The Best Golf Books for Summer Reading
Summer is upon us and the golf season is in full swing, and every opportunity to get out and play is going to feel all the more special in the year 2020. But when you can’t golf, you can still be in a green state of mind with our list of the best golf books for your summer reading list.
As avid golfers and lovers of the game, we’ve compiled a list of great golf books to keep your mind focused all summer long. This list includes golf history books, biographies, golf instruction books, coffee table books featuring the best courses and even a golf psychology book for good measure.
Ready to compile that summer reading list? Let’s dive in!
Best Golf Books for History Buffs
There is no lack of books that tell the story of the history of the game. From its humble beginnings to the evolution of the sport, clubs, play and players, if you want to learn about golf history, you are sure to find something interesting out there somewhere.
Here, we’ve included two of the top rated golf history books, and both are, coincidentally, written by the legendary creator of Twin Peaks, Mark Frost. An avid golfer and fanatic of the game, Frost created a sub genre with the golf game book, publishing highly readable accounts of two rounds that helped transform golf into what it is today.
The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf – Mark Frost
Golf is a game that requires a lot of open land in order to play. Before automated sprinklers, lawn mowers, fertilizers and the advancement of club technology, it was a sport that was solely reserved for the wealthy. Enter Francis Ouimet.
The son of immigrants, Ouimet was the first amateur to win the U.S. Open. Developing a love for the game at an early age, he became a caddy at a country club, and would practice whenever he had the chance. Eventually collecting enough clubs to piece together a workable set, he won a series of amateurs before being personally invited to play at the 1913 U.S. Open. The rest, as they say, is history.
And a fine history read it is, good enough to feature The Greatest Game Ever Played as the first entry in our reading list.
The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever – Mark Frost
Once again, Mark Frost employs his mastery of storytelling to bring golf to vivid life before our eyes. Documenting what is perhaps the most high-profile private game of all time, a best-ball tournament at the legendary Cypress Point Club in Monterey, CA.
Arising after Eddie Lowery (Francis Ouimet’s caddie for his 1913 U.S. Open victory) made a bet with his friend that a pair of his employees could beat any two golfers in the world in a best ball match. His friend, millionaire George Coleman took the bet, and the two dueling aristocrats put in motion a 1956 battle between amateurs Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward, and legendary pros Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.
Walking us through the round shot by shot, Frost recounts the entire game in riveting detail from the opening drive to the final putt.
Best Golf Instruction Books from Legends of the Game
Every golfer knows that learning the game is a constant journey. Practice can always be had, and drills made more complex, but sometimes reading a golf swing book or a professional’s take on how they play can give you extra motivation to take the next step in your game. So this section is for those golfers who appreciate written instruction, real world examples of golf, or just imagining that they’re walking on a course alongside some of the game’s greatest players.
Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf – Ben Hogan and Herbert Warren Wind
This timeless classic has sold more than one million copies, and includes illustrated drawings to help you practice like the legend himself. Hogan is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to ever walk the links, so to have him in your ear as you read through his instructional manual is a special experience that any fan of the game will treasure.
If you want to learn golf mechanics from the legend himself, grab a copy, learn it step by step, and prove Ben Hogan right by breaking 80.
Golf My Way – Jack Nicklaus and Ken Bowden
Nicklaus’ 1974 guide breaks down every aspect of his game from top to bottom. This guide is a complete reference for everything Jack did, and still does, to keep his game the best it can be. Not only does he walk readers through his technique for every kind of golfing situation imaginable, Nicklaus also gives us a valuable insight into the mind of a golf pro.
Expertise like this cannot be overstated, so this is sure to teach you a lot you didn’t already know about the game we all love so much.
Caddy for Life: The Bruce Edwards Story – John Feinstein
John Feinstein has the reputation of being America’s favorite sports writer, and that title wasn’t won easily. Here, he profiles the heartwarming story of Bruce Edwards. A legendary lifelong caddy who skipped college to walk alongside Tom Watson for 8 Major title wins, Edwards would continue to assist the pros until his untimely death in 2004.
After being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) in 2003, Edwards didn’t let his waning health get in his way, and quickly became the spotlight of that year’s U.S. Open while caddying for Watson. Passing away in 2014, Feinstein’s book profiles this legendary man’s insights into professional golf, his perseverance on and off the links and a life devoted to sports.
A Good Walk Spoiled – John Feinstein
We already have a doubled-up author on this list, but when you must you must. Feinstein is an incredible sports writer, so it’s only right that we give credit where credit is due. In A Good Walk Spoiled, he profiles the 1993/1994 season he spent walking the links with legendary golfers like Tom Watson, Nick Price, Greg Norman and others to bring us closer to the game than ever before.
Revealing the tremendous pressure that exists in the upper echelons of professional golf, as well as the elusiveness of the game itself, Feinstein provides a stark glimpse inside the game. Part exposé, part revelation, A Good Walk Spoiled will give you comfort knowing that even the pros have no idea why golf can be so damn hard.
Golf Psychology Books
Take it from the greatest amateur golfer of all time, Bobby Jones, who said “golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears.” No matter who you are, golf is a mental game where a single bad shot can threaten the whole round. If you need some self help, maybe reach for a golf psychology book and learn lessons to keep you calm and focused while still enjoying yourself. Golf is supposed to be fun, right?
The Inner Game of Golf – W. Timothy Gallwey
Gallwey’s Inner Game series takes a look at sports (golf, tennis, and even things like music and work) not from the viewpoint of a practiced, physical activity, but from one of remaining calm under pressure.
