Must ReadsMarch 23, 2018

The 50 Golf Books Every Golfer Should Read

We've narrowed the list to a nifty top 50, standouts that aren't so much the best ever but a well-rounded collection that every golfer should read for the combination of golf knowledge and entertainment they offer

Whether you recognize it or not, you're always reading on the golf course: your putts, the wind, the lie, your opponent's reactions. Reading is, indeed, fundamental for a golfer on the course, but it should be off it, too. If you're not reading any of the more than 10,000 English-language golf books that have been written you may be missing out on the most important reads of all.

But you don't need to read all 10-grand to feel how the majesty of the game has been expressed in elegant prose. Golf Digest has narrowed the list to a nifty top 50, standouts that aren't so much the best ever but a well-rounded collection that every golfer should read for the combination of golf knowledge and entertainment they offer. They are organized alphabetically by author and should be available, even the older titles, on Amazon. Also peruse AbeBooks.com, used-book site alibris.com and classicsofgolf.com, or library used-book sales or used-book stores. Do something radical in today's barrage of limited-character messages and take in some golf lit off the course that complements your reading on it.


How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time
Tommy Armour (1953)

One of the greatest players-turned-teachers, the Silver Scot was the predecessor to Harvey Penick as the issuer of sage advice.
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The Masters of Golf: Learning from Their Methods
Dick Aultman and Ken Bowden (1975)

Updated frequently, this is a superb tool for studying the swing sequences of the game's legendary and iconic players, and learning from their technique.
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Gettin' to the Dance Floor: An Oral History of American Golf
Al Barkow (1986)

If all you know about golf is today's well-paid and comfortably attended tour pro, this history of life before Jordan Spieth will open your eyes.
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Pro: Frank Beard on the Golf Tour
Frank Beard, edited by Dick Schaap (1970)

Golf's version of Ball Four, Pro forged new ground in its pointed revelations and insider details about tour life and its players at a time when Arnie and Jack ruled.
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On Learning Golf
Percy Boomer (1946)

With a long print history, this instruction classic is popular for its easy and simple approach on how parts of the swing should feel when swinging correctly.
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A History of Golf: The Royal and Ancient Game from Its Beginnings to the Present Day
Robert Browning (1955)

The "present day" refers to 1955, but this is seen as likely the most accurate reference book on the origins and growth of golf to that point.
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In Search of Tiger: A Journey Through Golf with Tiger Woods
Tom Callahan (2003)

Coupled with the 2010 "His Father's Son," the analysis of and insight into the psyche and actions of Tiger Woods, the most compelling player of the last 20 years, is distinct and sharp.
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Golf: The Marvelous Mania
Alistair Cooke (2007)

Known for looking at America from a U.K. mind, Cooke was one of journalism's most thoughtful observers, as seen in this collection of his golf writings.
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The Architects of Golf
Geoffrey Cornish and Ron Whitten (1981)

An invaluable reference about the design greats, the courses they created and architecture philosophy. Search for updated versions.
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The Golf Courses of the British Isles
Bernard Darwin (1910)

There have been a substantial number of reads about the sacred courses of the U.K., but Darwin's absorbing writing and Harry Rountree's illustrations combine to rule them all.
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The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms
Peter Davies (1980)

A delightful reference that gives the origin background on words and phrases golfers have traditionally used and always wondered where they heck they came from.
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The Book of Golf Disasters
Peter Dobereiner (1983)

The great "Dobers" was one of the game's most gentlemanly and knowledgeable golf writers. Here he tells 200 tales of misfortune and tragedy on the course involving the well-known and obscure.
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The Glorious World of Golf
Peter Dobereiner (1973)

The Hall-of-Fame worthy Englishman was an exquisite essayist but could write history, too, and gives his account of golf in a well-illustrated chronicle.
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The Clubmaker's Art: Antique Golf Clubs and Their History
Jeffery B. Ellis (1997)

You don't fully know today's equipment until you've understood the relics. At 576 pages and nearly 10 pounds, this engrossing reference work is a marvel to hold and behold.
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A Good Walk Spoiled
John Feinstein (1995)

Out of Feinstein's strong golf-book lineup, this stands out for the stories he tells of how the pros can be just as aggrieved about the game's cruelty as the common golfer.
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The Greatest Game Ever Played
Mark Frost (2002)

The historic 1913 U.S. Open, won by Francis Ouimet at The Country Club over the British kings of golf, is vividly brought to life in historical fiction.
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The Illustrated History of Women's Golf
Rhonda Glenn (1991)

This earnest history traces women's play back to the ankle-length skirt era.
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The Pro: Lessons About Golf and Life from My Father, Claude Harmon Sr.
Claude (Butch) Harmon Jr. (2006)

Butch has other books on the market of an instructional nature, but this one with a focus on his Masters champion father, Claude, is compelling and motivating.
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Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf
Ben Hogan, with Herbert Warren Wind (1957)

One of the biggest selling golf books of all time, its influence in the instruction realm is pervasive, with thoughts such as the "pane of glass," putting the mind of Hogan on display.
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Practical Golf
John Jacobs (1972)

Teaching was just one golf skill of the late legend. In this classic teaching guide, he helps golfers improve by instructing them to study their shots, mainly ball trajectory.
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Dead Solid Perfect
Dan Jenkins (1974)

Jenkins’ sarcastic wit is channeled through Kenny Lee Puckett, a fictitious tour pro whose off-course dramas—numerous and humorous—are amplified when he gets in the hunt at the U.S. Open.
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The Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate
Dan Jenkins (1970)

This collection of a dozen Sports Illustrated essays about players through the decade of the 1960s was expanded in a later paperback version, which simply enhanced an already classic book.
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Golf Is My Game
Robert Tyre Jones Jr. (1959)

