee that it is rare, but it is a good starting point; although, with several caveats, as D & J generally don’t include brochures, for example.

When looking at a description of a rare book you will sometimes see it described as not being found in OCLC or WorldCat. OCLC stands for the Online Computer Library Center and it contains references to over one billion items in the world’s libraries, so if a copy of a book is not in OCLC or WorldCat, it is also a good indication of rarity.

How Many? Is it really limited?

An important factor in determining rarity is how many copies of a particular book were printed to begin with. According to Carter, publishers in Great Britain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century typically printed between 1,000 and 3,000 copies of a book. The standard trade edition of Horace Hutchinson’s The Badminton Library: Golf was printed in a first edition of 5,000. Today a print of between 5,000 and 10,000 is about standard.

I used to drink 1% milk, which is marketed as low fat or skim, thinking I cut out 99% of the fat, until I discovered that whole milk has 3.25% fat, so that it is about a third less fatty. Limited editions are less common that a book printed in a standard trade edition for sure, but, like skim milk, it can also be a bit of a marketing ploy. Given the number of copies of a book typically printed, a limited edition of 1,000 isn’t particularly limited. Some limited editions really are rare, particularly those with less than 100 copies printed. Take, for example, Wethered and Simpson’s The Architectural Side of Golf, a large paper edition published in 1929 in a signed, limited edition of only fifty. This would be legitimately rare on a relative basis.  Also, Tom Doak’s original hand-produced The Confidential Guide to Golf in 1989 in a production of twenty copies. While his later, hard copy limited edition and the general trade editions, both of the same title, are either difficult to find or expensive, the original is the one that is truly rare. Finally, A Round on the Links: Views of the Golf Greens of Scotland by George Aikman published in 1893 in a limited edition of 28 is also rare.


It’s expensive, therefore it must be rare? Maybe. James Arbuckle’s Glotta: A Poem, published in 1721 sold for over $50,000 at auction in 2011. Pick your favorite embellishment in front of the word rare and you will likely be right on when describing this book. Yes, price is a pretty good indicator of rarity, but not always. Sometimes a book that hasn’t been seen in a while will go up for sale and will then attract other copies for sale, paradoxically, reducing the item’s perceived rarity. The first copy might sell for $3,000 and those collectors holding it will say to themselves, wow, I didn’t realize it was worth that much, I think I will sell it. Thus, the market sees extant copies come forward which then sell for $2,500, then the next for $2,000, etc. because collectors now see the copies that were previously sitting in private libraries now flooding the market because people didn’t think it was rare or worth much. While the book can likely still be described as rare, over time, it can become less rare on a relative basis due to this factor.

Other Factors in Determining Rarity

Several other determinants are important when considering rarity:

  • Age. Books published in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries are rare because they have survived the ravages of time including floods, fires, insects, pestilence, uncaring inheritors and spilled whisky.
  • Who was the publisher? Was it published by Simon & Schuster or was it privately printed by a golf club. The latter will generally be more rare than the former since typically there will be 300-500 members of a club the book was printed for and the motive for publishing was not to make money, but to document the club’s history.
  • Where was the book printed? Those printed in an out-of-the-way locations are generally rarer than those published in New York or London.
  • The position of the book in the author’s literary career. Earlier works are usually rarer because the author may have been lesser known at the time of publication and may not have achieved fame or infamy yet (or ever).
  • The binding. This one is a bit counter-intuitive. Books bound in fancy bindings such as morocco are more likely to survive over time. An heir inheriting a library or someone stumbling upon the book will look at it and conclude that if the book has such a fancy binding it must be worth something (despite our mother’s teachings, we do judge books by their covers) and it is retained and well cared for, while other less luxurious looking ones probably end up in the trash bin or are kept but subjected to heat, light, humidity and toddlers.
  • The state of the book. A book in its original pristine state is prized by collectors and makes it potentially rare. A copy of the limited edition of 260 of C.B. Macdonald’s Scotland’s Gift is expensive and relatively rare; however, a copy with the original publisher’s box or the slipcase can accurately be described as truly rare. Likewise, the Shinnecock Hills club history of 1966 started off relatively rare, printed in a set of only 500. Due to its fragile nature, a copy that retains the unusual original “Spiderman” glassine dust jacket can also accurately be described a rare.

