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Opinion & Analysis

Top-10 Golf Reads…errr…Listens!



As a Los Angeles guy, born and raised, one thing that I am experienced at is commuting.  It is a fact of life in this city.  I know the freeways here better than I know my kids.  I spend more time on the road each month than I do golfing (that’s a sad fact; I drive 3 hours a day just to and from work alone!). What this all adds up to is that I am an avid “reader.”  To be more specific: I listen to audiobooks.  Everyday.  Each way.

For all of you “couch readers” out there, I’m sure the books on this list are just as entertaining on the page as they are on the iPod.   As far as audiobooks themselves: my opinion is that a good audiobook is much the same as a good paper book and the reader can get equally absorbed with either medium.  If the book is great, I will sometimes find myself sitting in the driveway with the book playing as I can’t seem to “put the book down.”  There is little joy greater than finding one of these rare “driveway books” for me.  But, if the read is no good, I tune out.  Just like a couch reader does on the Nook or Kindle.

As for the books I “read,” I read much more than just golf books.  I read everything from fiction to non-fiction to biographies and everything in between.  Every now and then, I will slip a good golf book into the playlist.  One other thing I do is rate ALL of the books I read as I use this for recommendations for friends and others who are also slaves to their commute (hit me up and I will provide you a list of my top 10 books of all-time if you are interested).  My rating list has come in handy on many an occasion as it will right here and now.  So, without further adieu, I present my Top 10 list of great golf reads: fiction and non-fiction — and “other.”  This list does NOT include books written specifically for swing instruction.  There are too many of those already out there and they are nearly as subjective as politics!  I leave all of the “Stack and Tilts” to you all.  I am listing these in order from my all-time favorite golf book to my 10th choice.  Please post up comments for any reads (or listens) that you recommend.  If nothing else, I am always looking for my next book!

Writer’s note: I only listen to, and therefore, recommend unabridged audiobooks.  I am not interested in saving time and would prefer to hear the author’s complete version, not an edited one.

  1. The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever – What do you get when you mix Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Ken Venturi and Big Crosby?  One helluva read is what you get!  This story is real account of the match pitting two of history’s greatest golfers against two up-and-coming amateurs in a gentlemen’s game of golf all taking place in the 1950’s on the hallowed grounds of the Cypress Point Golf Club.  This is an incredible story that takes place during the true golden age of golf with some of golf’s most esteemed figures as the central players.  It also does an excellent job at providing an in-depth look at each of the golfer’s themselves to give the reader a bit of history before breaking into a hole-by-hole account of the match itself.
  2. The Greatest Game Ever Played: A True Story (print only) – This is the quintessential turn-of-the-century golf history story and is only available in print.  There is no audiobook of this one that I know of which is disappointing as I would love to hear this story.  But, I had to go old school and read it instead!  This is the story of Frances Ouimet and how he came to tangle with Harry Vardon in the 1913 U.S. Open.  This is an extremely entertaining true historical account of the dawn of golf in the US written by the same author as “the Match” — and one of the greatest underdog stories ever written.
  3. Who’s Your Caddy? – Rick Reilly turns in one of the most entertaining and informative books all about looping ever written (then again, is this the only book about caddies in print?).  The stories about John Daly, Casey Martin and many others give the reader a rare insight in to all aspects of the world of golf.  If nothing else, the book’s chapter where Mr. Reilly got to carry for legendary Las Vegas Golf gambler Dewey Tomko is worth the price alone.  You won’t believe the stakes and the rules with which they play.  Talk about pressure over a 5 foot putt…!
  4. Hogan – This is easily the most entertaining and informative books about one of the greatest legends in all of golf ever written.  I learned about which spot Hogan used when on the range (the furthest right spot so that he didn’t have to see anyone else’s swing), what drove him to such greatness, what happened in the horrible car crash that nearly ended both his life and career and which shot he made that ate at him for the rest of his life.  This book is a “must read” for any true golf enthusiast.
  5. Zen Golf – Yes, this book blurs the line between golf instruction and non-fiction.  This book in particular is why I added a caveat about “other.”  Dr. Joseph Parent never tries to tell you how to swing the club or any other specific instruction as far as the golf swing.  But, what he does teach the reader is how to relax during a round, what goes through the mind of most golfers and the way to just go out and play as best as you can.  I learned more tricks and tools from this book and have applied many of these into my everyday game.  I have found his perspective to be mesmerizing and does much to help my overall mental state when on the course.
  6. The Mysterious Montague: A True Tale of Hollywood, Golf, and Armed Robbery – The Mysterious Montague is a true-life account of one of the most secretive yet unbelievably skilled golfers that ever graced the annals of golf history.  The setting is the 1930’s beginning on the east coast and quickly moving to the legendary Lakeside Country Club in Toluca Lake, Calif. (my backyard). I don’t know if all of the accounts in this book are fact, but you won’t believe the stuff this guy could do with a club in his hand!  Throw in the fact that he was on the lamb and you have the makings of a page-turner.
  7. The Legend of Bagger Vance – Classic golf fiction at its best.  This book takes place in the heyday of classic golf with Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen meeting with, and matching wits with fictional protagonist Rannulph Junah.  But, the real story is about the mysterious caddy, Bagger Vance and the information he holds.  The book is better than the movie if for no other reason than NOT having to see actors attempt to make professional-looking golf swings.
  8. Missing Links – I have to admit, I am sucker for the musings of Rick Reilly.  When he wrote for Sports Illustrated, I was sure to flip to the back page and read his stories.  “Missing Links” (as well as the next book on my list, “Shanks for the Memories”) are humorous fictional accounts of a cast of characters all playing golf at the fictional goat track, Ponkaquogue Municipal Golf Links.  Is it “War and Peace” of golf?  Far from it.  But, Rick Reilly does a good job of creating a group of hackers doing outlandish things while keeping me engaged for a light and entertaining read.
  9. Shanks for the Memories – The sequel to “Missing Links” brings back the same lovable characters from his first offering.  This one is not quite as entertaining as the first one.  But, once you have poured eight hours into the first one, you may as well throw nine more away on this one!
  10. Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book – I love a good bathroom book — even on the road.  Sometimes I just need to pop in, hear a few yarns about Davis Love III or life on Texas golf courses.  Yes, this book definitely breaks my rules about golf instruction as the late Mr. Penick sprinkles in plenty of anecdotes about drills to help your game.  But, since so much of the book is actually made up of stories involving all sorts of historical golf characters, facts and figures, I felt this book deserves a spot on the list — and on your iPod!
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Chris Hibler is an avid golfer, writer and golf gear junkie. If he's not practicing his game with his kids, he's scouring the GolfWRX classifieds looking for a score.



  1. Chris Hibler

    Feb 19, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Two books being added to my Top 10 list (it’s now a Top 12!):
    Just finishing up Hank Haney’s “The Big Miss.” Very good listen with Haney narrating. Will post up a synapses when complete. So far: excellent. And more fair to Tiger than expected.

    Also, I listened to “the Miracle on the 17th Green” as recommended here. I have to say that it was breezy and easy. I listened to it in one three-hour drive. Nothing earth-shattering, but it was a nice fable and enjoyable from start to finish.

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Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf



Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal



In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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TG2: What’s the most annoying breach of golf etiquette?



What’s the one breach of golf etiquette that gets under your skin more than anything else? Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what drives them crazy. Also, Knudson talks about his first round with new irons and a new shaft in his driver.

Follow @tg2wrx on Instagram to enter the Bettinardi inovai 5.0 center-shaft putter giveaway.

Listen to the full podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole