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Being a keen student of the game of golf I must confess to being a sucker for a great golf book and have read a large number over the years. In particular, I am always fascinated by any golf book that adds offers a different perspective and aims to bring some insight from the professional game to explain to amateurs how the best players approach things.
As the legendary US golfer and 7 times major champion, Bobby Jones once said: “Golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half inch course ….. between your ears”. Any reading I can do therefore to help me improve my mental approach to the game I am always keen to do and I also just enjoy reading about golf and sport in general.
These are 4 Great Golf Books to Read
- Every Shot Counts (click to check the current price on Amazon) – A book about using the revolutionary strokes gained approach to improve your golf performance and strategy.
- Cracking the Code (click to check the current price on Amazon) – Paul Azinger’s story of how he came up with his winning Ryder Cup strategy and how you can make it work for you.
- The Golfer’s Guide to the Meaning of Life (click to check the current price on Amazon) – Lessons Gary Player has learned from his life on the links.
- Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons And Teachings From A Lifetime In Golf (click to check the current price on Amazon) – In brief the bestselling golf instruction book of all time.
Why I Picked ‘Every Shot Counts’
I’ll make a confession now. I am a bit obsessed with sports stats. And since the ‘Moneyball’ craze which helped bring the systematic analysis of data in baseball into the mainstream there has been an endless stream of books on the subject across all types of sports.
Every Shot Counts does the same for golf in that it questions the conventional wisdom on which we were all taught the game and which today I still hear being talked about regularly on golf courses, in clubhouses and on golf TV.
The book is written by Mark Broadie, Columbia Business School professor and pioneer of the ‘strokes gained’ metrics first adopted by the PGA Tour in 2011. And it is based simply on his statistical analysis of millions of golf shots.
Here are just a few of the conclusions Professor Broadie, puts forward, to challenge some of the conventional wisdoms which have become established in golf over for decades:
- “Long hitters tend to be straighter hitters.”
- “The long game explains two-thirds of the difference in scores between beginning and skilled amateurs, between amateurs and pros, and between average pros and the best pros.
- “Amateur golfers are not bad putters comparatively compared to pros.”
- “Using putts per round (as a stat measure) these days instead of strokes gained putting is like driving a horse and buggy when a car is parked out front.”
- “Giving up 50 yards a tee shot for a bit more accuracy is a poor trade.”
- “Tiger Woods’ secret weapon is approach shots. These shots account for the biggest proportion, 46%, of his scoring advantage.”
I don’t know about you but I was always coached to work on my putting, first, second and last. “You drive for show but putt for dough” was hammered into me from a young age. The great thing about this book is it turns that conventional wisdom on its head and explains in detail why the long game is more important than the short game.
It also gives some great practical tips for all standards of golfer on how they can improve simply on the basis of stats. I’ll admit now it’s a book more aimed at those that love our stats but even if you don’t I would still thoroughly recommend this book.
I guarantee you will learn something you didn’t know!
Why I Recommend ‘Cracking the Code’
I must confess this was a tough book to recommend for the simply reason I am a European Golf fan when it comes to the Ryder Cup! And this book is about the approach Paul Azinger took to leading the USA team to Ryder Cup glory in 2008.
Team support aside though this is genuinely a great book and provides a great insight into all the planning Ryder Cup captains go into over the 2 years prior to the main event.
Bear in mind that for the Ryder Cup in 2008 the USA team had lost the previous 3 Ryder Cups (one of those by a record margin) and had only won three times in 25 years up to that point. The fact also that this match up paired Azinger up against his old European sparring partner – Nick Faldo – as the opposing European captain added further intrigue to this match up.
I must confess before reading this book I thought there wasn’t much to being a Ryder Cup captain beyond selecting a few guys in form as wild cards and making sure the kit you chose looks good.
But the book dispels all that and is particularly great at looking into how, in such a famously individual sport where the players are conditioned to look on all their peers as competitors, the captain has to suddenly form a team in a space of a few days.
The lengths which Paul Azinger went to build a team is fascinating and the explanation of how he used lessons from how the navy turns raw recruits into SEALs is hugely interesting even if you don’t like golf. The change he demanded from the PGA of wanting four captain’s picks instead of two and the reasoning behind it is also a great small example of the lengths to which he went to try and deliver an environment which would give the best chance of success.
In short, it’s an excellent read, even if you are a European Ryder Cup fan!
A Great Book by One of the Greats
Gary Player is one of the greatest golfers ever to have played the game. The winner of 9 majors he currently sits ranked joint 4th on the all-time major winning list alongside Ben Hogan, and behind only Walter Hagen, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
Now into his 80s he is still going strong and continues to set an example to all golfers, particularly when it comes to diet and fitness. Indeed major champions including Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer still take on the ‘Plank4Player’ challenge on Gary Player’s birthday each year which means holding a plank exercise position for the same number of seconds as the birthday he is celebrating that year.
The insights he gives in his book – The Golfer’s Guide to the Meaning of Life: Lessons I’ve Learned from My Life on the Links – are hugely interesting and give a great window into the approach he took throughout his long career.
It is a short book but is packed with great lessons and his views on the essential traits of a successful golfer – patience, resilience, clarity, curiosity and a focus on strengths. His approach to fitness and diet are of course well known but his attitude to making helping others be a core part of this general approach to life give an additional insight into his general approach.
How he worked to maintain perspective throughout all his huge successes is also fascinating as indeed are the identity of peers he admired the most. These include Billy Casper, a 3-time major winner himself, but who also as the book reveals continually adopted children from all over the world in the hope of giving those kids a shot at a better life.
It’s a short read as I say but an excellent one and you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.