<
>

Holiday Gift Guide: Golf books

It's no fun living in the Northeast this time of year. I'm cold, my golf clubs are frigid and my game is presumably frozen over.

Bah humbug.

Sure, it's sad ... but it also gives me time to scour the bookshelf and check out the latest tomes that have been collecting dust while I tried to squeeze in an extra nine holes instead of tending to some light reading.

So here we go: I proudly offer you not the best golf books in history, possibly not even the best of the past year. But here are eight publications that were absolutely, positively, undeniably on my bookshelf when I decided to write this piece. (Eight, of course, in honor of Santa's eight reindeer, the eight nights of Hanukkah, and that final-hole quadruple-bogey you made three months ago and are still stewing over.) Turns out, each one is actually a pretty good read, too. Amazing the things you can learn when it's too cold to stick a peg in the ground.

Where Golf is Great: The Finest Courses of Scotland and Ireland
By James W. Finegan

Ten pounds, to answer your first question. How did I know what your first question would be? Well, because it's likely the same first question asked by everyone else who has picked up the book. Holy s---! How heavy is this thing? Don't worry, no one's asking you to bench press it; just throw it down on a tabletop and start marveling at the poignant photographs and sublime text of golf's hallowed grounds. If you've played golf across the pond, this book will kick the memory into overdrive while it all comes back to life. If you haven't, well, by page 20 you may find yourself booking a plane ticket. Just don't expect to lug this book with you. After all, the plane can only carry so much weight.


Golf My Own Damn Way
By John Daly with Glen Waggoner

To paraphrase a line from former NFL coach Dennis Green: This book was what we thought it was! If you're looking for a sequel to Harvey Penick's demure "Little Red Book," you've come to the wrong bookshelf. But if you can't get enough of the wit and wisdom of JD -- and if you really, truly want to know the inner machinations of his swing thoughts -- then this one's for you. Read between the jocular lines and you'll find some extremely valuable tips, from quick-fixing a slice to -- gasp! -- why many amateurs should leave their Big Dog in the trunk. That's not to say there aren't plenty of yuks, too. My personal favorite: Chapter 27, entitled, "List of Books of Any Kind That I Have Read Cover to Cover Since The Grapes of Wrath in High School." (I don't want to want to spoil the answer for you, but let's just say there's plenty of blank space on the page.)


Pops and Sunshine
By Dave Andrews

Word association time. I say professional golfer. You say ... multimillionaire with a fleet of jets and yachts who hits a little white ball for a living. True, but only at the sport's very elite levels. Instead, many pro golfers live the lives of those on the Duramed Futures Tour. They carpool from tourney to tourney and don't even earn enough to set up shop in a hotel room each week. The alternative? That's the crux of Andrews' novel, as 20-year-old Lisa Nelson becomes a week-long housemate to Dave Johnston, a wealthy amateur golfer in his 50s who lost his wife and daughter four years earlier. From housemate to caddie to friend, the relationship between the two -- and a few other essential characters -- is just as compelling off the course as it is on. Not to spoil the ending, but I will say this much: It's tough to believe players who fly on private jets and stay on yachts could ever feel such a gamut of emotions at a golf tournament. (Only available here.)


Alliss' 19th Hole: Trivial Delights from the World of Golf
By Peter Alliss with Rab MacWilliam

You know Peter Alliss. He's the TV commentator with the British accent who swoops down upon telecasts and instantly makes the poor American saps in the booth feel inadequate due to his mastery of the English language and uncannily dry wit. Much of that personality carries over into this book, which serves as a veritable hodgepodge of golf facts, opinion and eclectic stuff. Listen for Alliss' voice as you read and you'll be able to hear him regaling a foursome with these tales while tucked away in a cozy corner of a clubhouse bar. Whether you're learning new information or reliving old classics, Alliss' inimitable style keeps the entertainment level on high.


The Game Before the Game
By Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson with Ron Sirak

There are myriad books on the market that claim to unlock secrets of the game through enhanced practice methods. None are as provocative as this one, from the authors of "Every Shot Must Have a Purpose." Where else would we find viable quotes from Albert Einstein to Frederick Douglass and practical analysis from Rudy Duran (Tiger Woods' first instructor) to Annika Sorenstam? The latter credits the authors -- well, two of 'em, at least; bet you can guess which ones -- for helping her reach such lofty goals in the game, calling herself, "the embodiment of their coaching philosophies." It's all about preparation and such practice tips as, "Hit an extra-high 5-iron, pretending it is over a tree to the green," and "Pretend you have a four-footer to win a match," will extend to benefit your on-course performance.


Golf Unplugged
By Jim Apfelbaum

From rifling through Ben Hogan's middle right desk drawer to plucking a note off a fax machine from Bill Cosby to Annika Sorenstam prior to the 2003 Colonial ("Some people you will be playing with are gentlemen," he wrote. "Some are not."), Apfelbaum has situated himself in the nooks and crannies of several big-time golf tournaments, finding not the most obvious stories, but those which would have otherwise evaporated into the atmosphere. This book is a collection of such stories, leaving the reader with plenty of what I like to call "one-uppers." As in, when your buddy talks about how he can recall every shot of Tiger Woods' PGA Championship victory at Valhalla in 2000, you can one-up him with the knowledge that Woods was on the practice range at Isleworth at 9:30 the next morning. That's important information -- and you won't have to look through Hogan's drawers to find it.


The Scorecard Always Lies: A Year Behind the Scenes on the PGA Tour
By Chris Lewis

If you like the PGA Tour, this book's for you. Then again, if you're sufficiently obsessed with the PGA Tour and all of its inner workings, this book's for you, too. Lewis, a former Sports Illustrated staffer, traveled far and wide to paint a picture of tour life both on and off the course that is usually unavailable for public consumption. No details are spared in telling not only the behind-the-scenes stories of Phil Mickelson's victory at the Masters and the death of Earl Woods, but more off-the-radar accounts, too, such as rookie Robert Garrigus' longtime battle with drugs and alcohol. Through it all, Lewis mixes effective storytelling with irreverent humor, giving the reader a front-row seat through a year-long examination of the PGA Tour.


The Search for the Perfect Golf Club; The Search for the Perfect Driver; and 12 Myths That Could Wreck Your Golf Game
By Tom Wishon with Tom Grundner

In each of these three books, Wishon, a leading club designer for more than three decades, reforms popular assumptions and half-truths that have infected the game and how its dynamics are perceived. This is done through countless photographs and diagrams that serve as visual evidence to the statistical reasoning for why certain things happen in the golf swing. Trust me, this isn't exactly breezy reading, but if you're the type who thirsts for knowledge and pines for those schooldays when teachers would pass out the textbooks, get ready for your next cram session.


Wednesday: Holiday Gift Guide: On-course items
Thursday: Holiday Gift Guide: Off-course items

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com