Past ramblings

Books About Golf

This category contains 16 posts

Back From Vacation

Well, I don’t know whether I deserved it or not, but I got some time off and had a thoroughly enjoyable vacation. Birthday party, baseball game, golf, lake time. It’s all good. Looking forward to getting back to the golf blog. Here are a few things I’m going to write about coming up:

  • The WGC Firestone – One of the most entertaining Saturdays of golf in a long time. It was very close, with a bunch of very talented golfers performing at the very highest level.
  • The WGC Firestone 2 – Is it just me, or is this one of the most boring courses the pros play on all year?
  • Putting Mat – I’ve been using it, and it’s helped a lot. Will contain a noteworthy Larry Legend reference.
  • Course Review of The Golf Club Of Kansas – Nice, tough course laid out in an old quarry.
  • Book Review of Golf In The Kingdom – One of my more anticipated reads.
  • Seven Days In Utopia – New golf movie. What do we know about it?
  • Best golf books ever – There are two that stand alone above the rest for me.
  • My latest swing move – Tiger and Faldo are in agreement.
  • PGA Championship – I’m done trying to predict who’s going to play well.

Keep’em in the short stuff.


Robert Matre’s US Open Photographs

If you follow my writing at all you know what a huge fan I am of the golf photography by Robert Matre. He’s just posted some of his shots from the US Open on his website.

I highly recommend you go out to take a look … As always it’s a mixture of course shots, player shots, and then my favorites; where he takes regular objects and turns them into extraordinary photographs with the cunning use of angles and composition.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

>Interview with Josh Karp – Author of "Straight Down the Middle"

>I reviewed “Straight Down the Middle” a few weeks ago. Subsequent to reading the book I’ve had the pleasure of exchanging several emails with the author Josh Karp. You might enjoy getting to know him as I have, so I edited some of our conversations into an interview.


I am surrounded by Cubs fans. I like them individually (some of my best friends) but despise them collectively. My grandfather was a Cubs fan who absolutely and completely hated the Sox because he was a fan of theirs back in 1919 when they threw the world series. That was it for him. He wouldn’t even watch the AL unless it was the all-star game or the series. I probably became a Sox fan just to drive him nuts.


No, not yet. I only played about 10 times last summer because after 2 years of being paid to play golf part-time the party was over and i had a hard time justifying getting out on the course. That said, I’ve had a few 80s the last two summers. I’m trying to play about once a week this year and i’m finding that even without playing as much as i would like, my game has improved in just about every way except for breaking 80. I’ve managed to sail past the point of implosion when i open 6 over after 3. when i get in the zone or get hot, i don’t think about it in a way that will destroy the feeling, and most of all – even though i want to shoot the lowest score – I’ve detached from results pretty effectively.


Well, the three biggest things I take away from what I learned are this:
1) Don’t keep score. I still do, but not with the avidity (if that’s a word) that I once did. I can play hole to hole without thinking about what I’ll have for nine or 18 and if I am counting things up it doesn’t create pressure in the way it once did.
2) Loosen your grip. This is kind of related to #1 and also has improved my game immeasurably. I hit the ball so much better and even when I’m falling apart I remind myself to loosen my grip and it seems to help. and
3) Maybe most importantly, I try to go out and have good swings and enjoy swinging the club, kind of letting fortune take over. Last week was a good example. I was playing in a charity tournament with my dad, my uncle and a friend of my uncle’s. It was a shotgun and i opened 6 over for what would be holes 7-9 on the back. After this I calmed down and started playing really well. I was maybe one over after 6 or 7 and hit a really nice drive and 2nd shot on a par 5. I was 130 away and grabbed my 8-iron, my 125-140 club and hit a great shot, felt perfect, was flying directly at the stick, etc. Even though the ball sailed 10 feet past and rolled off of the back of the green I was still happy with how well I hit the ball and how good it felt. This positive experience kind of negated any disappointment at not putting for birdie.


I think I kind of got tired of writing about my anxieties and they began to genuinely subside as the journey went on. I had that moment flying out of Scotland where I felt completely free of everything. It didn’t last, at least not in that pure of a state, but that was a huge turning point for me. I tried to tie it up in the conclusion by acknowledging that I probably wasn’t going to morph into Bing Crosby, but that I was going to continue to meditate and to keep slogging away at both golf and enlightenment.