Like a lot of what is espoused during political campaigns, collectors, like informed citizens, need to make up their own mind on the relative rarity of a book. Repeating something over and over does not make it true. Just because someone says it’s rare, it doesn’t make it so.

Perhaps the rarest of golf books is the one we have all yet to discover?  Surely, packed away in somebodies attic or forgotten in a club’s archives there lies a truly rare golf book we have not seen before. Perhaps even one that is unique. I mean apparently unique. This is what makes collecting such a passion for us.

Website of Valuable Book Group, LLC

Bobby Locke

November 1, 2013

“Old Muffin Face” the New York Times called him. He was also described as “heavy-jowled,” and “chubby-faced.” Peter Alliss said he “looked 55 since he was 30.” Who is this fading golfer, who wore knickers and a tie while playing and tipped his cap to the gallery when they applauded? It is the South African Arthur D’Arcy (“Bobby”) Locke.

Bobby Locke
A beaming Bobby Locke holding the Claret Jug

Often referred to as the best putter of all time, Locke used a 45-year old hickory shafted putter given to him by his father. He had an unconventional stroke in both his full swing and on the greens. Locke won the Open Championship four times. In his 1949 Open victory he beat Harry Bradshaw of Ireland by a run-away 12 strokes in a playoff at Royal St. George’s in 1949, which in the pre-TV era was a 36 hole playoff! Locke also won a PGA tournament in Chicago in 1948 by a margin of 16 strokes, still a record.

Locke’s seminal book is Bobby Locke on Golf (D & J L14380) published in 1953 by Country Life in London with a foreword written by Bernard Darwin. Locke discusses his putting style in the book, “More putts are missed because they are started on the wrong line.” His advice is still quite relevant today that you should keep your head down, “You just hit it and listen.” His ultimate summation of what made him a good putter, “Putting is about confidence.”

Locke’s unconventional style had him taking the putter back inside the target line with a closed stance and a hooded clubface to put overspin on the ball. Locke’s philosophy, “If a ball has true topspin, there are three entrances to the hole – the front door and two side doors.” His unorthodox style included his full swing as well, he is said to have hooked every shot he hit. Peter Alliss describes his ball flight as a “looping flight moving at least 45 degrees back to the fairway, and says he, “Played with a closed stance and aimed well to the right.”

Bobby Locke on Golf
The Simon and Schuster edition of Bobby Locke on Golf

His book was also published in the United States the year following its British publication (1954) by Simon & Schuster (D & J L14410). Copies of the book are difficult to find. A reprint edition was produced in 2002 by the Memorial Tournament in a limited edition of 250 copies, this book also being difficult to find.

Bobby Locke on Golf is part autobiography, part instruction manual and part Locke talking about his philosophy with historical insights. The book has over 200 photographs, including Locke at many stages in his life and one with him and his “good friend Bob Hope.” The last part of the book is particularly interesting. Locke describes his “ideal” eclectic golf course with various holes from courses all over the world. He includes Augusta’s second hole, Royal Melbourne’s third, Wentworth’s eleventh, Durban Country Club’s seventeenth and the eighth hole at Tam O’Shanter Club in Chicago, a par three of 230 yards.

locke on golf
The Country Life Edition published in Britain

Locke was banned from the PGA tour in 1949 because after he won the Open Championship he withdrew from an upcoming event he was scheduled to play in at Inverness in Toledo. At the time, the P.G.A. only extended invitations to foreign players who were in the country for short visits and even then such invitations were rare. Although banned from the PGA tour he was invited to Augusta in 1949. Locke called the ban “silly and a disgrace.”

