Our Favorite Golf Books

February 1, 2012

Through 2006 over 15,500 golf books have been published, and it can be daunting to find the best ones. It has been five years since we last published a list of our favorite golf books, so here is an updated listed, which has now expanded to three pages and boils it down to less than fifty.

How does one pick their favorite golf course, or their favorite city or favorite restaurant? Well, it’s not easy to pick your favorite golf books, either. One way to pick your favorite is to create multiple categories, like we’ve done, and make a couple picks in each. The books listed below would all make great gifts for the serious golf fan and cover a variety of price ranges.

Club Histories
1. The Valley Club of Montecito 1928-1998
2. Garden City Golf Club: A History 1999
3. Sunningdale Golf Club 1900-2000
4. Pine Valley Golf Club: A Chronicle. Shelly Warner, 1982
5. The Definitive Guide to The Hotchkin Course – Woodhall Spa. Latham. 2004
6. Golf at Merion. 2005
7. Prestwick Golf Club A History and Some Records. Shaw. 1932
8. The Evolution of the Links at The Royal County Down Golf Club. Latham. 2006
9. The Story of Golf at The Country Club. De St. Jorre. 2009
10. Somerset Hills Country Club 1899-1999
11. Royal & Ancient Golf Club St. Andrews. Three volume set by John Behrend
12. The Story of Seminole. Dodson. 2007

Our favorite club histories all share two things in common. First, they are about world-class golf courses. And second, they all have the power to transport you to the course and really give a feel for what it is like to play there. There is nothing worse to us than a club history that just goes through the minutes of board meetings and tells esoteric facts about the course. All these books deliver on both fronts.

Great Writing

1. Following Through by Herbert Warren Wind. 1985
2. Down the Fairway by Bobby Jones. 1927
3. The Best of Henry Longhurst. 1978
4. The Story of American Golf by Herbert Warren Wind. 1948
5. Golf Dreams by John Updike. 1996
6. Golf on the LMS by Dell Leigh. 1925
7. The Making of the Masters. David Owen. 1999
8. Wodehouse on Golf or The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. Wodehouse.

These six authors won’t let you down. Wind is the most precise and gripping, Longhurst the wittiest, Updike the most insightful. Jones to this day has some of the best observations about the game and Leigh takes you back to a different era; you can feel what golf was like in an earlier period. Owen’s book is the single best written about the Masters. Wodehouse was one of the best writers of the 20th century in or outside of golf.

Picture Books/Coffee Table
1. Legendary Golf Clubs of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Edgeworth and de St. Jorre. 1999
2. Legendary Golf Clubs of the American East. Edgeworth and de St. Jorre. 2003
3. Where Golf is Great. James Finegan. 2006
4. Planet Golf. Darius Oliver. 2007
5. Creating Classics: The Golf Courses of H.S. Colt. Peter Pugh. 2009
6. The Scrapbook of Old Tom Morris. Joy. 2001

Maybe we’re simple minded, but we refer to these books more than any other in the library. The Legendary Golf Clubs books quite literally transport you to these elite and private courses. We’ve raved about these for years and our enthusiasm is still going strong!

Reference Books
1. The Game of Golf and the Printed Word. 2006. Donovan & Jerris. For the serious collector of golf books, lists every golf book published through 2005.
2. The Book of Golfers by Daniel Wexler. 2005. Comprehensive coverage of golf’s historical figures, a small but very detailed bio on each is included.

Fiction
1. The Greatest Course That Never Was by J. Michael Veron. 2001
2. The Greatest Player Who Never Lived by J. Michael Veron. 2000

Veron is not a well-known writer, but none-the-less we find his golf fiction quite good.

Improving Your Game
1. Golf is Not a Game of Perfect by Dr. Joseph Rotella. 1995
2. Zen Golf by Joseph Parent. 2002

Both are concise, simple and actually help both in life and golf (is there a difference?)

Best Produced
1. Golf: The Badminton Library. Large Paper Limited Edition of 250. Horace Hutchinson. 1890.
2. British Golf Links. Large Paper Limited Edition of 250. Horace Hutchinson. 1897.
3. A Royal and Ancient Game. Large Paper Edition of 50. Robert Clark. 1875.
4. A Golfer’s Gallery by Old Masters. Darwin. 1920

The first time I saw the large paper editions of these books my jaw dropped. Wow! Although all four were published in the nineteenth or early twentieth century, the quality of the bindings, paper, print and illustrations to this day still set the standard. You may need a home equity loan for these four but they are cornerstone collectibles.