That was pretty much the deal. It was one of the things that i thought was hilarious about the entire idea and genre of books, and something I really wanted to explore, this idea that golf and life are somehow linked. Since I’m a journalist I’m pretty much a born cynic, which is usually just an idealist with a bad case of disillusionment. I was fairly dubious about all of it while also kind of believing it and having experienced it in bits and snatches during the course of my having played the game. In the end I think that golf is about as close to spirituality as I will find. I’m unlikely to meditate on the range again, unless I’m with a Shivas Irons outing, but I surprised myself with how I was able to buy into it.


I think it may be both. I was much more likely to stripe a six-iron if I wasn’t thinking about my swing or worrying about where the ball would go, while striping the same six iron at a bad moment would definitely improve my mood. The difference was that in the past it would have made me happy and I’d have immediately started worrying about my putt. I learned to take in and appreciate each shot for what it was. The two are pretty well connected to each other and hard for me to separate.


There is an amazing correlation between the amount I care about my score and the score I actually shoot. This year I’ve had some weird schizophrenic rounds of 50-38, 39-48, 40-49, etc. The difference between the nines corresponds to the amount I am thinking about my score or how hard I am trying. When I finally give that stuff up things get much, much better without my having to do anything but swing a club and forget about the rest.

But, there is a lot of paradoxical stuff in the book and within the genre. I think that’s what attracted me to it. How can one get what they care about by not caring about it? Sounds insane, but is absolutely the truth. The more you do and the less you try, the more good happens.


I ascribe to the idea that I should focus on nothing. If i do focus on something, it is generally a feel. I want the swing to feel good. It needs to be a thought that is vague enough so that I can’t obsess about it. I’ve never done well with guided imagery and visualization. I’m much, much better off working on something that’s difficult to quantify.

>Book Review – "Straight Down the Middle" by Josh Karp

>If it’s true what I’ve heard that Jerry Garcia actually carried a 12 handicap at Olympic in the 70s then “What a long and winding road it’s been” may well have been written about a struggling golfer’s journey similar to the one Josh Karp took in writing this book. He’s all over the place. He visits Zen Masters and martial artists, authors, physicists, and philosophers, and his travels take him to Scotland and Wisconsin and points inbetween. Going on the supposition that what works in golf also works in life, he tries to improve his handicap in both fields.

Josh Karp is a native and resident of Glencoe, Illinois, in the high-faluting northern suburbs of Chicago. After college he stumbled around in marketing, law, and baked goods before getting a journalism degree from Northwestern. In his own words. he “found something that he was not bad at”. His written pieces have appeared in Salon, Premier, and the LA Times, and he’s the author of “A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comdey Forever”. He currently teaches journalism to other students who presumably are not bad at it either.
Josh first played golf in sixth grade and hacked his way around golf teams in high school and college. He wasn’t very good, but then neither were his teams. As an adult he found himself carrying an 18 handicap and a more than healthy dose of curiosity and open-mindedness about methods which may help his golf game.
Inspired by books like “Golf in the Kingdom” and “Zen Golf” he sets out to further explore the links between Zen Buddhism and meditation to success on the golf course and in life.
He explores the “effortless swing” of Yoni Zaluski, and Steve Yellin tries to help him get “in the zone”. He spends time with Doctor Joe Parent, and an assortment of other thinkers of varying magnitude. He visits Buddhists in Scotland, and the Shivas Irons society’s outing in Wisconsin.
By the end of his travels and travails his handicap is down to 11, and he’s gotten very close to one of his goals, to break 80.
Josh’s writing is very casual and personal. At times it’s painfully intimate, and at other times it’s uproaringly funny. Deep philosophical concepts are described in very matter-of-fact terminology, and he doesn’t let the fact that he writes about spirituality keep him from dropping the occasional F-bomb.
“This is psychic power, mind over matter. It’s high-level shit. When you hole out a chip, sink a long putt, or paint a picture that flows directly from your mind to the canvas – that’s the creative unconscious. For guys like you and me – it’s pretty much magic. For Tiger, it’s normal.”
His journey is inspiring in it’s honesty and candidness, and his descriptions of his adventures are colorful and moving:
His shots make almost no noise. They say that Sam Snead’s irons sounded like the door of a Rolls-Royce being slammed. Mine are loud as well, but never like a Rolls. More like a Buick on good shots, and akin to a Yugo being sideswiped by a Gremlin on the bad ones.”
If you’re at all intersted in the mental side of golf, and if you have an open mind to the pseudo-magical, non-plane aspects of improving your golf game then “Straight Down the Middle” will touch you deeply. Even if you’re not into these things you’ll still be very amused.

