PIG’s Top 10 Golf Books

By: Dylan Thaemert

It’s a strange time we’re living in.  Though it’s hard to know what the coming weeks will bring, I know we are all in this together and, as golfers, we can all bond over the yearning to return to the game we love.  

One way I have enjoyed engaging with golf, whether it’s during a rained out Sunday, a Midwestern winter day, or a pandemic-mandated quarantine, is by reading a book about golf.  So, I figured why not share some of my favorites with PIG readers who might be searching for a golf-y distraction to get through the day. 

Here, in no particular order, are ten books I recommend to pass the time and get you more excited for the return of golf. 

A Course Called Scotland, by Tom Coyne

In his latest book, Tom Coyne explores Scotland’s links courses, its people, and himself.  And he does it in a way that is funny, relatable, impressively written, and flows like the best fiction does.  It’s the kind of book that goes by way too fast.  I could have just as easily chosen either of his other books I have read, Paper Tiger or A Course Called Ireland.  If you haven’t bought this book yet, make like a swoosh and just do it.  For a more extended version of my waxing poetic on Tom’s work, click hereBuy the Book

The Anatomy of a Golf Course, by Tom Doak

Doak, one of the preeminent golf architects of our day, is unique in that he is notably outspoken about his ideas and has devoted a significant amount of time and resources to publishing them in several books.  His Confidential Guide to Golf Courses is a cult classic but is rather pricey and hard to find.  Anatomy is an easy-to-digest, comprehensive look at all the elements that go into designing golf holes, complete with photos and drawings.  After reading it, I found myself understanding, appreciating, and enjoying the golf courses I was playing even more.  Buy the Book

Dream Golf, by Stephen Goodwin

Bandonistas, raise your hands.  This is the book that tells the remarkable story about what has become one of the most special places in the world of golf.  When it opened in 1999, Bandon Dunes changed the landscape of public golf in America for the better, and today it continues to innovate on site and at the other Dream Golf properties (Sand Valley, Mammoth Dunes, Sandbox, for example).  Whether you’ve been to Bandon and haven’t read the book, haven’t been but want to learn all about it before you go, or have read it before and just want to relive the magic again, you can’t go wrong.  Buy the Book

The Match, by Mark Frost

Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson vs. two of the world’s top amateurs, Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi.  At Cypress Point. In a high stakes match set up by Eddie Lowery, the man who as a 10-year-old boy caddied for Francis Ouimet during his legendary 1913 U.S. Open victory.  This book by Mark Frost truly has it all. A certified page turner, I think it took me all of two days to read. Of all the books on this list, this is the one that I would wager every golfer out there will enjoy.  Buy the Book

Extraordinary Golf: The Art of the Possible, by Fred Shoemaker

You won’t find a lot of traditional instructional books on this list.  But, like most golfers, I am afflicted with the desire to play better golf, to be more consistent, and ultimately to enjoy my time on the golf course as much as possible.  So while I have read several instructional books, I didn’t particularly enjoy most of them.  Extraordinary Golf was a notable exception to that, because of Fred Shoemaker’s teaching perspective.  He approaches golf performance from a primarily psychological point of view, but there is also a physical lesson I found very helpful.  Buy the Book

Quantum Golf, by Kjell Enhager

If the previous book wasn’t too outside-the-box for you, keep going down the rabbit hole with me and let me bend your ear about Quantum Golf, man.  Told as a parable about a rich man who has taken lessons from all the top coaches in the country to no avail and eventually ends up in the middle of Iowa learning from a sort of mystical farmer golf guru.  The short book is entertaining and easily digestible.  It acknowledges the need for fundamentals, but after that it posits that the key to great golf is found in places many of us rarely look.  Buy the Book

Zen Golf, by Dr. Joseph Parent

Ever stood in front of a daunting shot, thought, “Don’t _____,” and promptly executed the exact miss you feared?  It’s not just you, or a sign that you need more reps at the range. The brain is a powerful thing and if you’re sensing a theme here, okay, I’m guilty.  I’ve got a thing for the mental game. But hear me out. If you get angry on the golf course, if you often fear missing a shot, if you feel that you have a tendency to self-sabotage, give this book a try.  If the short game is where your struggles tend to concentrate, I recommend this book’s sequel, Zen Putting.  Buy the Book

Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, by Harvey Penick and Bud Shrake

Harvey Penick was the beloved teacher to Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, and many others.  This classic slim volume is full of easily digestible bits of wisdom on a wide range of topics in golf and life.  Pound for pound, it is arguably the most impactful book in golf (Hogan’s Five Lessons being the only other contender).  If there is one book on this list that must be on every golfer’s shelf, this is it.  Buy the Book

Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design, Edited by Geoff Shackelford

I have read some of the books by some of the great classic architects such as Alister MacKenzie, Charles Blair Macdonald, and Donald Ross, but this volume features brief commentaries split up into a number of categories that make it much more easily digestible.  In addition to those classic architects already mentioned, Shackelford includes contemporary voices like Pete Dye, Ben Crenshaw, and Tom Doak. Sleeping Bear Press, which published this book among several other gems, is now defunct and books like this are dearly missed, in my opinion.  Buy the Book