Giving readers a series of ways in which they can practice staying emotionally distant from golf, yet fully mentally present, Gallwey is a pioneer in promoting the mind’s role in sports performance.
Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game – Dr. Joseph Parent
By now, I think we can all agree that golf is a game predicated on the player’s confidence and ability to concentrate under pressure. In Zen Golf, Dr. Parent uses Buddhist teachings of mental clarity to help everyday golfers get out of their own heads, and just swing the darn club.
Having helped some of the biggest names on the professional golf circuit, the good doctor lays out his instructions for maintaining a clear mind, attaining focus and playing the game one stroke at a time.
Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf – Harvey Penick with Bud Shrake
The New York Times has compared Penick and Shrake’s Little Red Book as equivalent to The Elements of Style. This groundbreaking work is a condensed form of the strategies Penick developed as a top-tier golf instructor. Breaking down the game into individual, easily digestible chunks, The Little Red Book is almost like a shortcut from a golf monk to help readers achieve total golfing nirvana.
So you’ll have that going for you, which is nice.
Funny Golf Books
Golf is a frustrating game that, for many players and fans, carries a tremendous amount of pressure. Whether professional, amateur or just an every day hacker playing their monthly round, every golfer needs a bit of laughter to keep it all in perspective.
The books in this section will help you step back, look around, and appreciate the absurdity of playing a game you’ll never win, but won’t stop trying.
Leslie Nielson’s Stupid Little Golf Book – Leslie Nielsen, Henry N. Beard
Yes, that Leslie Nielsen, of Airplane and Naked Gun fame. This Stupid Little Golf Book is a tome of the legendary funnyman’s worst shots, hacks and uninspired play. More than a little tongue-in-cheek, Nielsen has teamed up with Henry N. Beard to guide readers along in an absurdist journey to nowhere.
While this book will certainly not help you improve your game, become a better person or learn to stay calm while out on the course, it will make you laugh. Who knows, it might even make you feel a little bit better that, out there, somewhere, is a guy hacking worse than you and loving every second of it.
Missing Links – Rick Reilly
The ESPN and Sports Illustrated writer/personality brings his candor and his unique humor to this fictional tale of treachery, friendship, munies and exclusive country clubs. Focusing on a foursome of regular Joes whose home course might be one of the worst municipal courses in the country (Ponkaquoque, affectionately called “Ponky”), Missing Links makes them out to be anything-but when the friends make a $1,000 bet to be the first man on the hallowed grounds of the nearby Mayflower Country Club.
This is a story focused on the friendly-turned-serious rivalry a foursome can develop when the stakes become incredibly high (whether real or imagined).
The Book of Golf Disasters – Peter Dobereiner
Perfect to keep in the bathroom, or in your bag as a quick read while you wait for the forward tees to clear, Dobereiner has done his research to bring you 200 of the most memorable golf stories history has to offer.
Sure, everyone can get behind an underdog story, or feel inspired by the humble beginnings of a legendary pro, but reading about how Arnold Palmer 7-ironed himself out of the 1961 Masters might just be the distraction you need to forget about your own mistakes on the previous hole.
The Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate – Dan Jenkins
Giving us an insider’s perspective of the game, sportswriter (I mean, they’re all sports writers. Having a book on this list makes them, by default, sports writers) Dan Jenkins uses comedy as a means of connecting with golfers from all over the world.
From tales of PGA follies to a particularly hilarious story of Dan’s first time playing in Scotland, this is that perfect combination of insider knowledge, and universally funny misadventures that long time readers of Dan Jenkins have come to love. He was a mainstay of modern golf and will be missed!
Best Golf Coffee Table Books
The Architects of Golf – Geoffrey Cornish and Ron Whitten
I told you there would be a book about golf course architecture on this list, and I have delivered. Researching the best books about golf returned thousands of results covering all manner of the game, its players, the equipment they use and the evolution of style. From Joes to pros, caddies to journalists, biographies to fiction: if there is a thing, and it can be related to golf, someone’s written a book.
Enter The Architects of Golf and its unique perspective on the wonderful places where the game takes place. Those hallowed grounds that I keep writing about in these articles. Inside, Cornish and Whitten trace the lineage of course design, and follow how layout and style of play have become intertwined and have influenced one another over the course of history. Great for those golfers looking to go down a deep rabbit hole of golf, you’ll never look out over the front (or back) nine the same way ever again.
The Stylish Life: Golf – Christian Chensvold
Golf has democratized a lot in the last century, but it’s still an expensive sport to play, and some of its courses and clubs are only accessible for the ultra rich and famous. Country clubs and golf resorts have long been the refuge of those with money and power, and with them, clothing designers to create one-of-a-kind looks for the course and beyond.
Golf has always enjoyed a style all its own, and here, Christian Chensvold travels the world to let you into the inner sanctum of prestige golf. From faraway courses on tropical islands to those lush green spaces enjoyed by the pros, The Stylish Life: Golf represents those dreamy aspects of the sport that drew so many of us into it. Maybe he should have called it: Bucket List: The Book.
Remarkable Golf Courses – Iain Spragg
Speaking of bucket lists, Remarkable Golf Courses will turn any coffee table into a golfing adventure. Beyond course architecture and beautiful dream courses (don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of those, too), this is a resource for those truly outstanding courses from all across the globe.
From geographical anomalies like Norway’s Lofoten Links (the northernmost course in the World), to elevation marvels like Death Valley’s Furnace Creek (the lowest course on record), this photographic beauty will be a great conversation starter for parties, or for mindlessly flipping through dreaming of all the golf trips you still have to take.