Golf book suggestions for Father’s Day

md31130934558My dad was a golfer, so I often conspired with my brother and mother for Father’s Day to get him an appropriate gift. Presents like golf balls—such as Sweet Shots (loved that name), Spalding Dots, Maxflis, and Titleists—and gloves (even half gloves) and an occasional book. Due to his generous and doting Aunt Dora, my dad possessed an array of golf books, usually gifts for his birthday or Christmas. One such book was A Round of Golf with Tommy Armour, a follow-up tome to his best-seller, How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time. It was released in 1959.

Recently, I pulled A Round of Golf off of my bookshelf and thumbed through the pages. In my Dad’s tiny yet legible handwriting, I relished reading his notes and reminders to himself, imparted by Armour in an informal, casual manner.  To Henry D. Moore, these priceless notes were penned on one of the cover pages of the book:

Page 20: Be slow at the top of the swing

Page 70: On 2-foot putts, don’t play any break. Putt firm.

Page 75: Pause at the top, a tiny bit

It’s hard to beat those tips; it’s no wonder dad wanted to preserve and locate them quickly before he played.

Looking ahead to Father’s Day and in consideration of the lasting legacy of a good book, here are some personal recommendations for recently released titles:

playing-from-the-rough-9781668005972_lgPlaying from the Rough, A Personal Journey through America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses by Jimmie James. At first, I thought this might be one of those braggart’s laborious recountings of playing at golf’s elite and often off-limits courses and clubs. Rather, James is a humble sort —grateful to many for his rise out of poverty and ethnic invisibility in East Texas—who upon retirement from Exxon, challenged himself with a quest.

In a single year, James was reportedly the first person in a single year to play each of the 100 Greatest Courses in the U.S., as rated by Golf Digest. The amazing and, at times, grueling journey took him “90,756 miles through 33 states, 8,797 strokes, 82 nights in hotels, and more money spent than I care to talk about.” Three Michigan courses are included in James’ well-written saga: Arcadia Bluffs, Crystal Downs, and Oakland Hills (South). Obviously, there are golf stories and vignettes galore, but also insightful reflections on race, class, and family. A Simon & Schuster book.

To the Linksland, the 30th-Anniversary Edition by Michael Bamberger. This is a veritable classic by one of our premier golf writers. In brief, this book is about how in 1991, the young sportswriter Bamberger took a leave of absence from his job and, with his newlywed spouse, headed to Europe for a year marked by caddying, keen observations and exploring the landscape of golf. After first reading it 30 years ago, the esteemed novelist and writer John Updike so admired it that he contacted Bamberger and asked to meet him. That anecdote alone beats any back cover blurb praising this enchanting book. By Avid Reader Press. 

9781578269785Life on the Green by Ann Ligouri. I’ve known and admired the author and successful sportscaster in NY ever since we were on the same golf trip to Ireland more than 25 years ago. Thankfully, we reconnect every April when we each cover the Masters. An accomplished and savvy interviewer for cable television and sports radio, Liquori offers insights and perspective with chapters devoted to her conversations with a strong list of golf notables. Included are such A-list names as Jack Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam, Tom Watson, Nancy Lopez, Bernhard Langer and more. Due to Liquori’s deft ear and sensibility, valuable life and golf lessons and a treasure trove of rich anecdotes are shared. In his chat with the author, Watson explained his near win at the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry hinged on how he changed his swing five years before. “I started leveling my shoulders at address and also at impact.  And it had a profound effect on how straight I could hit the ball…and in 2009, I’m hitting the ball as I ever hit in my life. I’m 59 years old, I could still move it.” A Hatherleigh book.

Another highly recommended book is A Season in Dornoch, Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands by Lorne Rubenstein. As in the case with the Bamberger title, this is a reissue to celebrate the anniversary of its original release. Despite the passage of 25 years, Rubenstein’s finely crafted words and reflections remain fresh, alive and instructive. Taking his reader merrily along, the author shares his experiences spent one summer in and around the town of Dornoch, Scotland, home of the iconic Royal Dornoch golf links ingeniously designed by Donald Ross. Although the game and allure of golf is a centerpiece, A Season in Dornoch offers so much more. It deftly illuminates Highlands history, customs, and its people while revealing the soul and sensibility of the author. On a personal note, Rubenstein and his wife Nell (originally from Grand Rapids) are long time friends and I’m proud to say I cherish a signed edition of this work from 2001. It’s not for sale but this new edition (with a number of new features including color photos) is via Back Nine Press.



It should be said some of these books were equally suitable for Mother’s Day. But I didn’t have my act together at the time, ever distracted by a family quest to pause at the top of the swing.

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