Locke’s strong and feisty personality comes through in Bobby Locke on Golf, in particular his relationship with Americans, which was difficult. He discusses how he was asked about his winnings and refused to discuss them. The next day the headline in the paper blasted him for refusing to discuss it. He comments in the book, “the Americans go in for hard hitting” and he’s not talking about their ball striking abilities. And, “The Americans are, of course, intensely interested in dollars; perhaps intensely is not quite a strong enough word.” Seems like a strong enough word to me. To his credit, he knew his limitations. As he states, “There are people who regard me as off-hand, even surly, when I am playing golf. But golf is my business. When I am playing I must concentrate to the utmost.” From a temperament standpoint Locke comes across as the Colin Montgomerie of his generation, and describes several incidents at the end of the book where the crowds or comments upset him or he snapped back at fans.

He criticizes the British system of professional golf as being ‘closed’ and ‘exclusive’ and thinks American golfers resort to too much gamesmanship and trickery during matches. John Derr describes Locke as “hearing a different drummer in his band.” In 1947 Time magazine wanted to feature Locke on its cover, but he turned them down because they wouldn’t pay him. Locke would only do interviews he got paid for; he typically charged $100.

Bobby Locke on Golf is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read, giving great insight into a golfer who we should remember as one of the best of the twentieth century. Along with The Walter Hagen Story and Down the Fairway, it is one of the three most interesting autobiographies in golf literature.

Locke also wrote several softcover items: Golf Hints (D & J L14500) is a four page brochure produced in Sydney in 1953. Golf Hints (D & J L14530) is a 36 page softcover produced in 1955, How to Improve Your Putting (D & J L14560) was produced by Dunlop Tire in 1949 and is nine pages. The final item is The Basis of My Game (D & J L14590), produced by Slazengers in 1950 and is 8 pages.

Ronald Norval produced a biography of Locke in 1951 titled King of the Links: The Story of Bobby Locke (D & J N16780).

Website of Valuable Book Group, LLC

John Derr Golf Book

October 1, 2013

I am always on the lookout for under-the-radar golf books that don’t receive a lot of fanfare. One recent gem we acquired is My Place at the Table : Stories of Golf and Life by John Derr. The book was published in 2010 by Old Sport Publishing in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

I heard John Derr being interviewed by John Maginnes while riding in my car on satellite radio, where he was talking about the first Masters he attended, in 1935. I was supposed to catch a train into the city, but as I sat listening I was mesmerized. I missed my train, but heard the entire interview. As I listened I was sure it was a taped interview replayed from years ago. To my surprise the interview was live and 95 year old John Derr is still alive and kicking!

As a 17-year old reporter he met Bob Jones, Cliff Roberts, O.B. Keeler and Grantland Rice at that first Masters. Derr would go on to cover a record sixty-two Masters and the club granted him its Major Achievement Award for doing so. What impressed me about Derr was that the man could tell a story and was still sharp as a tack. His book is a series of sixty-eight stories, most of them centered on his interactions with an individual of note. Derr enjoyed a very privileged position, as I have never heard of anyone else Cliff Roberts would invite to his cabin to have tea and crumpets during the Masters, but Derr was.

John is the ultimate raconteur and he has a nose for a story and how to tell it. Among the non-golfing people he met and profiles in the book are Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Yogi Berra, Gandhi (yes, that Gandhi) and Joe DiMaggio.

My Place at TableDustjacket of My Place at the Table showing Derr with Bing Crosby

Derr was an early pioneer in broadcasting golf on both radio and TV. The Jim Nantz of his day, Derr presided over the Masters ceremonies from Butler Cabin at his peak.

Aside from being on the property when Gene Sarazen made his double eagle in 1936, he also accompanied Ben Hogan around Carnoustie every day in 1953. This included the four tournament rounds as well as the two practice rounds and two qualifying rounds. Derr was also at Merion in 1950 when Hogan hit the famous 1-iron to the eighteenth green. What a front row to golf history he was lucky to have.

His stories are varied and interesting. His chapter on Pinehurst’s Richard Tufts explains how it was his idea to build the first driving range. Prior to Pinehurst building a practice area, lessons and warm-ups were done on holes near the clubhouse.

Derr is a walking history of the game and he talks about his visits to the U.S.G.A. headquarters when it was in a small townhouse in New York City and when the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn. Referencing Presidents Hoover, Nixon, and Eisenhower can be tricky, but Derr does it without a sense of name dropping. His humble roots and simple approach shine through in his book. His sense of inquisitiveness is unmatched, and he retains the enthusiasm of a 5-year old ninety years later.