Rough Meditations, by Bradley S. Klein

Another thoroughly enjoyable offering from Sleeping Bear, contemporary golf writer Klein offers his thoughts on wide-ranging topics in golf, from his experience caddying, to what happens when golf and big business collide, to his views on classic courses like Riviera, Pine Valley, and Augusta National.  The essays in this book are relatively short and written in a personal, conversational tone that make them feel like having a conversation with an incredibly intelligent golf buddy, when in fact no one else is around. Also recommended from him is Wide Open Fairways.  Buy the Book

I hope you found something in these suggestions that will get you excited about golf.  Have you read any of the books I listed?  Did I miss one of your all-time favorites?  Let me know in the comments section.  I am always looking for new golf books to read.

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Dylan Thaemert

Dylan Thaemert has been a contributor to Plugged In Golf since 2018. He is a clinical mental health therapist living in the Twin Cities area. He is passionate about travel, the arts, and is always searching for ways to increase his knowledge of the game of golf.

Latest posts by Dylan Thaemert (see all)

16 Comments

  1. Allen Friday

    “Golf Sense: Practical Tips on How to Play Golf in the Zone”, by Roy Palmer.

    I read this book for the first time last month. The title is a bit misleading, as the “in the zone” part is kind of an add on. The book is mainly about how to apply The Alexander Technique to your golf game. Before reading the book, I had never heard of the Alexander Technique. It is an awareness method that helps the golfer to discover habits he is unaware of, that impact his golf game. It picks up where Extraordinary Golf leaves off. I read it and then read several other books on the Alexander Techniques and have started to apply the work to other areas of my life.

    Definitely worth a read, especially for the golfer who has taken a lot of lessons, but has trouble making the changes stick or who reverts back to the old way of doing things, which holds back progress.

    • Allen,

      I have never heard of the Alexander Technique but it sounds very interesting. This one is now on my list! Appreciate your note.

      Take care,
      Dylan

  2. Christopher Shively

    Currently reading “A Good Walk Spoiled” by John Feinstein. I am enjoying learning about the Pros from an era before I was into golf. Would really like to read one of Tom Coyne’s books next. Great suggestions here.

    • Christopher,

      Thanks for the comment. I haven’t ready any Feinstein but will add that to my list. Can’t recommend Coyne’s books enough!

      Best,
      Dylan

  3. Cecil Jansen

    I think you should list Fairways and Greens by Dan Jenkins ( the late Dan Jenkins ).
    A great read. A repeatable read.

    • PIG Staff

      Cecil,

      Thanks for the tip. I recently read The Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate and enjoyed it, will check that one out.

      Best,
      Dylan

  4. The Little Red, Green and, Blue books by Harvey Penick are the best and all you heed as far as how you play the game.. All great words of wisdom and Truth, Golf IS a head case. The rest of these “Gurus” are a bunch of pretenders except for Butch who is the best of the best.

  5. Christopher,

    All good reads. one of my favorites; even though “On Learning Golf” by Percy Boomer is instructional in nature it is an easy read, enjoyable and very simple. Have you read it?
    David

  6. Gerald Teigrob

    Personally I have two books I love to read. Both are put out by Golf.com. One is GOLF The Best instruction book ever. And the other one is The Par Plan that they did in conjunction with GolfTec. I am big on instructional golf so these two get my vote as my all-time favorites!

    • Will Skeat

      Kudos for leading with Tom Coyne’s “A Course Called Scotland”, but how can you have a “Ten Best” golf books list with no Dan Jenkins content?

      Your list is a bit heavy with architectural and instructional content, and the instructional picks are pretty fringe stuff. Personally, I can’t be bothered with instructional books except for Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons” and “Power Golf”, and Harvey Penick’s books.

      I am relieved, though, that you didn’t include the most overrated golf book in history, “Golf in the Kingdom”!

  7. Blake Ware

    Thanks for this great list! I’d second the call for Feinstein books — he does a nice job. I’d also throw in Golf is Not a Game of Perfect by Bob Rotella.

  8. Greg Niles

    Couldn’t agree more about the Tom Coyne books, but you really do have to read A Course Called Ireland BEFORE reading Scotland.

  9. George Plimpton has a couple of good books.

  10. Trace Kenny

    For a little lighter fare and fun, try Rick Reilly’s “Missing Links” and the sequel ” Shanks For Nothing”. I’ve read three or four instructional books and a ton on line lately but sometimes you just need to laugh and these golf books will work.

  11. Shad Goldston, DDS

    The Match is one of my favorites. Byron Nelson was such a gentleman, and, in my opinion would hold EVERY record, if he hadn’t gone to ranching in the prime of his career. The book also paints Hogan as a hard man to root for, and Snead as a fake and a jerk. It’s wonderful insight on the amateur vs. pro debate, and with the backdrop of Monterey peninsula, it doesn’t get any better!
    This book led me to read the Byron Nelson Autobiography, which dove deeper into his club pro days.

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