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 Most Powerful Club in the World? The Links

October 1, 2012

When Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his farewell address in January 1961 he warned the country about the potential unwarranted influence of a growing “military-industrial-complex.” We just obtained a copy of the Links Club (the name of the club is technically The Links) by-laws and membership handbook from 1955 and looking through it made us think a lot about Eisenhower’s speech. He had to look no further than the membership roster of the club he was a member of to see almost the entire complex he was speaking about. The concentration of power within the club, which is located in a beautiful townhouse on East 62nd Street in New York City, is stunning.

The Links clubhouse on East 62nd Street in New York

At the end of this newsletter we publish a partial list of members from 1955. The list is enough to set the conspiracy theorists going wild. Let’s see, top leadership of the military, aircraft production, steel, oil, automobiles, pharmaceuticals and finance. No wonder Eisenhower was worried.

Robert Caro has written extensively about Lyndon Johnson and wrote the definitive biography of Robert Moses, the New York urban planner. Caro has repeatedly said that he is fascinated with the study of power and this is what draws him into his exhaustive studies. We are fascinated with The Links, and for the same reason do a deep dive into the handbook, as an interesting study into the elite of the post-war period.

Imagine walking into The Links bar and seeing Bill Boeing, Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle and Lucius Clay bantering back and forth about flying. Or wander into the library and talk investments with Morgan, Stanley, Rockefeller and Witter. Excuse me; The Links is not a place to conduct business, so perhaps you want to talk golf with the President of the U.S.G.A. and the co-founders of Augusta National and Cypress Point. In fact, the current, former and a future U.S.G.A presidents are all on the rolls. Such was (and still is) the power of The Links.


The Links club book from 1955

You don’t bump into many club members these days whose occupation is ‘Explorer’, but The Links Club had one in 1955 with a name that fits the role: C. Suydam Cutting, who explored Tibet in the 1930s. Want to talk politics? You’re in luck with a pair of U.S. Senators, a future Secretary of State, a Governor and a Mayor perhaps having a smoke in the game room. Happen to be an Anglophile? Then discuss Great Britain with the current, former and future U.S. Ambassadors to the Court of St. James’s, all three of whom were members in 1955.

Maybe you think you’ve had too much to drink because you’re seeing stars? No, with all the military brass as members there are scores of stars to be seen. How about both the current Secretary of the Navy and Air Force as well as a future Secretary of Defense? Want to stay up late and tell war stories? At The Links the stories were no doubt real as Ike’s chief of staff was a member as was one of the planners of the Normandy invasion and the architect of the Berlin airlift.

If trust-fund babies are your thing, look around the C.B. Macdonald Room and you might spot heirs to the fortunes of McGraw Hill, Mellon Bank, Sun Oil Company and Marshall Field department stores sipping their cocktails. Perhaps it is no co-incidence that an astounding 24 members of the 1955 Links Club have been on the cover of Time Magazine, since its publisher, Henry Luce is also a member!

Books about The Links are very hard to find and are prized by collectors. This handbook measures only 6 ¼ inches x 5 inches and is 64 pages. The book lists the current Officers, Board of Governors, Constitution and By-Laws, Current Members and Deceased Members. As the Constitution states, its purpose is “..to promote and conserve throughout the United States the best interests and true spirit of the game of golf as embodied in its ancient and honorable traditions, endorsing the rules of the game as it is played in Scotland and as adopted by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.”

Aside from these rare handbooks, there was an official history of the club, The Links, published in 2004 in a limited edition (Donovan & Jerris D10540). It was published for the members and done by our favorite golf book team of Anthony Edgeworth and John De St. Jorre. The book has a green plastic cover with the gilt links logo, is 57 pages and was issued with a green protective slipcase. Copies rarely come up for sale and when they do they are snapped up. As you would expect, the club history is very discreet about its membership, but there is a picture of David Rockefeller posing in the club.

A sampling of members in 1955 is listed below:

