by Steven Silkunas
Barkow, Al. Golf’s All-Time Firsts, Mosts, Leasts, and a Few Nevers. Taylor. 2012. c.184p. ISBN 9781589796768. pap. $13.95. SPORTS
Over almost 50 years, Barkow (Golf’s Golden Grind: The History of the Tour) has written for every significant American golf publication and authored many books as well, with two listed in this roundup. Here he has compiled what may be the best cheat sheet to date for any golf trivia contest. It covers the usual categories (e.g., Top 10 Finishes, Winners of Majors by Event, etc.), but also delves into the more arcane (e.g., Best One-Eyed Victor, Number of Clubs Broken During a Round). VERDICT While this is an enjoyable read, it’s likely to become out of date before long, which raises the question of whether it’s better as a short term public library asset or as a gift without long-lasting value. Either way, a fun resource for now.
Barkow, Al. The Upset: Jack Fleck’s Indredible Victory over Ben Hogan at the U.S. Open. Chicago Review, dist. by IPG. Jun. 2012. c.256p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781613740750. $24.95. SPORTS
In golf, excellence is judged by performance in majors. To win a major, two things have to happen: there needs to be a high level of skill‚ and a high level of luck. In The Upset, veteran golf journalist Barkow (contributing writer, Golf World; The Golden Era of Golf) works through the drama of the 1955 U.S. Open, where Ben Hogan was the “sure thing,” albeit in the waning days of his prime. Jack Fleck, who simply qualified to be there, was a good player, but not of Hogan’s caliber. He proved to be Cinderella. Barkow does a credible job of comparing the strengths and similarities of these two competitors. VERDICT Barkow puts readers very much in the moment with a good story. Neil Sagebiel’s book, below, is on the same subject, and is also a good read. Either would be a fine addition to golf collections.
Barrett, David. Making the Masters: Bobby Jones and the Birth of America’s Greatest Golf Tournament. Skyhorse, dist. by Norton. 2012. c.320p. index. ISBN 9781616086091. $24.95. SPORTS
Barrett (editor-in-chief, Fairway Living magazine; Miracle at Merion) chronicles the early years of the Masters, with special emphasis on 1934 and 1935. Today, many count the tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club as the most important of the four major golf championships, but its beginnings were rather pedestrian: the Masters originated as an event to increase membership at the fledgling Augusta club. Barrett has done considerable research on his subject, in particular noting changes in the course over the years. VERDICT The problem here is that many books have already been written on this subject, as well as on co-founder of the Masters, Bobby Jones, e.g., Curt Sampson’s The Masters: Golf, Money, and Power in Augusta, Georgia, and David Owen’s The Making of the Masters, so this one is an optional purchase. While the Masters and its history are interesting, it’s hard to make a case for another book in this crowded market.
Bartlett, James Y. & Professional Caddies Association. Mastering Golf’s Toughest Shots: The World’s Best Caddies Share Their Secrets of Success. Sellers. 2012. c.160p. photogs. ISBN 9781416206903. pap. $18.95. SPORTS
Professional golfers depend on caddies. Yes, a pro’s bag is heavy, but that’s the least among the reasons for having a caddy. On the course the caddy is the only one who can give advice to the player without penalty. In their second book, Bartlett and the Professional Caddies Association (Think Like a Caddie‚Ä¶Play Like a Pro) offer the sage advice of a number of premier caddies, including Bartlett himself. While their first book showed that a competent caddy can help a player avoid trouble, the message here is that even the best players are subject to mis-hits, long bunker shots, wind, and foul weather. But, with forethought, one can reduce the opportunities for trouble, and, should trouble arise, the book explains how to deal with it. VERDICT Good advice, best for golfers to borrow from public library collections. With a foreword by Gary Player.
Dodson, James. American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf. Knopf. 2012. c.400p. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 9780307272492. $28.95. SPORTS
Dodson (former columnist, Golf Magazine; Ben Hogan: An American Life) gives a new accounting of three players who shaped modern golf. They were all born in 1912‚ hence the centennial coverage‚ and had remarkable similarities (all came from what would today be considered disadvantaged childhoods), as well as differences (e.g., Snead was the most gifted athletically; Hogan the ultimate grinder.) In their day, any one of the three was a good bet to win. All three broke records, Nelson with his win streak, Hogan his Grand Slam, Snead his decades winning span. Typically, most golf books tend to focus on either individual players or single events; this book covers multiple decades, lives and events. VERDICT While many readers may associate Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus with “modern” golf, these legends revived a game that was fading at the end of the 1930s and moved it into the next two decades of popularity. Recommended for general readers and golf fans.
