12 Great Golf Reads This Christmas

From absorbing and educational to sentimental and hilarious, here’s a dozen great golf books for Christmas and beyond.

Two Ruddy Ducks and a Partridge on a Par Three

Clive Agran

This 160-page paperback might be an inexpensive stocking filler, but it could turn out to be the highlight of your Christmas. Agran has a very British sense of humor that will appeal to Monty Python fans’ love of nonsense and the absurd. If that’s your thing (as well as golf, of course), you’ll breeze through this laugh-a-paragraph gem in no time.

ruddy ducks
Two Ruddy Ducks and a Partridge on a Par Three

The Ball in the Air

Michael Bamberger

Bamberger has written countless great reports, features, columns, and books for numerous publications/publishers during his 40 years behind a keyboard, but he is at his most enjoyable when rooting out stories and characters we had no idea we wanted or needed to know but which become something special. Is there a golf writer whose words leave us quite so satisfied?

golf reads
The Ball in the Air

Feherty

John Feinstein

Whether you’re a Feherty fan or not, this book is a page-turner from the start because… John Feinstein wrote it. The author of 45 books, Feinstein is one of the few writers that could scribble eloquently and entertainingly on drying paint—such is the depth of his research, insight, and knowledge of whatever subject he’s chosen to devote himself to. This book will give you a great understanding of the Ulsterman’s eventful life and does a good job of explaining the source of his humor and idiosyncrasies.

feherty
Feherty

Play it as it Lies

Matthew F. Filner

Life as a golfer comes with many highlights, low points, teachable moments, and memorable experiences. Life as a dad does the same to the power of 100/1,000/10,000. Life as a dad who plays golf with his child(ren)? Well, that is a truly special journey that Filner describes with devotion, elegance, and joy.

golf reads
Play it as it Lies

Golfing the British Isles: The Weekend Warrior’s Companion

Peter Gray and Gary Lisbon

Gray’s ode to golf in Britain and Ireland allows you to take a welcome step back from the game’s divisions and controversies, and simply indulge in beautiful images of the courses you love. There’s plenty of intelligent commentary and useful advice for making the most of your trip to the Sceptred and Emerald Isles, but it’s Lisbon’s glorious photography that really sets this book apart.

peter gray
Golfing the British Isles

The Age of Palmer

Patrick Hand

The title and cover might suggest Hand’s book is a biography of golf’s people-appointed king, but the sharp observations of golf in the 1960s don’t focus entirely on Arnold Palmer. The seven-time major champion is undoubtedly the hero of this thoroughly researched book and the period during which he totally transformed the professional game, but you’ll find plenty of stories on, and quotes from, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Billy Casper, Tony Jacklin, and others who made the news and shaped the narrative of what was a very exciting time for the game.

palmer
The Age of Palmer

The Evolution of the Old Course (Revised)

Scott MacPherson

Numerous hardcovers chronicling the expansion and refinement of the famous links have been published down the years but perhaps none with the skill and reliability of Macpherson’s Evolution of the Old Course, published in 2007. New information that has come to light since its publication; results and analysis from several championships that have occurred there in recent years; and accounts of all the tweaking the course has seen this century in response to modern equipment fill the nearly 60 extra pages in this updated and extended version.

golf reads
The Evolution of the Old Course

Grass Routes

Richard Pennell

Pennell’s lifetime in the game as a devoted golfer, greenkeeper, and club Secretary/General Manager/Membership Secretary produced a breadth of knowledge and range of experiences worth writing about, and thank goodness the Englishman did so. Sometimes an author’s deep love of a subject results in writing so delightful and gratifying it’s hard to put down.

grass routes
Grass Routes

Golf Course Architecture for Normal People

Geoff Shackelford

We reviewed Shackelford’s latest book (his 12th) in June, saying the Californian’s knowledge, experience, wisdom, and wit combined to create an extremely enjoyable read and one that anyone with even the slightest interest in golf course architecture should own. The tone may seem a touch frivolous to those who haven’t read Shackelford for the last two decades, but those who have will smile and nod while recognizing the author’s distaste for pretentious golf courses that cost tens of millions to build and hundreds to play but which aren’t really all that memorable.

geoff shackelford
Golf Architecture for Normal People

LIV and Let Die

Alan Shipnuck

It’s one thing getting into limited-access places most can’t, being party to sensitive conversations most aren’t, and having the ear of influential people most don’t, but setting the knowledge earned to paper in a coherent and absorbing way is quite another. Shipnuck manages to do it all brilliantly here. The golfer in your family might have expressed an indifference toward the LIV Golf/PGA Tour saga, in which case this book won’t appear near the top of their wishlist. Nevertheless, it is one they, and every other golfer, should read. Revealing and readable, it is also important and likely to be listed among the very best golf books of the decade, if not the last generation.

liv
LIV and Let Die

Dream Golf Courses

Christophe Thoreau

The seasoned golfer’s shelves possess a dozen or more books whose objective is simply to portray the beauty and diversity of the world’s great courses. Thoreau’s splendidly crafted book, with images and descriptions of 83 of the best, is a great addition to the genre.

dream
Dream Golf Courses

The Courses of Seth Raynor

Michael Wolf, James Sitar, and Jon Cavalier

Because nearly all the courses Seth Raynor (and his mentor/boss/inspiration Charles Blair Macdonald) designed are private, relatively few golfers ever get to appreciate their art and sophistication. Which is why this beautiful and comprehensive book, full of Wolf and Sitar’s astute words and Cavalier’s typically superlative images, is a must for those wishing to study and understand the thinking behind one of golf’s smartest and most important architects.

raynor
The Golf Courses of Seth Raynor

What other golf books should be on this list? Tell us about them in the comment section.

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