>Book Review: "The Match" by Mark Frost

> I picked the right time of the year to read this book. It just fit very nicely to take in a book that is largely about Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson while the PGA Tour was playing it’s Dallas events that are so closely tied to those golfing greats.

“The Match” is about a round of golf played on Cypress Point in 1956, which pitted a pro team of Hogan and Nelson against the top amateurs of the time Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi. The round was played during the buildup to Bing Crosby’s clambake, which at that time was a major event on the PGA Tour.
“The Match” was published in 2007.
Mark Frost is a bestselling author as well as a producer and director in both TV and movies. He worked on such significant creations as Hill Street Blues, Twin Peaks, and Fantastic Four. Other books about golf include “The Grand Slam” about Bobby Jones, and “The Greatest Game Ever Played” about Francis Ouimet’s US Open victory.
In the 1950’s, the golf world was still debating whether the game belonged completely to the professional tour players, or if there was still a chance the amateur game could be competitive. Bobby Jones had retired decades earlier, and nobody had stepped up to be the champion of the amateur cause.
The money on the PGA Tour was growing, but it was not a sport in which you were able to accumulate great personal wealth. If you were very good, you could make it go around, but that was about it. Some in the golf community held on to the amateur ideals with great passion and fervor, while others had hitched their wagon to the pro train.
Eddie Lowery was a San Francisco car dealer, and a rich one at that. He was also a great fan of golf, and amateur golf in particular. He often employed top amateur talent at his dealership, and his support made it possible for them to attend the major amateur tournaments and to work on their game.
In one of the many parties leading up to The Clambake in 1956 he got into an argument with fellow rich guy George Coleman. Eddie claimed that his best amateur players could beat any two professionals. George and Eddie decided to put some money on it, and George went about finding himself a couple of pros. Lucky for him, he was close to the Texas golf contingent, and he was able to round up none other than Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan.
“The Match” is about the ensuing game. Every shot is covered in great detail. Interspersed with the retelling of the round the author covers the personal history of the four golfers, as well as how their lives turned out after this round.
VERDICT – Birdie
I must admit, when I first heard about The Match I was a little sceptical. It’s a book about one round of golf. Surely there’s no way to make that spellbinding in any way.
Well, Mark Frost manages to do just that. By weaving the personal histories of each of the players in and out of his retelling of the round itself he keeps every chapter fresh and the story moves forward at a very comfortable pace. His writing is casual and easy to read.
As I was reading it I had to wonder how much of this story was truly real. Because of the setting and the participants, it sort of felt like “Magic and Bird One-On-One at the YMCA on the corner”. At the end of the book he retells the research he did in writing the book, and by all accounts it’s a true representation of a great day of golf. I think he would have been better served to have this documentation up front.
I highly recommend “The Match” to any golfer or golf fan.

>BOOK REVIEW: "Golf Sonnets" by James Long Hale

>It’s been a good year so far from a Golf Lit point of view, as I’ve had the pleasure of reading not one but two books of original golf poetry. Today’s offering is “Golf Sonnets” by James Long Hale. In his own words, the author is “an avid amateur golfer who freely gives and gets Mulligans, understates his handicap, and desperately needs the proceeds from this book to cover his losses. He owns seven drivers, five putters, and his widow enjoys gardening.”

This charming little book is roughly the size of a golf course yardage guide, and it contains 18 very well written golf poems of very disciplined, consistent syntax. The syncapation is quite Prussian, and the author clearly has wrestled significantly with the content in order to make it fit his meter. The end result is funny and witty and insightful, and it’s clearly the product of a mind who spends many hours a day thinking about the game of golf.

Each poem covers one aspect of the game, such as “The Equipment”, “The Swing”, or “The Course”. About “The Attire”, as an example Mr. Hale writes:
“But now, for some, Golf’s merely an excuse
To dress like pimps on Forty-Second Street;
With fuchsia pants and shirts of bright chartreuse,
And alligator wintips on their feet.”
Birdie. “Golf Sonnets” is a great gift idea, to golfers and non-golfers alike. It’s an easy read without being simplistic, and the straightforwardness of the rhymes masks the complexity of the construction.
For more information about “Golf Sonnets”, please visit, or send an email to the author at

>Book Review: "The Kiss That Caused My Slice" by John Ducker

>I love hearing from creative golfers who chose to express themselves in some way other than just another book about some golfer of yore or the magical swing plane discovery they made on some driving range in Omaha, Nebraska.

