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The Bookshelf

This page features book reviews and mentions by Cliff Schrock on golf, general topics and classic golf books. There will be occasional product reviews and commentary on popular culture as well.

Ho, ho ho...Golf book ideas for the holidays and through the winter

At this festive season of the year, dear golfers, it is more than usually desirable that book publishers should have made some slight provision for those in need of gift ideas or golf options, because it is during lousy winter weather that golfers suffer the most.

Okay, a bit of a clumsy take on a Dickens "Christmas Carol" passage, but you get the idea. Golfers looking for book reads or those hoping to give the gift of a golf book do have some viable options out there. Here are some of the key books you can get now for gifts at your local store prior to Christmas, or at your leisure if you’re lucky enough to get gift cards on the 25th.

The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup, by John Feinstein, Doubleday hardback, 320 pages, $28.95.

When you read a Feinstein book, you’re guaranteed inside views and access to his subjects, and stories you don’t hear reported elsewhere. This book takes you inside the most recent Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, and adds to the Feinstein golf library, now up to 10 if I count right, so let's pause and review: A Good Walk Spoiled; Tales from Q School; The Classic Palmer; Moment of Glory: The Year Tiger Lost His Swing and Underdogs Ruled the Majors; Caddie for Life (Bruce Edwards); The Majors: In Pursuit of Golf’s Holy Grail; The First Coming: Tiger Woods, Master or Martyr; Are You Kidding Me?: The epic battle between Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods for the 2008 U.S. Open; and Open: Inside the Ropes at Bethpage Black.

Another great addition to the Feinstein golf canon.

Another great addition to the Feinstein golf canon.

The 2016 Ryder Cup was finally an American victory after all their internal bickering that culminated in 2014—which to me missed the point that they simply didn't play good enough or passionate enough to win and had nothing to do with how unfair the players thought a captain was. They refused to just accept that they didn't play good enough. Feinstein covers the Americans' lovey-dovey approach and reveals how it all came together for them in Minnesota. Matt Kuchar comes out being the most entertaining, Tiger Woods emerges more open, and both the Yanks and Euros more humanized for us common folk. Since you already know who won, read this for the insider's view of things.

A Life Well Played: My Stories (Commemorative Edition), by Arnold Palmer with a new foreword by Jack Nicklaus, St. Martin’s Press hardback, 258 pages, $22.99

This entertaining collection of anecdotes, stories and sage advice from The King came out in 2016 around the time of his passing. It was a hit with readers, and now has been reissued with a bright red cover and a new opening commentary from Nicklaus, including this passage about the book as a “wonderful compilation that reflects who he was as a person, as a golfer, and as someone who believed in giving back. He was a champion at each turn, and it was an honor not just knowing him and competing against him for nearly 60 years, but also being his friend.”

New edition to 2016 book.

New edition to 2016 book.

Truth be told, if you’ve been a close reader of Arnie’s over the years in book or periodical form, some stories in this book will be a repeat, but that doesn’t make it any less of a genuinely sweeping retelling of his life in the game he loved with a passion.

Reviewer’s shameless plug: Palmer fans should be reminded of Tom Callahan’s “Arnie,” which came out in spring 2017 by Harper, and features an 80-page Appendix of Arnie’s golf achievements done by yours truly, Cliff Schrock.

The Range Bucket List: The Golf Adventure of a Lifetime, by James Dodson, Simon & Schuster hardback, 320 pages, $27

A book that presents lofty goals.

A book that presents lofty goals.

Acclaimed golf writer Dodson, a two-time winner of the USGA’s Herbert Warren Wind Award for best golf book of the year, revisits a list of “things to do in golf” that he wrote when he was 13. Of course, that’s an age when you can think of things to do but perhaps don’t have the maturity to know what you’re capable of doing. Now 50 years later he has rechecked his list, added to it and touched it up, and told a nostalgic tale of what he had done and what he had yet to achieve on his list. The list included meeting famous people and going to famous places. The book actually ends up being a tribute to golf and helps the reader feel even closer to the game.

On This Day in Golf History: A Day-by-Day Anthology of Anecdotes and Historical Happenings, by Randy Walker, New Chapter Press paperback, 440 pages, $19.95

There have been few books of this type in golf literature, in which there is a daily account of historical golf events from January to December. Some examples: In the ‘70s there was a small section in “Bartlett’s World Golf Encyclopedia;” more recent was Robert McCord’s “The Golf Book of Days,” and Publications International produced “20th-Century Golf Chronicle.” So a book of this type is always welcome, especially because it’s fully loaded. That’s my only quibble, that the entries are too long and not short and succinct. Otherwise, Walker’s book is a fun walk through golf history that you can take as slowly as you want one day at a time or at a quicker pace. He’s loaded in plenty of other bits of trivia and statistics so that it can be thought of as a golf encyclopedia, too.

The Golf Majors Book 2018, by Alun Evans, paperback, 404 pages, $18.99

Continuing with a golf history genre, this is probably the best reference guide if you’re looking for an overall information source solely on the four men’s majors in one place. Evans first did this around 1998 when he came out with “The Golf Majors Records and Yearbook 1999” and revises and updates it every so often—15 times according to marketing buzz—to keep it current. The four majors are listed as a group year by year, starting with the 1860 Open Championship up through the 2017 winners, and there are other statistical features, charts and tables that make it a comprehensive analysis of the Grand Slam events. There’s also a preview of the 2018 venues for the four majors.

Cliff Schrock