The Current Commander-in-Chief

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States

Industry

  • Sewell L. Avery, Chairman of Montgomery Ward
  • Stephen D. Bechtel of the engineering and construction company
  • Sosthenes Behn, founder of ITT Corporation
  • Roger M. Blough, President of U.S. Steel Corporation
  • Harold Boeschenstein, Chairman of Owens-Corning
  • Richard L. Bowditch, Chairman U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • H.S.M. Burns, British President of Shell Oil Company
  • Louis S. Cates, Chairman of Phelps Dodge
  • Owen R. Cheatham, Chairman of Georgia Pacific Corporation
  • Colby M. Chester, Chairman of General Foods Corporation
  • Hugh J. Chisholm, President of International Paper
  • George H. Coppers, Chairman of Nabisco
  • Cleo F. Craig, President of A T &T
  • Walter F. Dillingham, “the Baron of Hawaiian Industry”
  • Richard R. Depree, President of Proctor & Gamble
  • Benjamin F. Fairless, CEO of U.S. Steel
  • Henry Ford II, President of the Ford Motor Company
  • J. Peter Grace, Jr., Grace Chemical CEO
  • Augustus C. Long, CEO of Texaco
  • Henry R. Luce, publisher of Time Magazine
  • Joseph H. McConnell, former President of NBC
  • George W. Merck, President of Merck pharmaceuticals
  • Roger Milliken, CEO of Milliken textiles
  • Morehead Patterson, Chairman of AMF
  • G. Willing Pepper, President of the Scott Paper Company
  • Gwilym A. Price, President of Westinghouse
  • Edgar Monsanto Queeny, Chairman of Monsanto Corporation
  • Donald J. Russell, future CEO of Southern Pacific Railroad
  • Sidney A. Swensrud, Chairman Gulf Oil
  • Walter C. Teagle, retired Chairman of Standard Oil
  • Thomas J. Watson, Jr., President of IBM
  • Charles E. Wilson, former President of General Electric

Government and Diplomacy

  • Winthrop W. Aldrich, Ambassador to Great Britain
  • Arthur A. Ballantine, Undersecretary of the Treasury and lawyer
  • Prescott S. Bush, U.S. Senator and father of President Bush (41)
  • Charles E. Daniel, U.S. Senator from South Carolina
  • Thomas E. Dewey, Governor of New York
  • C. Douglas Dillon, U.S. Ambassador to France, Future Secretary of the Treasury
  • Joseph E. Davies, U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union
  • Thomas S. Gates, Jr. future U.S. Secretary of Defense
  • Walter S. Gifford, former chairman of A T & T, fomer Ambassador to the U.K.
  • StantonGriffis, U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Egypt, Spain and Argentina
  • Amory Houghton, CEO, Corning Glass Works, future U.S. Congressman
  • George M. Humphrey, Secretary of the Treasury
  • Herbert C. Hoover, Jr. son of the 31st President, Undersecretary of State and a member of the President’s cabinet
  • John A. McCone, future director of the C.I.A.
  • Jean Monnet, diplomat and  founding father of the European Union
  • Winthrop Rockefeller, son of John D. Rockefeller and Governor of Arkansas
  • Sir William Wiseman, British intelligence agent and banker
  • Cyrus R. Vance, future U.S. Secretary of State
  • John Hay Whitney, future U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain

Military

  • Oscar C. Badger, a four star Admiral in the U.S. Navy
  • Ralph A. Bard, undersecretary of the U.S. Navy
  • Dunbar W. Bostwick, Lt. Colonel U.S.Army, helped organize Normandy invasion
  • Lucius D. Clay, U.S. General, Eisenhower deputy and ‘father’ of the Berlin airlift
  • Robert A. Lovett, former U.S. Secretary of Defense
  • Paul Nitze, future Secretary of the Navy
  • Elwood R. Quesada, Lieutenant General, U.S.A.F.
  • Stanley R. Resor, future U.S. Secretary of the Army
  • Kenneth Royall, Army Brigadier General, last person to serve as Secretary of War
  • James Hopkins Smith, Jr., U.S. Secretary of the Navy
  • William Bedell Smith, Eisenhower’s chief of staff in WWII, four star general, former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and former C.I.A director
  • Harold E. Talbott, Secretary of the Air Force

Finance

  • Norborne Berkeley, President of Chemical Bank
  • Edward Eagle Brown, Chairman of the First National Bank of Chicago
  • Paul C. Cabot, founded State Street Corporation and started the first mutual fund
  • Asa V. Call, President of Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company
  • George Champion, Chairman, Chase Manhattan Bank
  • J. Luther Cleveland, Chairman of the Guaranty Trust Company
  • S. Sloan Colt, President of the Bankers Trust Company
  • Isaac B. Grainger, President of Chemical Bank and future president U.S.G.A.
  • Benjamin H. Griswold III, Chairman of Alex, Brown
  • E. Roland Harriman, co-founder of Brown Brothers Harriman
  • Devereux C. Josephs, Chairman of the Board New York Life Insurance
  • John J. McCloy, future Chairman, Chase Manhattan Bank, President World Bank
  • Henry S. Morgan, grandson of J.P. Morgan and co-founder of Morgan Stanley
  • Ralph Owen, Chairman of American Express
  • Elmore C. Patterson, future CEO of J.P. Morgan
  • Ralph T. Reed, future CEO of American Express
  • David Rockefeller, future Chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank
  • J. Stillman Rockefeller, President National City Bank
  • Howard C. Sheperd, Chairman of National City Bank
  • Harold Stanley, co-founder of Morgan Stanley
  • Dean Witter, founder of Dean Witter investment firm