Website of Valuable Book Group, LLC

Legendary Golf Clubs of the American Midwest

September 1, 2013

The spectacular work of Anthony Edgeworth and John de St. Jorre returns in style. The duo, the Mccartney-Lennon of golf books, has just published the fourth of their “Legendary Golf Clubs” series, this time focusing on elite golf clubs in the American Midwest.

Legendary Midwest

The cover photo for the new book was taken at Kirtland Country Club near Cleveland and it is a real beauty. The book focuses on several clubs that are below-the-radar and Kirtland is a good example. Designed by Charles H. Alison (of the Colt & Alison team), the course opened in 1921 and the book depicts it in all its splendor during the fall.

Another Alison course featured is Milwaukee Country Club, which also is rightfully featured among the best courses in the Midwest. All the clubs featured were designed prior to 1935, with many of them having been designed in the nineteen-teens. Take, for example the Old Elm Club on Chicago’s North Shore, designed in 1913 by H.S. Colt and constructed by Donald Ross. It is an all-male bastion of the golfing world that the authors compare to Swinley Forest.

Other courses featured in the book are Donald Ross’s Scioto in Columbus Ohio, Perry Maxwell’s Prairie Dunes in Kansas, the Country Club of Detroit and the A.W. Tillinghast designed Kansas City Country Club. A pair of Seth Raynor gems are highlighted: Camargo in Cincinnati and Shoreacres in Illinois. Rounding out the substantial pedigree of the architects is an original Charles Blair Macdonald design, St. Louis Country Club.

Many important events in golf’s history have occurred in the Midwest on courses featured in the book. Interlachen outside Minneapolis is the course Bobby Jones won the U.S. Open on in 1930 during his Grand Slam run. The chapter devoted to the Country Club of Detroit features a poignant story of a young paint salesman from Cleveland who won his U.S. Amateur at the course. The 24 year old is none other than Arnold Palmer.


Shoreacres delightful clubhouse along Lake Michigan

What we like so much about the work of Edgeworth and de St. Jorre is how they perfectly capture the essence of each club they feature. Edgeworth has a knack for photographing small details that add real depth to an intimate look behind the scenes. Accompanying Edgeworth’s photographs is de St. Jorre’s engaging and well researched text. The other genius in their efforts is focusing on ‘understated’ clubs, that, as they state, are like the Midwest themselves and have “no guest rooms, no pictures or lists of past presidents in the clubhouse, no tee times, no outings, no debt, and no territorial, infrastructural or grand tournament ambitions.”

Jack Nicklaus writes in the book’s foreword that (not surprisingly) many of the Midwest’s golf clubs hold a special place in his own personal story. He grew up playing at Scioto and qualified at Camargo for three of his U.S. Amateur appearances. Nicklaus finishes the foreword of the book by stating that reading this book is “like looking up an old friend.” I felt the same way, having been lucky enough to play five of the courses featured in the book, it transported me right back to warm memories of several storied and historic places.

We heartily recommend the book not only for the golfer’s library but also as a gift which is sure to be appreciated by the golfing aficionado. Let’s hope the authors continue to work their way east-to-west and that the future holds a Legendary Golf Clubs of the American West.


The alternate dust jacket of Legendary Golf Clubs showing Old Elm on the cover

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Golf Don’ts by H.L. Fitzpatrick

July 1, 2013

The first golf book published in the United States, in 1895 was James Lee’s Golf in America.  Today’s featured book was one of the first ten or so books published on the subject in the states, preceded bya small handful of others including An A.B.C. of Golf  (1898), The Golfer’s Alphabet (1898), The Golficide (1898), The Golf Girl (1899), A Hand-Book of Golf for Bears (1900).

Golf Don’ts : Admonitions that will help the novice to play well and the scratch men to play better was published in 1900 by Doubleday, Page & Co in  New York and written by H.L. Fitzpatrick (Donovan & Jerris F9070). The book is 114 pages and a small 4 ½ x 7 inches in size.