John Ducker, fellow member of The Golf Space, has produced a great book of short little golf stories, told poetry style. Think of it as “Homer meets PG Wodehouse”.

The author clearly is a devoted golfer himself, and his passion for the game comes through in every piece he writes. His book has 18 stories in it, one for each hole on the golf course. Each little story is accompanied by a gorgeous picture of a golf hole from a course you’ve never heard of.

The stories are told in rhyme, and they’re light-hearted and funny and well written. At times they made me laugh out loud, and even my non-golfing spouse enjoyed the parts I read our loud to her.

Some of John’s stories stem from his own play on the course, and some are sheer fantasy. A handicap-1 playing fortune-teller makes an appearance, as does Madonna, Prince, and Michael Jackson (John is clearly a child of the 80s, which I can relate to). There are cavemen playing on a 20-hole course, and subtle pop culture references throughout.

SCORE: Birdie. Creative, unusual, and stemming from a deep-seated passion for the game of golf in general as well as the author’s own golf game. It’s well written and entertaining. “The Kiss That Caused My Slice” is a great addition to anyone’s golf library, and it may be just the sort of thing that turns your literature-loving significant other onto the game.

>What Makes a Good Golf Blog

>There has been quite a bit of talk on the tweet-wire and in other blogs over the past weeks about what makes a good golf blog. I can’t think of a better way to voice my opinion on the matter than in my own golf blog.

I know I have no right to tell anyone else what they should like, or what’s “right”. This is about the kinds of blogs I like to read, and conversely about the kind of a blogger I want to be.

So, for lack of a better way to organize these thoughts, here are my rules of blogging. Some are things writers should do, some are things writers shouldn’t do. Some are basic, some are pretty touchy. They’re in no particular order, but the more of them you hit the more I’m going to like your blog.

1) Don’t use your blog to try to sell something or some service. I’m not interested. Really, I’m not.

2) Spelling, usage, and grammar. We may be the best hydrated generation in the history of mankind, but we’re the worst writing generation as well. I don’t need “U r”, and I don’t need “their” where “they’re” is correct. I don’t need “here here”, when “hear, hear” is the correct response. And know the difference between “effect” and “affect”, please.

3) Don’t fall for the “easy story” temptation. There was a lot of this going on last year. From KP winning the Masters to Tommie winning The Open, there were easy stories all over the majors last year which did not materialize. As a writer, you have NO RIGHT to complain about how the tournament ends, all you should do is to cover it.

3a) Don’t write about Tiger if he’s not the story this week. He’s the greatest. We know. The fact that he’s working with his swing coach right now is not a bigger story than who won last weekend’s tournament. When he plays, which he does rarely, he’s the story. Other than that, please apply rule 3.

4) Play the game. I play the game. I love playing the game. I struggle with my game. I want to hear about your struggles with your game. This makes it a lot more real. I want to hear about your missed putts and your shots of the year and your shanks and about your solid iron play.

5) Don’t be a news-linker. I don’t rely on your blog to keep me up to date with the latest and greatest golf news. There are trained professionals who do this a lot better than you ever will. Just because you link to some article from or Yahoo Golf or GolfChannel with a full five word prefix doesn’t make you a good blogger. It just makes you a glommer-onner. If you want to comment on current golf events I would suggest that you, well, actually COMMENT on current golf events, not just link to somebody else’s article.

5a) Keep it personal. I can get news and mainstream media from a lot of other places. Your job is to put your personal twist on A) Current golf events, B) Golf history, or C) The state of your own golf game. If you can’t do either of these three, you’re in the wrong business.

5b) Tell us about your diamonds in the rough. When you do find a cool, unique golf spot on the electronic Internets, do let us know about it, and let us know why you like it. This does NOT include the “Tiger’s not playing next week” blog with a link to

6) Pictures. Golf is a very visual game. Whether your story is about a golfer or a golf hole, a picture of it does a great deal to carry the story forward. While a pictures may not literally take the place of a thousand words, that particular saying didn’t spring out of thin air either.

