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Winter reading list for golfers: game improvement, an epic thriller and coffee table books

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer
Shooting an Albatross
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"Shooting an Albatross" is more than a golf story, it's an epic historical thriller. (Courtesy of Steven R. Lundin)

As I write this, the East Coast of the U.S. is being buried under several feet of snow. With golf-playing season truly over, golf-reading season has just begun. Here are a few suggested golf books for keeping your mind verdant and lush, even if the links are frozen solid.

"Golf: An unofficial and unauthorized history of the world's most preposterous sport" by Henry Beard (Simon & Schuster, $16): If this reading list were a dinner menu, Henry Beard's humorous collection of bite-sized anecdotes and zingers would be the appetizer. Beard serves up hundreds of tasty golf morsels, all of which contain a nugget of historical accuracy. Then, usually in the last sentence, he twists each tale enough to make you giggle or groan - or both. It's perfect light fare for lazy winter days.

"Shooting an Albatross" by Steven R. Lundin (shootinganalbatross.com, $16): This is a tour-de-force of a historical thriller, set in wartime 1943 California and based on a true story. El Rancho Golf Course has been commandeered by the U.S. military and the PGA Tour has canceled the entire season. A hacker Navy admiral and a hacker Army general schedule a grudge match on the fallow golf course and each picks an enlisted man who can actually play. This story has it all: golf, movie stars, sex, power, money, professional and romantic jealousy, and, of course, murder. This is a story that should be made into a movie.

Game-improvement books

They say the part of your game that suffers the most during the off-season is the short game. To help offset this decline, try two of the most well respected short game gurus in the business:

"Damage Control" by Dave Pelz (Gotham Books, $35): This promises to help you eliminate up to five shots per round by avoiding blow-up holes. True to his reputation as golf's premier analytical instructor, Pelz provides tips and drills for seemingly every minute detail of any potential round, from multi-tiered greens to super-soft surfaces, from grip pressure to ball position.

"The Art of Scoring" by Stan Utley (Gotham Books, $26): This not, as my wife originally thought, a manual for picking up women, luckily for me. (Although the cover does quote Sports Illustrated as calling Utley "the hottest instructor in golf.") Instead, it is the former Tour player-turned-guru walking you step-by-step through the intricacies of the scoring shots. If you master them, you could score par without ever hitting it more than 170 off the tee.

"The Stack and Tilt Swing" by Michael Bennett and Andy Plummer (Gotham Books, $30): If you've exhausted all traditional options for improving your swing, and want to try a radical reconstruction, "The Stack and Tilt Swing" might be what you're looking for. It's been a couple years since this swing philosophy burst onto the scene, and it's taken a bit of a critical beating since it was labeled the next great thing by certain pundits. Nevertheless, I have personally seen a low-handicap friend adopt it, and he's striking the ball better than ever.

"Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven days at the links of Utopia" by David L. Cook (Zondervan, $17): For golfer's whose main swing faults lie along the 6-inch horizontal plane between their ears, David L. Cook offers up "Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven days at the links of Utopia.". I have to admit that an attempt to read sections of this book left me puzzled as to what, exactly, it's about. But people like Tom Lehman, Aaron Baddeley and Stan Utley rave about the mystical, motivational narrative, so maybe it's just beyond my low double-digit mentality.

Coffee table golf books

Hitting bookstore shelves this year were two excellent new volumes of what I like to call "golf porn": coffee table books packed with lurid photos of sumptuous golf courses most of us will probably never play. The first, "Planet Golf USA" by Darius Oliver (Abrams, $60), is billed as the "definitive reference to great golf courses in America." Courses are grouped geographically and feature succinct yet insightful thumbnail descriptions of the nation's best super-private and proudly public courses alike.

If your lust isn't satiated by any single course, check out "Golf's Dream 18s" by Dave Barrett (Abrams, $50). This is a mouth-watering compendium of "fantasy courses comprised of over 300 golf holes from around the world." You'll be perfectly happy to ignore the misuse of "comprise" when your eyes behold money shots from composite courses composed of "Scenic Holes," "Historic Holes," "Holes Anyone can Play," "Bunkerless Holes" and many more. Reading this book is like being surrounded by supermodels from around the world.

Heck, let it snow. I've got everything I need right here.

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Golf's Dream 18s - bookDamage Control by Dave Pelz

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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