H.L. stands for Hugh Louis Fitzpatrick, and as Joe Murdoch outlines in The Library of Golf, Fitzpatrick was the first golf reporter in the United States. He covered the very first tournament, held prior to the formation of the U.S.G.A.  in 1894 for the New York Sun and would go on to become its golf editor. His obituary stated that he was the author of books on what can only be described as an eclectic group of subjects: golf, horses and poultry.

Organized into nine chapters, it is most accurately called a book of advice for golfers, as opposed to a book of instruction. Think of it as Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book done one hundred years earlier and in yellow. The book’s title comes from the fact that every paragraph of the book starts with the word “Don’t.”

golf dontsThe nice front cover of Golf Don’ts

I like Fitzpatrick’s approach, which is basically, stop whining and play the game. Read this book once and we can probably scrap the 603 page Decisions of the Rules of Golf that the U.S.G.A. and R & A publish.  Some examples from the book:

“Don’t blame the course, the club or the lie for your wretched shots.”

”Don’t complain if an ill wind blows your ball about. It is an ‘agency outside the match’ that must be endured.”

“Don’t cavil because a ball in motion is stopped by an agency outside the match, or by the fore-caddie, for it must be replaced and the occurrence submitted to as a “rub of the green.”

“Don’t carry your business or professional worries to the tee. Remember the round should tone up the mind as well as the muscles.”

“Don’t putt short – the hole cannot come nearer to you. Be up!  It was “young Tom” who said that Tom Morris, Sr., only failed to be a grand putter because the hole was usually a yard too far away.”


The rear cover of Golf Don’ts

A few of his Don’ts are a bit dated, but provide interesting historical context in an era when tees were made of sand and insulting your caddie was apparently fine:

“Don’t build a tee like a lighthouse.”

“Don’t think it snobbish to have the caddie make your tees, if he is smart enough.”

His final chapter is titled, “Men, Women and Misses” and contains some great wisdom, some of it excerpted below:

“Don’t change your style because you are not winning. It was Lincoln who said not to “swap horses while crossing a stream.”

“Don’t groan over a miss, like a boy who has been eating green apples. Better smile, even though you have to force it; then try, try again.”

“Don’t sneer at the “duffer” who turns in the flagrantly bad score in the handicap. Courage in this respect is proof of a better golfing future. If given to the cynical, sneer rather at the fairly proficient golfer who never returns a card at a competition unless it is a low one.”

“Don’t cheat. Remember, O tempted Mortal, that every wrong deed of intention, yea, every mere peccadillo, is seen and scored against you by the shades of the grand golfers of old, who from their sun-kissed clouds are the guardians of the links.”

Amen to that!

Website of Valuable Book Group, LLC

Golf Posters

May 1, 2013

The French have always had a savior faire and chic that sets them apart. This is no different when it comes to golf books. Their flair also comes in the form of posters used to advertise golf.

Orloff Golf

Produced in 2002 by Editions Milan, this beautiful, large format book features many stunning posters related to golf. Golf Posters or L’affiche de Golf (Donovan & Jerris O5170) was published in France but translated into English as well along side the French captions. The book was written by Alexis Orloff, a journalist and sports photographer.


The book has a large selection of posters related to golf tourism, which was popular at the start of the twentieth century. Popular destinations were the French Riviera, the Basque Coast, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. Two posters related to golfing in Cannes are seen above.

Many of the posters were commissioned by railway companies as a way to stimulate travel, such as a beauty by the G & S W R showing a birds-eye view of Turnberry in Scotland. There are other fantastic ones of the British Isles including St. Andrews, North Berwick, Royal Portrush and Silloth on Solway. The heyday of these travel era posters was between the 1920s and 1940s.


Some of the featured posters were done by famous illustrators including one of the Royal Golf Club at Ostende done in 1903 by Henri Cassiers.


Golfing posters did not die after the era of air travel began. In Europe, and in particular in France, they are alive and well, advertising golf tournaments. The book has very nice examples of Open de France posters, French Masters posters and more, produced well into the late 1990s.