7) Have a friggin’ sense of humor. Golf is a lot like life in this respect: If you can’t approach it’s ups and downs, it’s birdies and sand traps, with an even keel you’re just being blown to and fro by the slings and arrows of outrageous golf fortunes.

8) You’re not Hank Haney. Unless you’re talking about the way a certain technique has helped your own personal golf game, don’t avalance us with glorious golf tips and other magic pills sure to cure our slice, yips, duffs, blades, three putts and chili dips. Guess what? You can’t fix our golf game through a blog. At best you can tell us what worked for you, and we can then make the decision as to whether to apply that to our game.

9) Don’t be TMZ. We love golf, and we love golfers. That doesn’t mean we have an immersurable need to know everything there is to know about every golfer’s private lives. While it’s true that pro athletes who make millions off endorsements for public consumer products don’t have a right to request privacy when it fits them, that doesn’t mean us golf fans want to know and hear your opinions about every single thing that goes on outside the ropes.

>No Work, No Haggis

>(Traditional Zen Story, paraphrased by Golfer In Kilt.)

Old Alister MacGregor had come over from Scotland, and he had been the Superintendant at The Dunes GC for more than half his eighty year long life. Though he’s now officially retired he still lived above the pro shop, and he still insisted on helping the ground staff around the course. Every single day , rain or shine, you’d see him out there weeding the sand traps, pruning the shrubs, or clearing the clippings off the green.

The rest of the staff felt sorry to see the old Super working so hard at his old age, but they knew he would not listen to their advise to stop. One day they all decided to take matters into their own hands, and they hid his tools from him.
That day Mr. MacGregor did not eat. The next day he didn’t eat, nor the next after that.
“Maybe he’s angry because we hid his tools,” the ground staff theorized. “we’d better give them back to him.”
The next day, old Mr. MacGregor was back working with them, side by side, and again eating all his meals as usual. After dinner that day he explained:
“No work, no Haggis.”

>I can’t review this

>Over the past year, I’ve had the honor of reporting on the quality of various and sundry golf publications on behalf of the site. I’ve certainly enjoyed this opportunity.

Before going any further, let me make sure I’d be the first to allow that opinions are like bottoms, divided, and a book (or movie, or album) that’s great for one person may or may not be anywhere close to that of another person. Someone recommended a book called “How To Hit Every Shot”, so I thought I’d give it a try. It outlines 101 different golf shots, and expresses methods and techniques for pulling each shot off.

If this book works for you, then I’m very happy for you. For me, I had a hard time getting over the atrocious writing and editing that allowed shot #2, “Power Fade”, to reach the printed page.

Maybe I’m being picky, but I just don’t think this is the kind of advice we should have to pay thirty dollars for. I love your money more than that. Here goes:

In the introduction to this shot the writer(s) state “Old-school instruction tells you to open your stance, point your clubface at where you want the ball to end up and then swing along your stance line. That’s a lot to think about. There’s a much easier way , and all you have to do is make your normal swing. Follow the instructions at right”.

So far so good. Sounds like they’re about to lay some severly slimmed down and simplified golf lessons on us. So I read on:

“Step 1 – Take aim at the left side of the fairway”. Boy, this sure sounds a lot like you should “open your stance”.

“Step 2 – Open the face”. Given that your stance is already open (or aiming at the left side of the fairway), this pretty much works out to be “pointing your clubface at where you want the ball to end up”.

“Step 3 – Hit the outside. Make your normal backswing and downswing.” If I didn’t know better, I would say this sounds like “swing along your stance line”.

Now, I have no problem with a writer accepting that standard, accepted golf instructions actually were the best way to hit this shot. What I do have a problem with is the fact that they presented their instructional steps as representing a new and revolutionary way to hit this shot, but then they proceeded to take the same steps that they were very quick to put down in the introduction.

There may well be very valuable tips and techniques in this book, but I for one will have a VERY difficult time allowing them to sink in.

>Book Preview: "I Hit the Ball Great at the Driving Range, but …"

>Everybody’s favorite Chicago-area Big Lebowski fan, BeeZee a.k.a. abzgolf a.k.a Brian Zipse, has given me the honor of previewing a manuscript for his burgeoning book “I Hit the Ball Great at the Driving Range, but …”. It’s a compilation of “Dear BeeZee” columns on a variety of topics.

