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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!