Aircraft and Flying

  • William E. Boeing, founder of the Boeing Airplane Company
  • F. Trubee Davison, Famous WWI Naval Aviator
  • James H. Doolittle, U.S. General and famed aviator
  • Robert E. Gross, President of Lockheed Aircraft
  • Frederick B. Rentschler, Chairman of  Pratt & Whitney Aircraft
  • Edward V. Rickenbacker, World War I ace pilot
  • Leon A. Swirbul, founder of Grumman Aircraft

Inherited Wealth

  • Marshall Field, heir to the department store fortune
  • James H. McGraw, Jr. heir to the book publishing company
  • Paul Mellon, heir to the Mellon banking fortune and philanthropist
  • Howard Phipps, heir to the Carnegie Steel partner Henry Phipps, Jr.
  • Joseph N. Pew, heir to Sun Oil fortune, co-founder of the Pew Charitable Trusts
  • J. Watson Webb, film maker and heir to the Vanderbilt fortune

Golf and Other pursuits

  • Morton G. Bogue, former President of the U.S.G.A.
  • C. Suydam Cutting, Explorer
  • Donald K. David, Dean of the HarvardBusinessSchool
  • Arthur H. Dean, Chairman of the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell
  • Childs Frick, Paleontologist and son of Steel magnate Henry Clay Frick
  • Totton P. Heffelfinger, President of the U.S.G.A.
  • Eugene V. Homans. Bobby Jones defeated Homans at Merion to win the grand slam in 1930
  • Roger D. Lapham, Mayor of San Francisco and co-founder of Cypress Point Club
  • Robert Montgomery, actor
  • Alfred Easton Poor, architect
  • Roland L. Redmond, President Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Archie M. Reid, Secretary of the U.S.G.A.
  • Clifford Roberts, co-founder of Augusta National Golf Club

1955 Links Club members who made the cover of Time Magazine:

Charles Wilson

Colby Chester

Cyrus Vance

David Rockefeller

Dwight Eisenhower

Douglas Dillon

Eddie Rickenbacker

George Merck

Gwilym Price

Henry Ford II

Herbert Hoover, Jr.

James Doolittle

John McCloy

Joseph Davies

Joseph Pew

Lucius Clay

Roger Blough

Roger Lapham

Stillman Rockefeller

Thomas Dewey

Thomas Watson

Trubee Davison

Walter Teagle

Winthrop Rockefeller

Website of Valuable Book Group

A Sign of the Times

September 15, 2012

We follow the auction market for golf books closely and noted that recent results were down with one area being a notable exception: signed golf books.

A copy of Golf is my Game signed by Bobby Jones sold for $2,700 which is about 30% more than the book typically sells for. A Bernard Darwin signed copy of Playing the Like sold for $1,920 which is a good price in this market.

The item that jumped out at us was a Old Tom Morris signed copy of Golfing: A Handbook to the Royal and Ancient Game, with List of Clubs, Rules, &c. Also Golfing Sketches and Poems published in 1887 by W. & R. Chambers of Edinburgh & London. Auction house descriptions can sometimes border on hyperbole but in this case we agree with their assessment that, “Anything signed by Morris is incredibly rare and difficult to come by.”

What makes it especially interesting is that he signed below a picture of himself! The price for this specimen was $13,200. Copies of this title usually sell for $1,000 making the Old Tom signature about $12,000 which is a high as we’ve seen a golf related signature go for.

Website of Valuable Book Group

Collecting Golf Books

September 1, 2012

“A little library, growing every year, is an honorable part of a man’s history. It is a man’s duty to have books. A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life. Books are the windows through which the soul looks out. A home without books is like a room without windows.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

This month we feature an atypical newsletter. In the age where eBooks sales are outpacing sales of the old-fashioned kind, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on the nature of books, collecting and the civility of a good library. In 2010 Amazon sold 143 e-books for every 100 hardcover books. While the Kindle, Nook and iPad have certainly helped book sales and turned a lot of people onto reading more, there is still something special about the real thing.

It starts simply enough. A golf book you buy really catches your fancy. You look up other books by the same author. As you read more, you want to learn more. It’s like an insatiable appetite. The more you read and acquire, the more you want to have. You wind up with a modest collection of golf books. It begins to get serious when you start taking non-golf books off your book shelves to make room for the additional golf books you’ve acquired. Soon, it takes over most of your library. Then, you’re stacking books on the floor.