(artwork by JT Munson)
Brian Zipse lives in Tinley Park outside Chicago with wife and baby daughter. He’s a Master Teaching Professional with the World Golf Teaching Federation, a status only attained by 300 of that organization’s 18,000 members. He has been teaching golf for 10 years, and he’s a contributing writer to Universal Golf and The Green Links Pages. Brian’s website is
The subtitle to the book is “The Best of Dear BeeZee”, and it can be best thought of as 72 holes of golf oriented “Dear Abby” type columns. The questions and answers cover all aspects of improving both the enjoyment and the performance of amateur golfers. It deals with the mental side of the game as well as with physical and technical aspects.
To a golfer who’s coming back to the game after a lengthy absence he recommends: “Most beginners would improve faster if the first motion they tried with a golf club was to swing it at chest level, like a baseball swing … after this is comfortable, bring back the ball. Make the same easy motion, letting the ball get in the way. Yes, the golf swing can be as simple as letting the ball get in the way.”
Another golfer has a problem with roller-coaster performances, and not being able to stick with what he knows is right. Brian’s advice includes “Get off of this merry-go-round now! By constantly looking for a fix to your golf swing and then abandoning this fix as soon as it stops working, you are in essence not learning, not building, and you are inviting inconsistency to be your golf partner.”
Those of us who pay attention to Brian’s comments in the various The Golf Space forums know how passionate he is about helping golfers play better and enjoy the game more. This passion is evident in the advice he provides. For most part his tone is positive and encouraging, but at times also stern when that’s called for. He definitely has the kind of temperament any good teacher needs.
The writing is casual and easy to read. I wish Brian the best of luck with the book, and with his continued contribution to the promotion of the game of golf.

>Book Review – The Caddie who knew Ben Hogan

>Forbidden romance meets a caddie’s pipe dream. The club pro and the president’s daughter. A memorable round with the best player in the world. It all gets tossed together in the perspective of that one caddie we all would want to be, the one who’s respected by the top players and who knows things about the course nobody else does.

John Coyne is an American writer of over twenty-five books, the bulk of which are horror stories. He worked as a caddie in his youth, and he’s an avid golfer, and as such he has also written several books on the topic.
“The Caddie who knew Ben Hogan” is a fictional story. It was published in 2006 and is presented as “a literary exploration of golf and everyday life”.
The story takes place at a country club outside Chicago that’s in the throes of preparing to host the Chicago Open later in the summer of 1946. It’s told in the words of Jack Handley, the young caddie who’s secretly hopeful that the club’s talented young assistant pro will do well in this contest. Complicating matters is that the pro is involved in an illicit affair with the daughter of the president of the club, and the caddie often has to go between the two, when all he really cares about is golf.
One day a shiny big car pulls in to the club’s parking lot, and out steps Ben Hogan, stopping by to take a look at the course in advance of the big tournament. Jack quickly grabs his clubs, and they go out on the course. They play the first nine holes by themselves, but the club’s pro joins them for the second nine. The round is told in intimate detail, and the pro turns out to beat the greatest player in the game.
Everything builds up to the tournament itself, and again the golf action is told with great attention to every minutiae.
Many reviewers praise this book for providing a snapshot into the country club athmosphere in the 40’s, and it’s also received high marks for it’s portrayal of Ben Hogan. These were both things I did enjoy about the book.
The downfall of the book was it’s attempts throughout to try to build up the tension to some fantastic and shocking ending. I was very disappointed to find that the author let not one but two cats out of the proverbial bag with more than 50 pages left to go. Not only did he reveal how the tournament was going to end, but he also revealed some of the circumstances around the ending. I was hoping to find some twist at the end, but it was not to be and the ending was very anti-climactic.
I felt like the author got bored with writing the book and just wrapped it up as quickly as possible. The quality of the writing towards the end was nowhere near what it was at the beginning.
The one thing I will take with me out of the book is the advice that Ben Hogan repreatedly offered young Jack, with respect to life as well as golf: “The most important shot is your next one.”

>Book Review – Golf on the Edge (by a fellow TGS member)

Greg Norman made headlines a few months ago when he suggested that professional golfers should take a pay cut in light of the financial crisis we’re in. While it may appear inappropriate that a tournament winner will take home a million dollars for a four day tournament while thousands of people are losing jobs and savings due to a near collapse of our financial system, it’s important to remember that for every millionaire on the tour there are thousands of professional golfers who struggle and fight for every single dollar and who are losing money for every tournament they play in. “Golf On The Edge” is the book about these golfers.


