Read All About It: 2004 Golf Books

By: Jeff Shelley

Just as the blades of the greens mowers are sharpened for another golf season, so too are printing presses freshly inked for a spate of new golf books. This year’s titles run the gamut: from historical perspectives to the latest provocative thoughts for improving the golf swing. Let’s take a look at some samples of this year’s crop of golf books, with “scores” by yours truly.

Tour Tempo: Golf’s Last Secret Finally Revealed, by John Novosel and John Garrity. Doubleday; $25.

Novosel is an inventor with patents on four golf training devices, while Garrity is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. As might be expected, Novosel takes a technical approach with the golf swing. With this book and the enclosed Tour Tempo CD, he focuses on helping golfers find the right tempo to lower scores and increase distance. The authors are not particularly interested in the mechanics of the swing, but devote pages to the time it takes to pull the club back and hit the ball. They do this by utilizing a ratio system that counts the digital “frames” (each measured at 33 thousands of a second) from initial takeaway and backswing, to downswing and contact. For instance, Tiger Woods (in 2002) took 24 frames for his backswing, and 8 frames for his downswing for a 24/8 ratio. (Swing speeds of dozens of other male and female pro golfers are also listed.) This method of quantifying swing tempo is the basis of the book, and from there the authors provide techniques for you to find correct tempo.

Scorecard: Let’s get this out right now: I’m not a big fan of golf instructionals. The last time I checked there were well over 12,000 books and videos discussing the 3-second golf swing. Everyone has an opinion (see any major golf magazine for ad nauseum samplings), and all too often a tip from one teacher is contradicted by another swing guru. But as someone who frequently struggles with tempo, I like the scientific approach taken in this book. Though the 20-point checklist for the swing is ponderous, the book makes sense in terms of measuring and improving one’s swing speed. Grade: Par.

Ten Commandments of Mindpower Golf (No-Nonsense Strategies for Mastering Your Mental Game), by Robert K. Winters, Ph.D. McGraw-Hill. $14.95

The author is the resident sports psychologist for the David Leadbetter Academy, whose namesake writes the foreword to this tidy 106-pager. In general, I like the mini-tome, with its straightforward and simple keys to keeping oneself under control during a round. Whether the player is a top Tour pro (Tiger Woods is often cited as an example), or a weekend hacker, Winters provides a belief system that will can do nothing but help. Though some of the homilies are a bit simplistic (e.g., the benefits of the children ditty, “The Little Engine That Could”), most of the self-help tips are solid.

Scorecard: I’m a big fan of Harvey Penick’s “Little Green” and “Little Red” books for their brevity and folksiness, and Winters’ publication is somewhat in that same vein. Though lacking Penick’s half-century of accrued golf wisdom, Winters provides readers common-sense ways to handle the bugaboos and yips that make golf so damnably infuriating. Grade: Par.

Fit for Golf, (A Personalized Conditioning Routine to Help You Improve Your Score, Hit the Ball Farther, and Enjoy the Game More), by Boris Kuzmic, with Jim Gorant. McGraw-Hill. $22.95.

Kuzmic is the personal trainer for PGA Tour professionals (the oft-injured) David Duval, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Robert Allenby, and provides conditioning routines and exercises designed to fulfill the book’s exorbitantly promising subtitle. With help from Gorant, the deputy golf editor for Sports Illustrated, Kuzmic serves up a starting point to determine what kind of condition you’re in regardless of age and sex, then proceeds with the meat of the book: specific strength-building, cardiovascular-fitness and flexibility regimens meant to improve your ability to play golf. Included are personal comments by noteworthy PGA Tour players. Well-photographed and thoroughly explained, the actual exercises are to the point: This is what you do, and this is what it looks like.

Scorecard: Good stuff here. As a proponent of yoga, pilates and other core-strengthening exercises, I like Kuzmic’s approach, which complements – rather than denigrates – my fitness preferences. The book is wide enough to enable readers to open it up for doing the exercises, so it’s functional as well as informative. Grade: Birdie.

Drawn to Golf, by Roger Schillerstrom. Clock Tower Press. $19.95.

Schillerstrom is a veteran editorial cartoonist with a keen eye for detail. In 1995 Golfweek asked him to draw cartoons for the magazine’s “commentary” pages. (Schillerstrom also does cartoons for Golfweek's sister publication, SuperNEWS.) This book is a compendium of Schillerstrom’s Golfweek work, all of which targets professional golf. If you like those drawings, you’ll enjoy having them compiled in a unified source. The illustrations also provide a unique historical perspective of golf between the mid-‘90s and 2003.

Scorecard: I’m not a big fan of editorial cartoons, except for those in our nation’s biggest newspapers. But it’s hard to find anything wrong with these generally benign drawings – most captioned, and some are downright incisive in their retrospect. Grade: Par.

Augusta National & The Masters, (A Photographer’s Scrapbook), by Frank Christian, with Cal Brown. Clock Tower Press. $19.95.

Another in a long line of fine Clock Tower Press offerings, this book provides an outstanding pictorial history of Augusta National Golf Club and the little tournament played there each April. A followup to a previous hardcover edition, this more affordable volume spotlights the work of Frank Christian Sr. and his namesake son, Augusta National’s official photographers for the past 70 years. Also of note are the fine words by veteran golf writer Brown, who does yeoman’s work of telling the club and tournament’s tales. Included are photographs taken by Christian’s great uncle, Juan Montell, who came to America in 1897 and established a studio in Augusta. Montell’s shots of early-day Augusta – especially a two-page spread of a 1924 exhibition match starring Bobby Jones at nearby Augusta Country Club – add depth to this historical work, which tackles its subject with fondness and appreciation. There are none of the recent controversies here. But if you want a thorough peak at America’s true golf mecca, this 223-page photographic anthology is the ticket.

Scorecard: The well-scanned and color-separated images are eye-popping, and the paper particularly of high-quality for a soft cover edition. From the early-day shots of the course’s necktied co-designers, Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie, walking the course’s future site – the former Fruitlands Nursery, to action shots of the Masters through 2003, this book takes you on a wonderful stroll down Magnolia Lane. Grade: Eagle.