While not as exciting as holing a shot from the fairway, we share the experience of delight you have when opening a newly arrived package. The postman and UPS driver are your friends. Oh, the anticipation of opening the newly arrived package.

You start to rationalize it, “I know it’s a lot of golf books, but I got a really good price on The Links.” You mentally tell yourself to set a budget. But time and time again you fail to meet the budget. Then you start to look at the finer books and start buying at auctions. Again, your budget gets blown and it ratchets up another notch. “Yea, but this is such a rare book, I may not have another chance to get it, especially in this condition.” Well, it was only a mental budget anyhow. You know it has reached fever pitch when you start hiding your purchases from your spouse.

When does it cross the line from being a serious collection to running amok? We ask ourselves the same question all the time. Our feeling is as long as we continue to get pleasure from the experience and set some limits, it is worth pursuing.

How did it all start? Joe Murdoch admits in was The Complete Golfer by Herbert Warren Wind that got him hooked. I was also hooked by Wind, but in my case, it was Following Through.

Most of us follow the same pattern. You start buying everything you can. The emphasis is on quantity and not quality. Greg Norman’s Shark Attack, Lee Trevino’s Super Mex. Fine books, no doubt, but hardly collectible. Then, you start to discriminate. You buy the rarer books and it gets more expensive. Like acquiring a taste for scotch, you keep refining your palate. You know it has gotten serious when you start trading up your books. You have The Walter Hagen Story, but you don’t have it with the dust jacket in perfect condition. So you pursue it and then sell your old copy.

Like the game we all love, collecting golf books is an obsession; a mania; an addiction. We find that collecting golf books and playing the game are perfect complements. You finally get the chance to play Maidstone; when you get home, you research Maidstone club histories that you now must have, so you can savor your experience. It works the other way too. You’ve seen all the great Royal Liverpool books, and now it’s eating at you; you’ve got to play the course. And so it goes. A virtuous cycle in our opinion, but an obsessive one none-the-less. In the same way you are anxious to get out on the course because you know you can shave two strokes off your score today, you are always looking for that hidden gem with a dust jacket or a rare nineteenth century golf book.

One of the greatest collectors in history was C.B. Clapcott, a postal employee in England. In one of the great collecting feats of all time, he built a world-class collection on what had to be modest wages. We can all learn from Clapcott. He was driven by passion, not by the desire to see price appreciation.

Our parting wisdom is that you’ve lost it when you think Dave Pelz’s Putting Bible is more important than the real Bible. So what if you can’t pay for your kids to go to college because you’ve spent it all on golf books. It’ll be better for them to make it on their own anyhow. It builds character!

“As a rule people don’t collect books; they let books collect themselves.” ―Arnold Bennett

“I cannot live without books.”  ― Thomas Jefferson

“Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.”   — Walter Benjamin

“I have no mistress but my books.” — S.J. Adair Fitzgerald

Website of Valuable Book Group, LLC

Links of Life by Joe Kirkwood

August 1, 2012

How many golf writers get dust jacket blurbs from two U.S. Presidents? Both Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower endorsed Joe Kirkwood’s biography The Links of Life. Eisenhower says, “My golf game shows the benefit of his magic touch.” Kirkwood’s story was published in 1973 and written by Barbara Fey (Donovan & Jerris K7210).

Kirkwood was one of golf’s more interesting characters. Best know as a trick-shot artist who toured the world with Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, Kirkwood was born in Australia in 1897. Kirkwood started entertaining injured soldiers after World War I. He says that he learned to hit trick shots with the use of just one arm or leg to offer encouragement to injured soldiers who were missing limbs.

Kirkwood won both the Australian and New Zealand Opens in 1920 and finished in the top ten in the Open Championship four times. Shortly after emigrating to the U.S. he played in the North-South Open, which was a very prestigious tournament at that time and still played on sand greens. As luck would have it, he was paired with Walter Hagen, thus beginning one of golf’s great partnerships.

Kirkwood traveled widely and the book recounts visits to exotic lands such as Singapore, South Africa, India, Ceylon, Rangoon, Java, Burma, Japan and China. In an impressive feat of stamina Kirkwood did 105 exhibitions in 109 days. In the days before big money purses on the tour  it was a good source of income. Kirkwood was one of the most widely traveled golfers of all time and he states in the book that he played over 8,000 courses around the globe.