The last third of the book covers advertising posters with golf themes, including this risqué golf themed number for Perrier Jouet. Vive la France!


The book has one annoyance, which is an error in translation. It describes Royal Portrush as being ‘signed’ by H.S. Colt. Initially I thought that he signed the poster of Portrush, thinking that would quite a collectible. When the error was repeated on James Braid and Southport I realized they meant the course was designed by them. Aside from this minor error, the book is quite a treat.

The book was never offered for sale in the United States and is thus difficult to come by.

Website of Valuable Book Group, LLC

The Evangelist of Golf – Charles Blair Macdonald

November 1, 2012

The subtitle of the book reveals the man behind the provocative title, “The Story of Charles Blair Macdonald.” Is it a stretch to put Macdonald in a lofty group with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as the title implies? As someone who fell in love with the National Golf Links the first time I played it, I think it is not a stretch. Macdonald was indeed an evangelist for the game of golf. The term “Evangelist of Golf,” comes from Macdonald’s obituary written by H.J. Whigham, his son-in-law and two-time U.S. Amateur winner.

Published 74 years after Macdonald’s Scotland’s Gift, The Evangelist of Golf was published in 2002 by Clock Tower Press. It was the last  of a trilogy of works published by Clock Tower about important and influential architects that covered Alister Mackenzie (The Life and Work of Dr. Alister MacKenzie, featured in our November 2009  newsletter), Donald Ross (Discovering Donald Ross, featured in our November 2011 newsletter) and C.B. Macdonald.

The book is organized into twenty-two chapters and covers important courses built by Macdonald including the Mid Ocean Club, the St. Louis Country Club, Sleepy Hollow, the Chicago Golf Club, Piping Rock and the Greenbrier Resort. The most important and longest chapter is of course devoted to The National Golf Links of America. Bahto does a deep dive on the course and devotes 74 of the  books 280 pages to the National. He goes through a hole-by-hole analysis which includes a picture, a topographical sketch drawing of each hole and his analysis of how and why the hole is strategic and should be played.

One of the best views in golf, from the 17th tee at National Golf Links

One of the best chapters in the book is dedicated to a full description of the many prototype holes used by Macdonald and his protegé Seth Raynor. He includes a Punchbowl, Sahara, Redan, Road, Eden, Alps, Biarritz, Leven, Double Plateau, Bottle, Hog’s Back, Short, Knoll, Channel, Long, Cape, Punchbowl, Sahara, Valley, Garden City and a Strategy hole! This gives you some example of the depth and variety of work that Macdonald and Raynor used and allows the reader to truly understand what makes these holes work and discusses their origins. This chapter has turned The Evangelist of Golf into a reference book in my library, referred to often, to get a better understanding of how and why these prototype holes work.

What Bahto has a gift for is to take something that isn’t entirely obvious, but which is familiar, and gives a clear explanation on why it works. For example, Bahto explains that the 17th at National Golf Links is a “Leven” hole, modeled after the 7th hole of the Leven Links in Scotland. A “Leven” is a short par 4 with a fairway or waste area that challenges the golfer to make a heroic carry for an open approach to the green. A less courageous line from the tee leaves the golfer with a semiblind approach over a high bunker to the short side of the green.

Another important chapter is devoted to the now defunct Links Club, which Macdonald designed on Long Island in 1919.  The club “opted to die by its own hand,” in 1985 when it was sold to a real estate developer. Another course that no longer exists, the Lido Club, also on Long Island has a chapter devoted to it. The club was compared to Pine Valley in its day and Bahto includes a nice illustration and mockup of its famous Channel hole.

Depictions of the Channel hole at Lido Golf Club

The Evangelist of Golf used to be a moderately priced book. The opening of Old Macdonald at the Bandon resort has created a resurgence of interest in Charles Blair Macdonald. As a result, the book has become quite pricey. This isn’t particularly surprising  since with a Macdonald replica course now available to the unwashed masses, demand for knowledge about Charlie Macdonald and his original genius creation is likely to remain high for a long time.