Ducibella, Jim. King of Clubs: The Great Golf Marathon of 1938. Potomac. 2012. c.168p. photogs. ISBN 9781597978361. $24.95. SPORTS
A lot of compelling stories began as a bet between friends. Ducibella (former sportswriter, Virginian-Pilot; Par Excellence: A Celebration of Virginia Golf) here writes about Chicago stockbroker James Smith Ferebee and his gamble on playing 600 holes of golf over four days in eight different cities. The stake? Ferebee’s friend, Fred Tuerk, would pay the mortgage on Ferebee’s nearly-300 acres of Virginia property if he (Tuerk) lost the wager, and would win the property if he won. Ferebee’s achievement was remarkable. At that time, on the cusp between the Depression and World War II, it sparked what may be the shortest era in golf history: marathon golf. VERDICT There are lots of books on major championships and the luminaries of golf‚ but Ducibella rescues a different story, covered in the papers at the time, but lost to history. A really good narrative, recommended both to golfing fans and general readers.
Farrell, Andy. The 100 Greatest Ever Golfers. Elliott & Thompson, dist. by Trafalgar Square. 2012. c.168p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781907642357. $24.95. SPORTS
In this UK import, golf writer Farrell (The Open Championship) presents his 100 best golfers, designating players in era-by-era sections, the final being “The Tiger Era,” from 1995 to 2011. This approach is good for compensating for changes in equipment and golf course length, course conditioning, etc. “Best” remains a relative and subjective term. In earlier times, the best golfers could be more readily established because there were simply not as many players. For the most part Farrell has done a credible job with one-to-two page vignettes of his selections. The majority of experts would probably agree with most choices, but some are questionable. VERDICT This is the kind of book that a non-golfer buys for someone who likes golf. It’s an enjoyable read, but in no way essential.
Pennington, Bill. On Par: The Everyday Golfer’s Survival Guide. Houghton Harcourt. May 2012. c.320p. index. ISBN 9780547548449. $26. SPORTS
New York Times “On Par” columnist Pennington (The Heisman) offers sage advice for those new to golf and for those who should know better. You could say that this book does for golf what Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook did for prepdom. For those without a country-club background, there is much about golf that is intimidating. Pennington’s humor (some self-deprecating) will help the golfing novice fit in. Pennington espouses practicality: equipment need not be expensive to work, and he identifies what is essential (waterproof shoes and clothing) and what one can do fine without. He covers a lot of territory, from the simple tee to golf lessons to the best (or most interesting) places to play. VERDICT A worthwhile choice for newbies; seasoned golfers will also find it of interest.
Sagebiel, Neil. The Longest Shot: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2012. c.320p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780312661847. $25.99. SPORTS
Sagebiel (founder & editor, Armchair Golf Blog) has chosen what some deem the most significant upset ever in major tournaments. Odds-makers would have given Jack Fleck the most improbable chance of winning the 1955 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Fleck won in an 18-hole playoff against his idol, Ben Hogan. The results affected both players: Hogan was never the same, and, after this moment in the sun, Fleck all but disappeared. Barkow’s The Upset, above, works through the same story. Both narratives are well told, recommended to aficionados of golf history, who should choose between the two.
United States Golf Association. Golf Rules Illustrated 2012-2015: The Official Illustrated Guide to the Rules of Golf. Hamlyn, dist. by Sterling. 2012. c.192p. ISBN 9780600623434. pap. $19.95. SPORTS
Golf has a lot of rules. They are updated every two years by the sport’s two governing bodies, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A) and made available at a modest cost in print form or as a free download. This guide presents those rules along with illustrations, photos, and explanatory commentary regarding updates. In truth, most ordinary golf players do not carry official handicaps and use some facsimile of the rules, but one can argue that, if they do not play by the rules, they are playing a game, but it’s not golf. This book help make sense of the rules, just like annotated editions of familiar works of literature. VERDICT As a reference book, this should be in every sports collection.