Architecture

1. The Life and Work of Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Doak, Scott and Haddock. 2001
2. The Links. Robert Hunter. 1926
3. Golf Architecture in America. George Thomas. 1927
4. Golf Architecture. Alister MacKenzie. 1920
5. The Evangelist of Golf. George Bahto. 2002
6. The 500 World’s Greatest Golf Holes. George Peper. 2003
7. The Confidential Guide to Golf. Tom Doak. 1996

Who doesn’t like to compare their opinion of a course to Doak’s ratings and strong opinions? Since the National Golf Links of America never published a history, Bahto’s is the next best thing and offers great insights into C.B. Macdonald. Thomas’s book is probably the most influential in terms of architecture ever written.

Biography

1. Scotland’s Gift. C.B. Macdonald. 1928
2. The Walter Hagen Story. Walter Hagen. 1956
3. Down the Fairway. Bobby Jones. 1927
4. Bobby Locke on Golf by Bobby Locke. 1954

The personalities of all these golfers come out in their biographies. Macdonald’s strong will and arrogance. Jones’s grace and class. Hagen’s unique and fun approach to life and golf and Locke’s grit and determination.

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Golf Books with Pictorial Covers

January 1, 2012

Can you ever judge a book by its cover? In the world of golf books, if you are collecting for the long term, perhaps you can, since they are among the most collectible.

This month we feature twenty-three golf books with great eye appeal. It is too bad that the quality of book cover illustrations has deteriorated over the years. These featured gems offer a look back at how a bit of extra care and design made such a difference. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words, as these worthy books illustrate. Who hasn’t at times felt like the golfer pictured on Hillinthorn’s Your First Game of Golf (D & J H17500) which was done over 120 years ago?

Of our featured books, fifteen have the pictorial images as part of the cover, and in our view are the most interesting. The Golfing Swing (1913), Inspired Golf (1921) and Locker Room Ballads (1925) have pictorial labels added to the front covers. The last four books featured have their fabulous images on dust jackets, proving that jackets don’t have to be bland, like many of today’s sadly are. We have listed the books in chronological order to give the reader a sense of how designs have evolved over the years. The hey-day was in the Victorian, pre-war era.

1891

Your First Game of Golf was published by Day & Son and notes that they were 25 years lithographers to the queen.

1886
Horace Hutchinson’s
Hints on the Game of Golf
A very early illustrated cover

1896

1898

1899

1900

1901

1904

1907

1908

1910

1913

1913

1920

1921

1923

1925

1925

1930

1933

1934

Modern covers don’t have to be bland or generic. The Pulitzer Prize winner John Updike actually designed the cover of his Golf Dreams himself. The Australian edition of The Golfer’s Bedside Book also represents another nice modern cover.

1996

 

1971

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Golf Book Gift Ideas

December 1, 2011

We’re often asked about gift ideas this time of year, so we offer the following idea for all levels of budget and in varied subject areas.

General All Purpose – Commonly available and not budget busters.

1. The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever by Mark Frost is the #1 best selling golf book on Amazon.com and chronicles a match of Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan against two amateurs.

click on book image to buy

2. The Making of the Masters by David Owen. Insider’s access to Augusta and great story telling.

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3. Following Through by Herbert Warren Wind. In our view the best golf writer ever with interesting and varied stories.

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4. Golf Dreams by John Updike. A renowned writer captures better than anyone does the life-long struggles of every golfer in their quest to perfect their swing and their mental struggles with the game.

click on book image to buy

Books on Improving a Golfer’s Game

5. Zen Golf by Dr. Joseph Parent. The best of the instruction books, virtually guaranteed to help the mental side.

click on image to buy

6. How to Play Your Best Golf Now. By Pia Nilsson & Lynn Marriott. Helping to master the mental side of the game on and off the course.

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Wow Factor

7. Legendary Golf Clubs of the American East or Legendary Golf Clubs of England, Scotland and Ireland by Anthony Edgeworth & John De St. Jorre. Featuring some of the world’s most elite and exclusive golf courses. Any of the three books by these two authors would make a spectacular gift as the photography is simply stunning and the accompanying text matches their brilliance.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – Nice coffee table or special interest

8. Planet Golf by Darius Oliver. A pictorial tour of the great golf courses outside the United States.

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9. The Club Menu by Scott Savlov and Jon Rizzi. Menu items with accompanying recipes from many of the world’s best courses. A good choice for the food loving golfer.

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For the Connoisseur That Has it All – A budget buster, but unique

10. The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses is an insider’s look at the world’s golf courses and was written before he was a famed architect. His opinion is prized because it is a well-honed one and very honest, which is a rarity when people assess golf courses.
 

click on book image to buy

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Best Selling Golf Books

November 17, 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 November 2011:

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

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

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

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

5. Breaking 100, 90, 80: Taking Your Game to the Next Level with the Best Teachers in Golf by Golf Digest, published in 2004.