Website of Valuable Book Group, LLC

The Links by Robert Hunter

July 5, 2012

Robert Hunter’s The Links was a groundbreaking golf book, in that it was the first to use illustrations (black and white pictures) to demonstrate the art of good golf course architecture. Hunter laments the dearth of good books on golf architecture in the opening chapter and notes that the aspiring architect has few places to turn to learn the trade. Hunter uses fifty-one full page illustrations of the leading courses of the day to show what constitutes good architecture.

He refers to the early days of golf architecture in bleak terms, “Any one knowing better things must have thought it the work of some maniac with an extremely malicious spirit, determined to deface, with every kind of misshapen erection and eruption known to a depraved mind, those lovely fields and meadows which first caught the eye of our golfers.” He seems to be holding back here; I’d like to know what he really thinks.

Writing in the opening chapter “one recalls that less than thirty years ago the game was looked upon as something effeminate — an unmanly sport suited only to the pink-coated fops and dandies who played it. And what moral courage was required in those days to walk the town streets or board a train dressed in knickers and carrying a bag of clubs!”

The book was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1926 (Donovan & Jerris H27280). Unlike some books, where it can take some investigation to determine whether it is a first edition, with The Links it is easy to do. The first edition, seen below, has a white flag with a ‘1’ and a red flag with an ‘18’ on the front cover. The second edition has a plain green cover without the flag.

According to Donovan & Jerris, the second editions were produced in 1935 when “Golfdom Magazine purchased from Scribners’ [1,230 copies] unbound copies and bound them in a plain green cloth.” The contents are identical to the original first edition. The USGA published a facsimile edition in 1994 (D & J H27310) which was limited to 1,500 copies. Two other facsimile editions were produced in 1998 and 1999.

Hunter was a big fan of Pine Valley and the book includes thirteen full page pictures of the course. He calls it, “…a thing of structural beauty,” and “a playground of the gods.”

So who is Robert Hunter and what were his qualifications to author a book on golf course architecture? Before becoming interested in architecture he had an interesting background. From Donovan & Jerris, “Hunter was a world-renowned sociologist and political radical. He authored a number of highly influential books, including “Poverty” in 1904, which addressed and attempted to solve significant social problems. He ran unsuccessfully for governor of Connecticut in 1917. After moving to California in 1917, where he taught for many years at the University of California at Berkeley, Hunter became deeply interested in golf course architecture.” Daniel Wexler points out in The Book of Golfers, “Ironically Hunter, whose own roots were middle class, would marry an enormously wealthy woman and thus was living on her family’s expensive farm when he ran for Connecticut’s governorship on the Socialist ticket.” Aha. Thus, explains why Hunter takes such strong positions when writing. He’s a Berkeley radical!


Hunter as pictured playing Cypress Point, from their club history

Hunter’s course designs include the beautiful Valley Club of Montecito in Santa Barbara, California, which he co-designed with Alister MacKenzie. According to Donovan & Jerris he also assisted MacKenzie in the creation of Cypress Point and contributed to the redesign of Pebble Beach in preparation for the 1929 U.S. Amateur.

Copies of the book signed by Hunter are rare. An even rarer specimen of the book is one with the original dust jacket still present (seen below). Each of these rarities will fetch in the thousands of dollars. The Links is Hunter’s only writings about golf and is considered a classic among golf books. It has been overshadowed to some degree by the masterwork produced a year following its publication in 1927 of George Thomas’ Golf Architecture in America, but is still an important and relevent book today, rightly sought after by collectors. His 163 pages are opinionated, spirited and informed.

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Yeamans Hall Club

June 1, 2012

The Yeamans Hall Club is located in Charleston, South Carolina and the golf course was designed in 1925 by Seth Raynor. It is a low-key club and one of the gems of the golfing world. Until now, lovers of Yeamans Hall have had to make themselves content with the spectacular chapter in Legendary Golf Clubs of the American East by John de St. Jorre and Anthony Edgeworth. The chapter gives you a very good feel for what the Yeamans Hall experience is all about: world-class golf, southern charm, an idyllic setting and a feeling of splendid isolation.

