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WorldGolf.com's must-read summer golf books: Old Tom Morris, Feinstein, short game tips, more

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Equipment Editor and Senior Writer
Zen Putting
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Zen Putting by Dr. Joe Parent unravels the infinite mystery of golf's easiest - and hardest - stroke. (Courtesy Gotham Books)

Golfers are always learning something about the game - or at least they should be. On second thought, maybe the reason the sport is so hard is that we don't put forth the energy, physical or mental, to learn enough. How many golfers do you know who swear they can drive the pond on the 16th hole, only to splash into it again and again and again?

This summer's reading list is devoted to golf books about learning: learning about the game, learning about each person's own game and maybe even learning something new about ourselves.

Tommy's Honor by Kevin Cook (Gotham, $27.50)

Old Tom Morris has grown, lamentably, into an almost unbearable cliché to many golfers. This book chronicles all that is not cliché: how Old Tom outlived his son, Young Tom (who died at his playing peak, at just 24), by almost 30 years, and how Old Tom was finally done in by a blind hazard. Such is the stuff of tragic a hero, not gimmicky NXT commercials.

This wonderful book about the founding father of golf and his immensely gifted son is more than parable and more than history - or rather it is all of these spun in prose that flows as smoothly as Old Tom swung his legendary swing. Most of all, it is a father-son story that captures the essence of so many filial relationships:

"At home the old man was kind, even tender. ... But there was no kindness on the links, where Tommy was beaten again and again, leaving him to dream of the day he would win at last."

Tales From the Q School by John Feinstein (Little, Brown, $27)

Several years ago, I penned the aphorism "If dreams can come true, then logically so can nightmares." Feinstein's similarly titled first chapter, "Dreams (and Nightmares) Come True," foreshadows the manic highs and lows of professional golf's cruelest test: Qualifying (Q) School.

The competitors Feinstein profiles throughout this intensely personal, brutally honest and deeply empathetic book battle themselves and one another to make it to the PGA Tour. But this is a world where not even playing well can assure you a tour card. Poor Jaxon Brigman accidentally signed for a score one stroke higher than what he actually shot and missed graduating to the tour by that single, misbegotten stroke.

Zen Putting by Dr. Joe Parent (Gotham, $22.50)

Putting, we all know, is a paradox. It is the easiest of all strokes - or should be. You need not be big, strong or fit to putt. Yet the putting "yips" have ended more careers - and kept more from beginning - than any other fault.

Dr. Joe Parent, author of Zen Golf and Mastering the Mental Game, leads readers from the putting green into their own heads, and then back out to a smoother, truer green and a more reliable stroke. This series of short contemplative chapters is rich in imagery and metaphor. By the time you get to the section called "How to Make Every Putt," you feel like your blood pressure is lower, your breathing is slower, and your hands and eyes are steadier.

The Art of the Short Game by Stan Utley with Matthew Rudy (Gotham, $25)

If you spend time watching the golfers at your local club, you'll notice that most of them waste one to three strokes a hole within 40 yards of the green. Once you have the Zen putting stroke grooved, you need an Utley-ized short game.

Utley plays on tour and teaches other tour players, too. (Golf is, of course, the only sport in which one competitor teaches his opponents how to beat him.)

Although the book would have been improved with a bit more focus on the art of prose, the title is not an empty cliché: After reading Utley's tips, you do feel like your wedges are brushes, the green is a canvas, and the ball is the paint.

Golf RX by Vijay Vad, M.D. with Dave Allen (Gotham, $27.50)

The author is named Vijay? Well, that's promising right there, by golly. Seriously, to me the most profound insight in this fine compilation of stretches and golfcentric holistic tips is contained in the chapter entitled "Tee to Green: 18 Stretches for 18 Holes." Think about it - how many of us stretch at all after teeing off on the first hole? Dr. Vad reminds us that there are 18 holes worth of time to stretch, meditate, relax and work out. I will never view a round of golf the same way again.

Fairways of Life by Matthew E. Adams (www.fairwaysoflife.com, $15.75)

Last, and perhaps least, for those who do most of their reading in 5-to-10-minute sessions - like before bed or in the privy - this is the perfect volume. This compilation of quotes, quips and deep thoughts on the game from the Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise reads a bit like an extended Hallmark card. Nevertheless, nuggets of wisdom and humor can be found by those willing to sift through the silt of sentimentality. There's also one called Chicken Soup for the Woman Golfer's Soul ($13.25). Autographed copies can be requested on the Web site at no additional charge.

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Art of the Short GameTommy's Honor
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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.

 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Recommend this one

    Mark Gardner wrote on: Sep 29, 2010

    Another great book you can add to your list is Golf Sense by Roy Palmer. Its very different from most books Ive read and its really helped my game. The best description I can use is that its sort of a mental golf book but with physical techniques to do it. Id recommend it to any golfer.

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