Written about a decade before his death, this bio was a classic summation of the great man's playing career, the Masters and Augusta National Golf Club.
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Bobby Jones on Golf
Robert Tyre Jones Jr. (1966)

Jones was the greatest player who could do his own writing, and the subject here was his instructional thoughts that were the basis for his incredible career.
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The Essential Henry Longhurst
Henry Longhurst (1988)

The Brit was the rare golf observer who could both write and speak with brilliance; 130 of Longhurst's writings for Golf Illustrated are collected here.
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Arnie: Evolution of a Legend
Mark McCormack (1967)

The King's legendary business partner gave us a full-bodied account of Arnie's incredible rise to world prominence as he brought the game to new heights of popularity with him.
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Uneven Lies: The Heroic Story of African-Americans in Golf
Pete McDaniel (2000)

The fight for equal treatment on the golf course is seen here as a great inspirational chapter in the history of the game and this book recognizes the sacrifices made by so many.
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The Ultimate Golf Book
Charles McGrath and David McCormick (2002)

With a playfully pretentious title, the book brings together several world-class golf writers to pen essays on golf history and its personalities.
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Golf in the Kingdom
Michael Murphy (1971)

A young traveler is paired with a mysterious teacher, Shivas Irons, while playing golf in Scotland and unlocks the deeper mysteries of the game. The book is gospel to those who believe golf has a deeper, spiritual purpose.
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Golf My Way
Jack Nicklaus, with Ken Bowden (1974)

Jack's way may not be good for everyone's game but this look at his entire way of playing is a great learning tool and puts down on paper how the game's GOAT did his thing.
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The Greatest Game of All: My Life in Golf
Jack Nicklaus, with Herbert Warren Wind (1969)

Nicklaus joined with the writing legend to produce his first biographical book that came out around the time he was about to fully supplant Arnold as the world's best.
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A Game of Golf
Francis Ouimet (1932)

There is a 2004 reprint of the original bio by the man who won the astonishing 1913 U.S. Open and set the world of golf afire, becoming the U.S.'s first golf hero.
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The Making of the Masters
David Owen (1999)

This award-winning book benefited from the author's access to club files, thus producing revealing looks at multiple aspects of the club and its legendary personalities.
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My Game and Yours
Arnold Palmer (1963)

There were previous instruction books by great players, but Arnie was the man of the people. Some innovative teaching images made this book memorable.
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A Golfer's Life
Arnold Palmer, with James Dodson (1999)

Arnie had done previous bios, but this one came out at age 70 and felt like a great time for a twilight review of his life.
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Harvey Penick's Little Red Book
Harvey Penick (1992)

After reading the homespun lessons of the legendary Texas teacher of players such as Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw you'll put his book next to the Rules of Golf in your bag.
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The Bogey Man
George Plimpton (1967)

After the sport-adventurer journalist played the PGA Tour for a month in 1966, his insider tales of the experience became an instant classic and made caddie Creamy Carolan a household name with golfers.
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Golfer-at-Large: New Slants on an Ancient Game
Charles Price (1982)

Price was always tough on the modern-day pro, and this history, focused on the Vardon-to-Snead stretch, allows him to explain why he felt so.
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Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect
Bob Rotella with Bob Cullen (1995)

Rotella’s popularity among tour pros and average players as a golf whisperer was cemented with this conversational look at creating a winning mindset before, during and after every round.
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Mostly Golf: A Bernard Darwin anthology
Peter Ryde, editor (1976)

Most of the golf history that you've only read about, Darwin saw firsthand—and wrote about with his astute understanding and observations.
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The Art of Golf
Sir Walter G. Simpson (1887)

For a book this old, it is surprisingly fascinating to read and fun to see similarities of how his thoughts back then mirror how we think of the game today. It is thought to be the first golf book to use photographs to show swing positions.
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The U.S. Open: Golf's Ultimate Challenge
Robert Sommers (1996)

This is the book any researcher goes to when they want to get the best details about the National Open; look for subsequent revisions.
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The Open: Golf's Oldest Major
Donald Steel (2010)

If you love the Open Championship, this will solidify your romance. If you don't, you will after spending a few hours with this uplifting and inspiring tribute to all that's good about The Open.
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A Love Affair with the Game
Frank (Sandy) Tatum (2002)

One of the remarkable figures in golf's history and a legendary administrator reaches back to his long involvement and expresses his views on the sport.
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Golf Architecture in America
George C. Thomas (1927)

The Riviera and Los Angeles C.C. designer writes philosophically about architectural concepts in arguably the first quality book written on course design.
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The Principles Behind the Rules of Golf
Richard S. Tufts (1960)

You may, just may, stop cursing the sensibility of the rules after reading this book that explains their origins. Seek out the 2000 reprint.
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Golf Dreams: Writings on Golf
John Updike (1996)

In his essays, the celebrated writer talks about the experience of playing the game and how we are attached to its subtleties.
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The Story of American Golf
Herbert Warren Wind (1948)

Wind was everywhere in golf literature, often as the "with" in a byline or behind the scenes. But this golf history, later updated, is one of his definitive solo works.
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The Golf Omnibus
P.G. Wodehouse (1973)

Where to start with Wodehouse? His characters, passages and stories are indelible (The Oldest Member!), and Pelham Grenville Wodehouse still can't be beat for the best golf humor. There is more where this came from, but this is a great start.
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How I Play Golf
Tiger Woods (2001)

Put together with Golf Digest editors, this substantial volume was Woods' first book, and 17 years later still his only instruction book. Here he describes the technique that crushed opponents.
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