Many of the golf courses built in the last 15 years have been so good, a lot of commentators regard this current period of creativity as golf course architecture’s second Golden Age. I can’t be the only one that has noticed that as the courses have gotten better so, apparently, has the writing.
History gave us some exceptional golf writers—Bernard Darwin, Herbert Warren Wind, Leonard Crawley, Pat Ward-Thomas, Henry Longhurst, and so on—but there are now so many good golf journals, magazines, websites, and books it feels like golf writing is beginning to enjoy a Golden Age of its own.
Here are my 10 favorite golf books of 2022.
The MacKenzie Reader by Dr. Alister MacKenzie (and MacKenzie experts), edited by Joshua Pettit
With an introduction from its editor—Alister MacKenzie Institute founder and curator Joshua Pettit—and a foreword by Ben Crenshaw, this handsome, limited-edition book of which only 500 copies were printed presents 32 of the architect’s lost articles that appeared in various publications between 1915 and 1935 as well as numerous foldout course routing maps and additional essays by MacKenzie experts such as Geoff Shackelford, Mike Clayton, Herb Graffis, and Bo Links. The pandemic and subsequent supply-chain issues delayed its arrival from the intended publication date in 2020 to March 2022, but it wasn’t long after receiving their beautifully packaged book and reading its contents that owners were singing its praises and moving it to a very special spot on the bookshelf.
The Long Golden Afternoon by Stephen Proctor
Stephen Proctor’s follow-up to his brilliant debut book Monarch of the Green—which told the exciting, inspiring, but ultimately tragic story of young Tom Morris—chronicles the surge in golf’s popularity following Morris’s death through to the start of World War I, capturing the significant impact of English amateur John Ball and observing the rise of professional golf and new equipment that changed the way the game was played. If his first book betrayed Proctor’s love for golf history, his second confirmed his rare ability to recount it.
Phil by Alan Shipnuck
Good writers make you want to turn from page one to page two. Great essay writer make you feel just as excited and curious to turn a page long after you’ve read 200 of them. He had an admittedly fascinating and newsworthy subject in Phil Mickelson, but Alan Shipnuck still had to do the six-time major champion’s story justice. And boy did he deliver.
Principles of Golf Architecture by Richard Mandell
Thanks to a number of genre-defining books written during the Golden Age of golf course architecture plus another handful of great titles published in the decades since, the subject of course design probably has sufficient words to keep experts and armchair designers educated and entertained for many years to come. So, it takes something genuinely original and really well written to add something worthy to the database. In his fourth book, Richard Mandell uses his frank, candid, and forthright voice to cover what he regards as the eight elements and 35 principles of course design. And the result is thoroughly absorbing.
So Help Me Golf by Rick Reilly
Apart from winning a major championship, Rick Reilly has seen and done pretty much everything worth seeing and doing in this game. And few writers… well, no writers… can tell the stories, observe the details, describe the characters and the immortals, or show so profound a love for the game quite like he can.
When Revelation Comes by Jim Hartsell
It was an honor to be asked to write a few words in praise of Jim Hartsell’s second book (Golf’s Secret Home was his first) prior to its publication in November 2022, but I’d be lying if I said it was an easy read. Hartsell very skillfully weaved the painful story of his youngest son’s accidental death in between reviews of the Scottish courses he loved most and to which he journeyed in an attempt to make sense of the grief, guilt, and devastation he felt.
The Nature of the Game by Mike Keiser (with Stephen Goodwin)
Bandon Dunes founder Mike Keiser’s first-hand account of how he transitioned from Chicago-based businessman to golf’s most important course developer of the last 25–50 years and the energy responsible for what has become America’s, if not the world’s, finest golf resort is a compelling read that reaches places Dream Golf (Stephen Goodwin’s acclaimed Bandon birth story) never quite got to.
The Four Foundations of Golf by Jon Sherman
The great instruction books of the past focused largely on swing technique and, while improving that area of your game is obviously an important part of becoming a better golfer, more recent books have dealt with it relatively briefly, preferring instead to consider less physical aspects like choosing the most appropriate target for the shot, making practice more productive, managing expectations, and strategizing more effectively. Here, Jon Sherman of Practical Golf helps you become a better, more satisfied golfer without the drastic swing overhaul once regarded as the only way to get better at golf.
The Cup They Couldn’t Lose by Shane Ryan
Fourteen months on, it’s still hard to rationalize the scale of the beating the U.S. team dished out to their European opponents at Whistling Straits in the 43rd Ryder Cup. It was a magnificent victory that Shane Ryan knew America needed for the health and wellbeing of its psyche, spirit, and soul. After deftly describing prior matches and explaining why the U.S. needed this win so badly, Ryan gives a pulsating, un-put-down-able account of how they rolled to the largest winning margin in the event’s history, writing what many consider the best Ryder Cup book ever written.
Tiger & Phil by Bob Harig
A lot of writers could come out with a book adequately exploring the relationship between golf’s two best players of the 21st century. But it took someone with Bob Harig’s experience and exposure/access to both over the last 20 years for that book to be important, surprising, and worthy as well as thorough.
- The Greenkeeper’s Tale by Gordon Moir
- Arnie and Jack by Charles Mechem
- The Golfer’s Zoo by Shane Bacon
- The Golfer’s Carol by Robert Bailey
- The 150th Open by Iain Carter