“Golf On The Edge” was written by English sportswriter and journalist (and The Golf Space member) Ross Biddiscombe. Ross has been a journalist and writer for over 30 years, working for major daily newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and golf publications like Golf Monthly and Today’s Golfer. He’s a single-digit handicapper, a long time Tampa Bay Bucs fan and marathon runner.


“Golf On The Edge” chronicles one year in the life of seven golfers as they’re preparing to play in the European Q-school at the end of the year. The seven candidates approach Q-school from very diverse backgrounds, from having struggled on the tour last year and having to qualify to being a long time PGA Professional who decides to pursue the dream of a PGA card. Some are young, some are old. Some have been at the top and have fallen down and some have no idea what it takes to bridge the gap between missing the cut and taking a cut out of the winners’ purse.

Each chapter in the book covers one month in the lives of the seven players, and it provides an intimate and honest view into the lives of the players who don’t have the big endorsement contracts and who are covered in the big golf magazines. They’re on the edge of making it, on the edge of making their finances go around, and on the edge of making it big, but they’re also on the edge of sanity and on the edge of risking everything in the pursuit of their dream.

The mental aspects of these golfers’ quest for a tour card is discussed in excruciating detail, and the helplessness they feel when things go against them is covered in painful candor. How do you tell your wife, who’s been supporting your pursuit of the dream for four years, that you want to try it one more year, and that this year it will be different? How do you tell your parents, or your sponsors, or your girlfriend, to get into a hole with you with no guarantees whatsoever that you will be able to get out?

The book concludes with a detailed review of how the players do at Q-School, and it’s an interesting look deep inside the incredible pressure involved in this tournament. Many would argue that the pressure of winning a tournament when you already have your own jet is nothing compared to the pressure of Q-school, where the losers return home with less than nothing, an little more than a job laying tiles waiting for them.


Ross’ writing is eloquent, and his research effort very thorough. The seven stories are told in a very personal manner, and it’s clear the author invested a lot of passion and hope into his subjects. From his voluminous experience he’s able to convey all the different facets of success and failure, hope and despair, that go into these golfers’ journey.

Although the book covers European golfers and venues this will in no way deter you from enjoying the book if you’re not familiar with this environment. The core of the book is in the personal stories of these aspiring golfers.

For further information, please see the Pleasant City Press web site or contact Ross directly on TGS (

>Book Review – "Alice Cooper, Golf Monster"

>The majority of non-fictional books people read are about things or people that we’re interested in, or that we enjoy. Some would say the definition of a good book is if it takes something we already like and makes us value it even more. If this is true, then “Alice Cooper, Golf Monster” is a great book because it increased my appreciation both of Alice Cooper and of the game of Golf.

Most people know Alice Cooper as the 70’s shock rocker, with the funky makeup that inspired everyone from Kiss to Rocky Horror Picture Show, and with stage shows containing more special effects than most movies of that time. Some are aware that he plays a bit of golf as they catch him at the occasional Pro-Am event. Few people know that Alice (as his legal name actually is) is a comfortable five-handicap golfer who plays as many as 300 days a year, both at home in the Phoenix area and when he’s touring.

“Alice Cooper, Golf Monster” is the story of his rise to rock ’n’ roll fame, of his decline into drug use and alcoholism, and of his love for and addiction to the game of golf. It was published in 2007 and co-written by the twin brothers Keith and Kent Zimmerman, who have also written about Johnny Rotten, Orange County Choppers, and a bestseller about the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club. The book is organized into 12 steps, each of which has chapters about Rock ‘n’ Roll and chapters about Golf, which is a nice touch as the subtitle of the book is “A Rock ‘n’ Roller’s 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict.”

The dedication is simple: “My liver would like to dedicate this book to me for giving up drinking and taking up golf.” The book opens with Alice getting invited by Ely Callaway to play Pine Valley. Before the round the over/under on his score was 85, and money duly changed hands. When all was said and done Alice played one of the truly monstrous courses in all of golf in 73 strokes. “Never before has an amateur come here and shot a 73,” the Caddy Master announced.