6. Golf, Naked: The Bare Essentials Revealed by Greg Rowley, published in 2009.

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

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

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

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

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Discovering Donald Ross

November 1, 2011

Most golfers can probably point to Pinehurst #2 as Donald Ross’s masterpiece and aficionados know that he was the head professional at Royal Dornoch. Continue to scratch the surface and some can recall he designed the incomparable Seminole in Florida, Oakland Hills in Michigan and Oak Hill near Rochester. Dig a little deeper and remember that he also designed championship courses at Aronimink near Philadelphia and at Inverness near Toldeo. Jack Nicklaus grew up playing the Donald Ross designed Scioto in his hometown of Columbus, as did Bobby Jones at East Lake in Atlanta. Is there any question that Ross was one of the greatest course designers who ever lived? Most certainly not. Then why did it take until 2001 to have a comprehensive biography of him published? Good question.

This glaring void was filled with the publication of Discovering Donald Ross: The Architect and His Golf Courses, published by Clock Tower Press (Donovan & Jerris K7570). The book’s thoughtful author, Bradley S. Klein has an eclectic background. Klein has been a PGA tour caddie as well as a university professor and he holds a Ph.D. in political science. Klein has served as editor of Golfweek magazine and is currently a senior writer there. He also consults on course design; his most notable work in this regard being the recently completed Old Macdonald in Bandon, Oregon. Discovering Donald Ross is so well done it won the 2001 U.S.G.A. Herbert Warren Wind Book Award.

The 367 page book is profusely illustrated with color and black and white images of Ross’ courses and other historical events in his life. These are supplemented by individual hole design drawings done by Ross and reproduced with permission from the various courses and by the Tufts Archives in North Carolina which holds a large body of the Ross legacy. Klein does a masterful job of weaving back and forth between the abundant number of courses Ross designed and the Scotsman’s design philosophy, while also providing detailed insight into the man.

Ross pictured at Pinehurst

Among the ten chapters, there is one devoted to Pinehurst and its development as a southern resort. Especially interesting are historical pictures of old circular sand greens used at the time at Pinehurst. Another chapter is devoted to Ross’s “Life and Character.” Klein portrays him as a modest family man.

Pete Dye, writing in the foreword to the book explains why Ross was such a genius, “He was the first designer to make the opening shot play one way, then switch the kind of play needed on the second shot. Whatever he had done on the first hole, he’d flip on the second. He might set up a bunker on the right-hand side and expect you to cut your tee shot. He would then reverse that around the green and expect you to draw your approach.” I have been lucky enough to play Seminole, the quintessential Ross course, and Dye’s description sums up perfectly what makes a Donald Ross course so much fun (and so much of a challenge) to play. This kind of subtlety in design is what gives Ross courses such a lasting quality and puts a smile on the fact of any prospective golfer who learns the course he is about to play was designed by this great architect.

The Ross oeuvre is large. The last section of the book lists over 450 courses to his credit. His biggest concentrations of work were in North Carolina, Florida, Massachusetts and Ohio, although he worked as far away as Cuba, Colorado, California and Banff, Canada. Through the time the book was published Ross courses had hosted 108 major championships including many at fantastic and lesser known courses such as Salem (Massachusetts), Plainfield (New Jersey) and Pine Needles (North Carolina).

10,000 copies of the first edition were published. A newly updated second edition of the book was published in 2011 with 2,160 copies printed. This new edition includes a new chapter highlighting the work Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have done on Pinehurst #2 in addition to highlighting renovations to Ross courses since the publication of the first edition.

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James Braid Golf Books

October 1, 2011

James Braid won the Open Championship five times, all on Scottish soil: at St. Andrews twice (1905 and 1910), at Prestwick once (1908) and at Muirfield twice (1901 and 1906). Over the seventeen year period beginning in 1896 he never finished out of the top ten in the Open Championship. World rankings were not yet devised in this era, but it is a pretty safe bet that if they were, Braid would have been the #1 golfer during the first decade of the 20th century. Braid was one of the golfers forming the ‘Great Triumvirate’ along with Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor.


Braid was also the professional at one of my favorite courses, Walton Heath, from its opening in 1904 until he died in 1950. In his lifetime eclectic score at Walton Heath Braid scored a ‘2’ on every hole of both courses! He also designed both the Kings and Queens courses at Gleneagles and made revisions to Carnoustie. Other gems he designed include St. Enodoc and Brora.