The centerpiece and one of the most interesting parts of the book is a 36 page black and white photo spread showing Kirkwood all over the world. Below is a photo of Kirkwood hitting a golf ball that is teed up in a woman’s mouth.

He apparently also had a penchant for topless women. There are six shots in the book of women without tops on taken in Bali and Africa. In one of them, Kirkwood is giving a lesson and has his hands all over the woman! As he describes it, “To say that it was hard to concentrate would be putting it mildly. Her gorgeous body gleamed in the sunlight, and watching her put to use my instruction was a study in anatomy – hers and mine.”

In 1930, Joe Kirkwood and Walter Hagen went to Japan at the invitation of the Japan Golf Association and played ten exhibition matches. After their visit, golf started to take off there, with thirty courses built in the next few years. One of the best pictures in the book is one of Kirkwood and Hagen in Japan in 1930 with Japanese woman standing behind them in traditional clothing and umbrellas. Kirkwood is seen below with Walter Hagen outside a hotel in Japan.

The book includes some fabulous pictures of Kirkwood and Hagen racing around the pyramids in Egypt in 1937 riding camels. Kirkwood was quite a celebrity in his day and did exhibitions for the Prime Minister of Australia, the Emperor of Japan in the Imperial Garden and for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Links of Life is a quirky and very interesting biography, I imagine, just like the man.

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!

DSCF8655-001

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.

Website of Valuable Book Group, LLC

Best Selling Golf Books

June 29, 2012

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.

Highlights of the quarter: The new book about Tiger didn’t last as a best seller very long, dropping off the list in a couple of months after publication. And, this quarter there are two books in the top 10 by James Dodson. As of June 2012:

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

2 .Lost Balls: Great Holes, Tough Shots, and Bad Lies by Charles Lindsay, published 2005

3. Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan, published 1990.

4.  Fifty Places to Play Golf Before You Die: Golf Experts Share the World’s Greatest Destinations by Chris Santella, published in 2005.

5. American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf by James Dodson, published 2012.

6. Sports Illustrated: The Golf Book published in 2009.

7. Golf My Way: The Instructional Classic, Revised and Updated by Jack Nicklaus, published in 2005.

8. Final Rounds: A Father, A Son, The Golf Journey Of A Lifetime by James Dodson, published 1997.

9. The Four Magic Moves to Winning Golf by Joe Dante, published in 1995.

10. The New Yorker Book of Golf Cartoons (New Yorker Book of Cartoons) by Robert Mankoff, published in 2002.

Website of Valuable Book Group

Golf Books – A buyer’s market!

June 22, 2012

The Jaime Ortiz-Patino collection of golfing memorabilia was auctioned off at Christie’s auction house on May 30th. Patino is most closely associated with Valderrama, a course that he brought Robert Trent Jones Sr. back to in 1985 to lengthen and redesign into one of the world’s premier courses. Christie’s marketed the sale in New York, Hong Kong and Dubai prior the London sale.

The auction included a large selection of artwork, clubs and balls as well as some books. Christie’s had predicted that the sale would bring in £2 million, but it realized only £1.8.  That’s US $2.8 million, putting Jimmy clearly in the 1% that many of the street protestors object to. The top three items in the sale were works of art, the highest being Sir John Lavery’s painting of North Berwick which sold for $376,350 (seen below).

We say it is a buyer’s market because the savvy purchaser could have snapped up some real bargains. H.S. Colt’s Some Essays on Golf Course Architecture with its rare dust jacket sold for $390!!! This book is worth at least 10 times this amount. Also, a copy of Bobby Jones’ Down the Fairway with the slipcase sold for $5,070, about half of what the book has traded at in recent years. Hillinthorn’s Your First Game of Golf also sold for 50% of the price normally achieved by US auction sites.

A 1743 copy of The Goff sold for $46,800. Although a difficult book to benchmark prices against because of its rarity and varied conditions, a 1793 copy sold for $80,500 in 1998 as part of the Joe Murdoch sale.

This rare Prestwick Rules book from 1873 achieved $2,340:

The auction also yielded some unusual results on the upside. Charles Blair MacDonald’s Scotland’s Gift was sold for $12,675, a price which is $5,000 more than a comparable copy we currently have for sale. Our conclusion after the Christie’s sale is that for sure it is still a buyer’s market with prices remaining cheap for those building a collection. It also reinforces our view that an educated buyer who does his or her research and is patient can build a nice library. And as the MacDonald book proves, P.T. Barnum was right!

The full results of the auction can be found on Christie’s website including prices realized.

The website of Valuable Book Group, LLC

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.”

Website of Valuable Book, LLC

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.”

Website of Valuable Book Group, LLC


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