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Books for the course: A summer golf reading list

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer
American Caddie in St. Andrews
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American Caddie in St. Andrews: The most entertaining golf-related book of the year. (Courtesy of Gotham Books)

This spring has generally been a snowy, rainy, slushy, soggy, chilly mess for much of the U.S. Let's hope that this miserable weather doesn't bode poorly for the rest of the golf season.

Just in case the summer continues along this inclement path, here is our list of top summer golf reads -- and one tasty mystery too, to add a little spice.

An American Caddie in St. Andrews by Oliver Horovitz

This memoir (Gotham Books, $26) is hands-down the most entertaining golf-related book of the year. Horovitz has a 1.8 handicap and a year before entering Harvard, so he heads to St. Andrews, Scotland, to take some classes at the town's historic university and loop at the town's even more historic links. It's not easy for a Yank to break into the ranks of the crusty old regular caddies.

Horovitz includes his own antics at the birthplace of golf, celebrities he's caddied for, how caddying makes you a better player, and tips for playing St. Andrews' The Old Course.

Chapter 12 is my favorite. Horovitz gets assigned to a group including a goddess-like German girl in skin-tight blue corduroys. The longing and hilarity are palpable -- far more so than the Teutonic angel in blue.

What I wouldn't give to re-live those years of my life, to follow in Horovitz's footsteps.

The 1986 Masters by John Boyette

If you're a Masters buff, or a Jack Nicklaus fan, or simply a golf history geek, this hole-by-hole account of Nicklaus's final, and perhaps greatest, major win is for you (Lyons Press, $15).

Author John Boyette is sports editor at the Augusta Chronicle and has covered 23 Masters tournaments. The book is replete with details of seemingly every significant shot at every hole and photos of Nicklaus and his competitors. You can almost smell the pimento and cheese sandwiches.

Ben Hogan's Five Lessons by Ben Hogan with Herbert Warren Wind

A new edition (Touchstone Paperback, $14) came out in April, and will introduce a whole new generation of golfers to what many feel is the single best instructional book ever written. Hogan's image of swinging below an imaginary plane of glass is still referenced by some of the greatest players and instructors in the world.

How to Make Every Putt by Dr. Joseph Parent

The author of Zen Golf and Zen Putting offers yet more putting advice in this slim but information-packed volume (Gotham Books, $25). Dr. Parent, who coaches PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players, provides insights into every stumbling block to good putting, from the grain of the grass on the green to the misfires of the neurons in your brain.

My own favorite tip -- more of a revelation, really -- is that every putt is a straight putt. Think about that. It's deep, and it's true, and it will change your life.

Drive Like the Pros by Michael Neff with Dave Allen

There are feel players, and there are technical players. This data-filled guide to power and accuracy (Gotham Books, $30) is definitely for the latter. There are more positions, degrees, angles and tips per page here than the Kama Stutra.

Although all the information is good, for some players it will be just too much -- players like me, who already have a dozen swing thoughts running through their heads during every backswing. Thanks to this book, I now have a few dozen more.

Topped Chef by Lucy Burdette

If all the golf instruction and non-fiction has left you hungry for a rollicking page-turner, the third Key West Food Critic Mystery (Obsidian, $8) will satisfy your craving. There's not a putt or a wedge shot anywhere in this delectable whodunit, but there are recipes at the end.

Hayley Snow, young food critic for Key Zest magazine, encounters a problem familiar to anyone who has reviewed a restaurant, golf course or golf gadget (trust me, I know): angry responses to a bad review. But in Key West, not only do people get angry, they end up getting dead, too.

There is another distant golf connection, as well: The author is the cousin of Cassie Burdette, LPGA player, reluctant sleuth and captivating heroine of the best golf mystery series ever written. You should probably look those up, too -- if the weather patterns continue, you'll have time to read them all.

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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, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.

 
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