From a sheer entertainment point of view the book is littered with Alice’s friendships and associations throughout the music and movie industries in LA through his years of living there. It’s not surprising to read about him hanging out with the crème de la crème of the 60s and 70s Rock scene, such as Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, John Lennon and Frank Zappa (Alice got his first break because a friend of his used to baby sit the Zappa kids). What’s more surprising is that Alice would also hang out with a virtual who’s who of non-Rock celebrities, from Salvador Dali and Peter Sellers to The Rat Pack and the Marx Brothers. “We got into the elevator and it’s me, Liza Minnelli, Linda Lovelace, and Chubby Checker all going up to meet Elvis.”

From the aspect of Alice Cooper the man and the human being, “Golf Monster” is highly personal and brutally honest. He openly admits his addiction and his failures, but also talks frankly about the dedication required to get clean, and the tremendous benefits of staying that way.

The book ends like it starts, in the world of golf as Alice shares his “15 tips for Achieving Your Best Game.” Sprinkled throughout the book are stories about the royalties of golf whom Alice has encountered in decades of Pro-Ams.


The writing in “Golf Monster” isn’t exactly fluid, but if you like Rock ‘n’ Roll OR Golf OR celebrities in general the story itself will be plenty to keep you interested. It’s motivational and funny and smart, and it will supply your “Did you know …” drawer for years to come.

In the end, Alice Cooper claims to have received three compliments in his life which he will cherish forever, and they’re indicative of his versatile talents and multi-faceted personality:
1) Groucho Marx saying that Alice Cooper was the last hope for vaudeville.
2) Bob Dylan saying ‘I think Alice Cooper is an overlooked song-writer.’
3) Tiger Woods saying he wouldn’t give me two a side.

>Book Review – "Open" by John Feinstein (2009-02-10)

>The scorecard for the 2002 US Open shows another Tiger Woods major championship victory, and the leaderboard is littered with the premier golfers of the time with names like Mickelson, Garcia, Faldo, Harrington, and Price all in the Top 10. Tiger was the only golfer to break par, but this being the US Open this isn’t unfathomable, given the way the USGA has been known to condition a course for its premier tournament.

One doesn’t have to look far under the covers of this tournament, however, to find out just how distinctive it was on many levels. It’s this uniqueness that John Feinstein is tapping into and is using to drive the story in “Open: Inside The Ropes At Bethpage Black” published in 2003.

John Feinstein broke through to fame in 1987 with his book “A Season on the Brink”, about a season with the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team and it’s volatile coach Bob Knight. His most famous book about golf was “A Good Walk Spoiled”, which was a #1 bestseller in 1993. “Open” talks the reader through the entire process building up to the 2002 US Open, opening with an unplanned visit to Bethpage State Park in November 1994 by David Fay, then the executive director of the USGA, and ending with Fay driving into the sunset after the Sunday of the championship, listening to the broadcast of the Mets’ and Yankees’ baseball game. There are three recognizable sections to “Open”: The first grabs you, the second slows you down a bit, and the third part celebrates the tournament itself with Tiger’s thrilling finish.

Initially the book deals with the birth and development of the idea to bring the nation’s championship to a municipal course for the first time, and a course that was in fairly rough shape at that. What’s very clear here is the tremendous amount of passion the golf course Bethpage Black inspired in all who played it, worked on it, and saw it. It was truly a diamond in the rough, and eventually more and more people were able to see past the dilapidated condition of the course and see the potential underneath it.

In the middle of the book, or shall I say the muddle of the book, the author spends a little bit too much time describing the background of many of the people involved in bringing this project to fruition. It’s all interesting in itself, and he obviously spent a copious amount of time with the characters who were involved, but I don’t think this section of the book needed to take up this much room.

The last section is the buildup to and the playing of the championship itself. Though the author is obviously biased, it’s clear that the course was as close to perfect as a championship course of this caliber can be. It was sternly challenging, but fair. I found it quite interesting to find out what all goes on behind the scenes at an event like this, and having it end with Tiger beating out Phil on the last nine on Sunday was frosting on the cake.


All in all, “Open” was a very enjoyable read. The author’s tone is light and casual, at times very humorous, and his research and preparation on the subject is spectacular. The book is relevant right now for two reasons: One, the US Open is again played on Bethpage Black in 2009; and two, the author is currently working on a book with Rocco Mediate about the 2008 US Open. This book, allegedly to be called “Are You Kidding Me?”, is due out around the time of the 2009 event.