Braid contributed several books to the library of golf literature, all geared toward instruction. His first book Golf Guide and How to Play It was published in 1906 by British Sports Publishing (D&J B22330). His standout publishing success was Advanced Golf, or, Hints and Instructions for Progressive Players (D&J B22240 1st edition) which was published in at least 11 printings in Great Britain and 10 in the United States. However, like many of the books written by today’s golf celebrities, it was not written in his own hand.

Braid also was the first male to publish a golf book targeted toward women. His Ladies’ Field Golf Book was published in 1908 by George Newnes (D&J B22600) and features an outstanding cover of a woman wearing a long skirt, a tie and a big hat, hitting a golf ball.

Braid also published a book with Harry Vardon in 1907 titled How to Play Golf, like the others, also an instructional book.

Bernard Darwin’s biography James Braid was published in 1952 by Hodder & Stoughton (D&J D5680) and is the defining portrait of the tall Scotsman. Darwin knew Braid for over fifty years and offers some keen insights into the man who is described as having “wisdom and a deep and essential kindness.” Regarding Braid’s ability to focus, Darwin describes him, “studying his putts as if the fate of empires depended on them,” even in casual rounds. When one of games greatest writers takes on one of its greatest players, the results are not disappointing. Darwin’s prose is lyrical in describing James’s might, “the thickest heather departed before his stupendous blow.”

Bob MacAlindin wrote James Braid Champion Golfer in 2003 in three limited editions. The first is a limited edition of 75 with a slipcase (D&J M1120). The second is a limited edition of 100 known as the James Braid Golfing Society Edition and has a special introduction by Peter Thomson CBE. The third limited edition of 550 issued with a dustjacket (D&J M1150).

The Golf Courses of James Braid was published by Grant Books in 1996 and written by John Moreton. There were three separate versions published, all of which are signed by the author, and if we are doing our math correctly, that makes 775 copies in total:

– A limited edition of 75 in full Morocco binding with a slipcase. These are known as “The Author’s Edition” (D & J M34000)
– An exclusive edition of 100 with dustjacket. These are known as the “The James Braid Golfing Society Edition” (D & J M34030) and also contain a special introduction by Peter Thomson CBE.
– The Walton Heath Edition published in a limited edition of 75 copies in dustjacket (This edition has an additional colored plate showing the illuminated address given by the members of Walton Heath following Braid’s record breaking score at Prestwick in 1908)
– A limited edition of 525 issued with a dustjacket (D & J M34060)

As a follow-on to the above set of books there was also a ‘sequel’ published in 2007 by Black Bear Press which enhances the listing of the courses that Braid build or remodeled. It is 16 pages, card covered and measures 8.25 inches x 5.75 inches.

One of the earliest produced golf flicker books featured James Braid. The ‘Industrial & Educational’ Film Corporation Limited, Charing Cross London, produced a rather large (for flicker books) 60 page softcover book. We have only seen this offered for sale once and it was dated circa 1905, which would have been 15 years earlier than the Bobby Jones flicker books, although we have not verified this date. Some detective work on the part of Philip Truett has pointed out that based on the structure in the background of the picture and Braid’s age probably date the book closer to 1910.


What makes these flickers especially unique is the fact that they were made with real photographs and contain gilt edges.

Special thanks to Philip Truett, the archivist for Walton Health Golf Club for his helpful insights and suggestions in the preparation of this month’s newsletter.

Excluding pretend print-on-demand books, real books on Braid are hard to find, but are worth seeking out.

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Golf Book Prices Rebound

September 15, 2011

As the summer auction season winds down, we would observe that prices of quality golf books are on the rebound. August was an interesting month at many levels in our part of the world. We suffered from twin rarities in August, for this part of the world at least, an earthquake and a hurricane. As we look ahead to a productive golf season (our favorite time of year to play), we thought it would be interesting to reflect back on recent trends.

We wrote back in October 2009 that book prices had peaked in 2006-2007, along with almost every other asset class except gold, it seems. Based on our own recent activity and the health of the auction market, prices are clearly on the rebound, especially in the higher-end of the market and in quality, rare titles.

Two good examples:

The Masters Tournament written by Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones in 1952 sold for $4,200 at auction. This rarity was prepared “in appreciation to those who have actively contributed to the success of the Masters Tournament…It also represents an effort to respond to enquiries concerning our tournament organization, its policies and its methods of operation” and rarely comes up for sale or auction.

The other spectacular book that sold was a special edition of 100 prepared by Charles Blair Macdonald specially for the founding members of the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, NY.  Published around 1912, it is a small book at only 24 pages and contains a letter from Macdonald to the founders as well as their agreement establishing this world-class haven.

