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Opinion & Analysis

Top-10 Golf Reads…errr…Listens!

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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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  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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Opinion & Analysis

More Distance Off the Tee (Part 1 of 3): Upper Body Training

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If you read my previous story, Tour Pro’s Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up, you are well aware of the fact that improving your upper body power is one of three sure ways to increase your distance off the tee. If you have not, I strongly suggest you check it out to gain some context about what is to follow and what is critical for your golf game.

Through our testing and the testing done of many of the industry leaders in golf performance, we have found that the ability of golfers to generate “push power” from their upper body is critical to maximize efficiency and speed in the swing. The way that you can test your power is simple. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your back on the chair, chest pass with both hands a 6-pound medicine ball as far as you can. When you compare this to your vertical jump as described in More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training Plan, the number in feet you threw the ball should be relatively close to your jump in inches.

If you threw the ball and it went 5 feet, you have an upper body power problem. If you threw the ball 25 feet and jumped only 14 inches, your upper body is not the problem — you probably need to focus on your lower body. It’s not rocket science once you understand what you are looking for. What can be challenging is knowing how to improve your power once you identify a problem. That is where the rest of this article comes in. What I am going to outline below are three of the most common upper body power exercises that we use with our amateur, senior and professional golfers.

The key with any power training exercise is to make sure you are as rested as possible between sets so that you can be as explosive as possible for the repetitions. Try not to do more than 6 repetitions in a set to assure that each one is as fast and explosive as possible.

Med Ball Chest Pass on Wall

This is one of the most basic exercises there is for developing upper body push power. Make sure your feet are about shoulder-width apart and don’t be afraid to use your legs to help maximize the punishment you deliver to against the wall!

Med Ball Wall Ball

Watching the video, you may be scratching you head and wondering why this is in the upper body power article when clearly the athlete is using his legs. The reason is that in the golf swing, power starts with the legs.

Med Ball Sky Chest Throws

This one is simple. Laying on your back, all you need to do is push the ball up as high as you can, catch it on the way down and the explode it back up into the air as high as you can. If you incorporate this exercise into your routine even once a week, you will see huge gains in your ability to swing faster if this was a problem area for you.

That being said, power creation requires not only speed but also strength development. It is also important that you have a solid strength program to increase your ability to generate more force. While this is beyond the scope of this article, finding yourself a solid golf fitness expert will help you create your ideal program.

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Podcasts

GolfWRX Forum Member dpb5031 talks about the TaylorMade Twist Face Experience

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Forum member dpb5031 (aka Dewey) joins TG2 to talk about his Twist Face Experience at The Kingdom. Recently, him and 6 other GolfWRX Members went to TaylorMade HQ to get fit for new M3 and M4 drivers. Does Twist Face work? Dewey provides his answer.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

Inside the Ropes: 5 things you didn’t know about playing on the PGA Tour

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Golf finds a way to take a hold on you… whether you become entranced by the skill of the world’s best professionals, fall in love with the feeling and beauty of a well-executed shot, or simply enjoy getting outside and having fun — the game is addictive.

I started playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros on TV dreaming what it would be like to play golf on the PGA Tour. When I earned my PGA Tour status for the 2014 season, that dream became a reality. And like anything, it’s not until I actually experienced that life did I have any idea what it entailed.

For those of you who are curious what it’s like to be on the PGA Tour, here are 5 things to describe it.

1) The Culture

Traveling the world to various cities can be fun, and it’s an underrated part of the Tour lifestyle; you get to see new landscapes and taste the cuisines that define different regions across the country and the world. Unlike some other professional sports, where players stay in one place for maybe a night or two, we get to stay in places for a week or more, which allows for plenty of time away from the course to see the sights and get a feel for what the cities and their cultures offer.

2) The Show

The setup and time that goes into planning an event — the grandstands, concession stands, volunteers, and the whole network that makes these tournaments run — is beyond impressive. We see the finished product at the event in the epicenter of it all, but the planning goes on behind the scenes all year. When it’s game time and the golf ball gets teed up, it’s time for us players to block all of that out, but we certainly appreciate all of the hard work that goes into putting on an event. It may feel like being in a circus at times, but performing in the show is a thrill.

3) The People

The game of golf in general brings people together, but especially so on the Tour. Thousands and thousands of fans come to watch the golf action and enjoy the festivities. The Pro-Ams are a great way for the fans to get an up-close look at what goes on at a Tour event, and they’re also a great way for us pros to interact with fans and maybe provide some helpful swing tips, too. In my opinion, one of the best events of the year is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am — a gathering of pro golfers, athletes, musicians, actors and other celebrities. It’s a testament to how the game can bring people together from different walks of life.

4) Inside the Ropes

The Tour is almost like a private school of sorts. It’s a select group of a couple hundred guys traveling around playing these events. The jocks, the nerds, the geeks, the loners; you see a little of everything. As much as there’s a sociable aspect to traveling on Tour and getting to know these people, it’s a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is playing for their livelihood and playing privileges.

5) The “Pressure”

A season-long race can come down to a single shot making the difference — for some it’s between winning and losing a tournament, and others it’s between keeping and losing your card. The cameras, the grandstands, the noise… it can all be quite distracting. The idea is to block all of that out and pretend you’re playing like a kid, focusing with pure imagination for the shot. All the extra attention can help heighten the focus further, adding inspiration to “give the people what they want” and hit even better golf shots.

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