Lovers of Yeamans Hall (your truly included) have a new reason to celebrate. The club recently (2010) published a history titled The Cottages and Architects of Yeamans Hall. The book was written by Charlton deSaussure, Jr. and the photographs in the book were taken by Charlotte Caldwell. deSaussure is a lawyer in Charles who lives at Yeamans Hall.

One of the founders of Yeamans Hall was architect James Gamble Rogers who designed the clubhouse, the quadrangle of guest cottages, the golf house, gatehouse and staff lodging. Rogers was one of the most talented architects of his day and as the book describes, “What Olmsted brought to the property, Rogers brought to the buildings.” The book pays a massive tribute to Rogers and his vision of what Yeamans Hall could be.

The book includes a copy of the original land plan as laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. in 1924. The plan originally contemplated two golf courses and 255 home sites for the 1,000 acre former plantation site. The Great Depression put a halt to the development and afterwards the 35 proprietors decided to leave the number of houses to those already built, which is where it stands today. The original 35 cottages were built between 1927 and 1938.

The bulk of the book is devoted to a detailed look at the 35 private cottages, although the author weaves in history, anecdotes and interesting stories throughout. The history also recounts visits by many famous golfers over the years including Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw and Bob Hope.

Webster’s dictionary defines a cottage as “A dwelling of a small farmer” or “small, one-family house”. The Yeamans Hall definition of a cottage, while not quite on the scale of the “cottages” in Newport, Rhode Island, are none-the-less, quite elaborate. Interspersed throughout the book are also vintage photos, facts of interest and newspaper or magazine articles about Yeamans Hall. An especially interesting one shows Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, USN and friends walking at Yeamans Hall in 1942. The first cottage was designed by Charleston architect Albert Simons and almost half of all the cottages were built by either Simons, his partner Samuel Lapham or by Rogers. The cottages at Yeamans Hall all have names. The “Colt” cottage was built for the designer of the Colt .45 pistol. deSaussure has done extensive research in compiling this delightful history and gives an interesting account of the families of each of the original cottage owners. The “Lamont” cottage was built by one of J.P. Morgan’s partners. All 35 cottages are pictured in the book.

Yeamans Hall has a timeless quality to it. Like the city of Charleston, it has a gentility and quaintness about it that are unique.

One of the finest experiences a golfer can have in my view is driving down the long entry drive through the moss-draped live oaks and rolling topography after you pass the front guard gate at Yeamans Hall. The legendary sports writer Grantland Rice summed up Yeamans Hall in an article published in 1927 and it is still the perfect description of the place today: “The Golf Course Most Marvelous in the U.S. “

The course designer, Seth Raynor wrote “The encircling trees give a warmth to the course in the wintertime, which is very delightful. This, combined with the invigorating climate and all the other fine features this spot contains, is bound to make one fall in love with golf at Yeamans Hall.”

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From Tee to Cup by Reg Manning

May 1, 2012

How many Pulitzer Prize winners have covered the subject of golf? As far as our research can uncover, three: John Updike, John Cheever and Reginald Manning. The two Johns are well-known fiction writers, but who exactly is Reg Manning? Manning won the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. Known as the “Cactus Cartoonist” because he spent his life working in Arizona, he drew more than 15,000 cartoons for the Arizona Republic and his work was syndicated in 170 newspapers. Manning’s signature includes a drawing with his trademark of a smiling cactus and can be seen on the bottom right of the book jacket below.

From Tee to Cup (Donovan & Jerris M9220) was Manning’s only book related to golf and it is a unique book. Published by Reganson Cartoon Books in Phoenix, Arizona in 1954, the book is 111 pages. Murdoch’s The Library of Golf 1743-1966 gives the book a nice mention. Its uniqueness comes from the fact that the book was intentionally printed with a hole in it. The hole is meant to represent an actual golf hole and Manning drew his illustrations with this in mind.

An example of how Manning uses the hole in the book to build his illustrations around is below:

Manning was an avid golfer and like all of us had his ups and downs with the game. As he writes in the book, “This book about golf is not written in a spirit of revenge. I would never do or say anything to detract from the game. But golf is tough.”

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