The price of this rarity? $9,600.

Although the above two books are so unique they don’t have good comparables, some good quality books with comparables do indicate the trend continues up. A limited edition copy of Macdonald’s Scotland’s Gift with the rare slipcase sold for $8,400, which was a nice jump up from a prior auction sale in 2009 when a similar copy went for $6,000.

Time to break out the champagne and start to shop around for a vintage  Austin-Healey to tool around in? Probably not, but it is nice to rebound a bit.

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The Spirit of St. Andrews by Dr. Alister Mackenzie

September 1, 2011

What do Ben Crenshaw and Gary Player have in common? Aside from winning the Masters multiple times each, when we asked each of them what golf books have had the most influence on them they both mentioned The Spirit of St. Andrews by Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Sometimes we’re a little slow on the uptake, but this caught our attention and it’s now time to give this great book its due.

In 1946 Muhammed edh-Dhib stumbled upon the Dead Sea Scrolls in a cave in the Middle East. The scrolls were placed there thousands of years before and the discovery was quite historic. The golfing equivalent of finding the Dead Sea Scrolls? How about Raymund Haddock, an insurance agent from Boulder, Colorado finding a manuscript from a book written by Alister MacKenzie but lost for over 60 years. Well, that’s what happened. There is was, sitting in the bottom drawer of an old desk. Admittedly, it wasn’t just any desk. Haddock is the grandson of MacKenzie’s second wife Hilda. Haddock’s father transcribed the book for Alister MacKenzie in the early 1930s soon after traveling from the UK to join his mother Hilda and Alister at Pasatiempo, where they were living.

Haddock discovered the carbon typescript (typed on carbon paper) in a desk he inherited from his father, who had an office at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, California. Mackenzie designed Pasatiempo and used to live off the sixth fairway, and when he died he asked that his ashes be spread over the course.


The details of the story as told in a Sports Illustrated article on the discovery, published in March 1995. Haddock says, “I stumbled upon it. I came across a package of pages which I had understood to be notes for a book on camouflage that MacKenzie had been working on when he died.” Instead, the package contained seven chapters of the great man declaiming on golf courses and golf—some of it echoing his classic 1920 volume, Golf Architecture, his only other book, but much of it fresh, including a delirious final chapter in which the former British Army surgeon and Boer War veteran rails against “Bolshevism” and prescribes golf as the tonic for world peace.”

There were two versions of the book published in 1995 by Sleeping Bear Press: a leather bound limited edition of 1,500 which was produced with a clamshell case (Donovan & Jerris M3010). This version of the book has 324 pages and includes a lot of what would be considered technical, ie, advice for greenskeepers and architects. The standard trade edition (Donovan & Jerris M2980) does not contain these passages and is considerably shorter at 268 pages. The limited edition is larger (8 ½ x 11 inches) than the standard trade edition (6 x 9 inches). Bobby Jones wrote the foreword for the book, also during the 1930s, and this was also the first time this text was published as well.

The leather bound, slipcased limited edition

The book is full of Mackenzie wisdom. I have always wondered where the oft repeated truism about Pine Valley was started and Mackenzie gives some insight, “Walter Travis was the best player of his day, yet he could not break 100 at Pine Valley.” He also devotes considerable space to the many armchair architects among us and understands that we all have a strong point of view. Speaking of the average golfer praising or criticizing a hole, “When he plays it successfully, it is everything that is good, and when he plays it unsuccessfully, it is everything that is bad.”

He was also not shy about taking on his fellow architects. About the James Braid designed Kings course at Gleneagles he had this to say, “It is almost devoid of strategy, interest, excitement and thrills.” And in case you missed his original point, “There is no heated discussions as to the unfairness of the holes because there is nothing to discuss.”

The book does feel like it was written in a different era, one dominated by match play, which will hopefully someday return so we can all play faster. “Nine out of ten games on most good courses are played in matches and not for medals. The true test of a hole, then, is its value in match play.”

It is no wonder so many learned people in the sport admire the book, as it contains much wisdom from one of the greatest golf course architects who ever lived.

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Best Selling Golf Books

August 16, 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 August 2011:

1. The Swinger: A Novel by Michael Bamberger, published in 2011
 

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

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

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

5. 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.

6. Golf is Not a Game of Perfectby Dr. Bob Rotella, published in 1995.

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

8. The Dr. Bob Rotella CD Collection by Dr. Bob Rotella published in 2005.

9. Golf in the Kingdom by Michael Murphy published in 1997.

10. Hit Down Dammit! (The Key to Golf) by Clive Scarff published in 2011.

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The Making of the Masters

August 1, 2011

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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