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Summer golf reading includes unique, touching stories

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer
Homer Kelley's Golfing Machine
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Scott Gummer's new book about Homer Kelley is as quirky as Kelley himself. (Courtesy of Gotham Books)

To paraphrase a sappy song, rainy days and Sundays always get me down, unless I have a good book. Fortunately for golfers, a new crop of unique and touching golf books has hit stores this year, just in time for the occasional rainy day or too-hot-to-play-golf Sunday.

"Homer Kelley's Golfing Machine" by Scott Gummer

Homer Kelley was a nondescript office worker who played golf for the first time in 1939. He carded a likewise nondescript 116. After not playing again for six months, he went out and shot an astonishing 77. For the rest of his life, Kelley sought to explain, quantify and replicate that amazing sophomore success. The 14-handicap Kelley never succeeded, but he did develop a teaching method that he used with many accomplished players, including PGA Tour pro Bobby Clampett.

Gummer's account of Kelley's odyssey into the bowels (and brain) of golf is a quirky, enthralling tale quite expertly told. (Gotham Books, $26)

"A Course Called Ireland" by Tom Coyne

In reaction to a sort of pre-midlife crisis, Tom Coyne set off on a walking tour of golf in Ireland. Part travel log, part discourse on the game, part exploration of his own Irish heritage, Coyne weaves together an engaging yarn - I'm guessing he kissed the Blarney Stone along the way.

Hardcore golfers, especially those with Irish roots, will find this book as welcoming as Lahinch on a windless day. (Gotham Books, $26)

"Ancestral Links" by John Garrity

If "A Course Called Ireland" appeals to your Irish heritage and golfing passion, Garrity's sprawling account of his own genealogically-driven wanderings will have you at "Fore!"

From the sleepy Irish town of Belmullet, from which Garrity's great-grandfather emigrated to the U.S., to Musselburgh, Scotland, to St. Croix, Wis., Garrity follows in the golfing footsteps of his ancestors in a grand familial reminiscence. Interesting characters and evocative descriptions make you want to jump on a plane to start your own golf journey. (New American Library, $25)

"Golf Dads" by Curt Sampson

Just in time for Father's Day (or as a late gift, in case you missed the day again), this collection of 10 vignettes about golf and fatherhood generally succeeds in doing something very difficult when it comes to golf writing: avoiding sentimentality.

Sampson's 10 chapters delve into the complex relations between fathers and children (mainly, but not exclusively, sons), set against the backdrop provided by the complex game of golf. One of the most intriguing stories centers on the inscrutable Ben Hogan (who witnessed his father's suicide at the age of nine) and his relationship with a quasi-father figure, Marvin Leonard. (Houghton Mifflin, $22)

"Golf: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" by Bill Lindhout

Bill Lindhout is a golf course architect based in Michigan who has spent 25 years rating golf courses for the Golf Association of Michigan. In this introspective primer into golf course architectural history and modern-day connivances, Lindhout details his views on what makes a good golf hole tricky, and what makes a bad golf hole tricked-up. Lindhout's prose meanders a bit too much in spots, but each chapter offers several pearls of knowledge. Reading this book is sort of like finding golf balls while wandering through the deep rough. (Tate Publishing, $15)

"Just Hit It" by Frank Thomas with Jeff Neuman

Finally, if your taste in books runs toward the practical rather than the reflective, and you prefer your game to be less reflective as well, former USGA equipment guru Frank Thomas offers perhaps the most succinct, basic advice for any golfer: just hit it.

Thomas cuts down dozens of equipment myths and swing fallacies that clutter the minds of most average golfers. It's a simple game, play it simply.

In this day of adjustable weights, adjustable clubheads, launch monitors and magnetic bracelets, reading Thomas's advice is like drinking from a cold spring in the middle of the desert. (Frankly Publications, $23)

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"Golf Dads""Just Hit It" by Frank Thomas

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.

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