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Best Instructional Books ?

In my 40 odd years as a golf professional I have read/looked at the pictures/studied/observed but seldom ignored, hundreds of golf instructional books. If books aren’t confusing enough, a new student can also find “help” in magazines and now online. What does TIPS mean? Temporary Improvement P-something Ssomething. A golf pro has to read all the books so they can understand their students.

In 1969 I played with Ken Bowden at Royal Lytham. He had just finished writing Golf My Way for Nicklaus, and Practical Golf for John Jacobs, and also had two more on the shelf, waiting to personalize them with the next “name” golfer. Nicklaus ended that career by hiring Bowden full time, he still works for Jack.

The book that I have owned the most often is Ben Hogan’s MODERN FUNDAMENTALS. I used to keep giving my copy away and had to buy another the next time I was in a book store. Actually a related book by John Andrisani “The HOGAN WAY” is basically a manual for Hogan’s book. Over the years there are two books that I won’t give away or even lend, and I am proud to say they are both Canadian. Sorry Lorne Rubenstein, I love your writing and prefer your inspirational books and columns, the ones that make you want to play the game, like Season in Dornoch.

My “best ever” book – Your Golf Bag Pro – by Nick Weslock, one of Canada’s best, a Gordie Howe of amateur golf. Unlike Bobby Jones who became a professional when he wrote and filmed golf instruction, Nick stayed an amateur and gave the proceeds to the OGA and the RCGA (for amateur golf). This wee book was published by Hurtig in Edmonton, and if you have used it correctly, it’s probably covered with tape as Hurtig didn’t bind it too well. It’s basically half a lifetime of tips from dozens of pros who influenced Nick’s game and swing. It’s excellent! Should be reprinted!

I’ve played with Nick quite a few times, Brian Bond and I even beat Nick and Moe Norman for a $2.00 nassau at Weston one year. They were so shocked we didn’t get paid. I recall one Ontario Open at Cutten after I had a great start as I was about to hit a wedge to the 5th hole, Nick was standing right beside me. I backed off, then hit the shot. Nick said he just wanted to watch my action because he liked it. My game went down the tubes for a few holes because I suddenly became concious of any action I had previously not thought about. The great Stan Leonard did the same thing the one time we played together in the CPGA Championship. Sam Snead did something similar to Moe Norman as I recall. Johny Miller had a few bad years after he won everything and then was asked to explain how he played – “I just aimed and hit it”. When he tried to figure out what he did, he couldn’t play. Anyway Nick and Stan wasted their time on me.

My second best ever book – GOLF made Easy – by James Haber and published for Modern Canadian Library, in Toronto by Pagurian Press Limited. This book was, and still is, so far ahead of it’s time. In fact I’ve found parts of this book in almost every other instructional book published. Goof stuff. In looking over my book today I’m amazed by all my notes, underlined areas, folded pages, etc. Scarey thing is I can remember making many of the marks, guess it didn’t sink in, or hang around too long. This book cost $2.95 originally, it’s priceless.

Sandra Post did a good learn to golf book based on a season long program – she’s a great teacher, her story is similar to Tiger’s, same father influence, major winner, etc. Hope she does a book (hint Robert Thompson) about golf and life. Lorne’s books about Knudson’s teaching and Nick Prices’ are good, but IMHO hard to take to the range (or from the range to the tee).
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My 3rd favourite, alas, it’s american, as American as you can get. Byron Nelson’s WINNING GOLF, written in 1945 when he was winning all those tournaments in-a-row. I had two copies, I gave one to Mr. Nelson at the 1999 PGA Show, he signed mine and said he was going to get it reprinted to give away at his Pro Am.

So, what’s your favourite Golf Instuctional book? does it work for you? I’ve switched from instructional books to golf picture books, bought over 60 pounds worth last December. WHERE GOLF IS GREAT is excellent, buy it now and then give it on Father’s Day. Win, WIN.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Gary: Well done. I’ll highlight this one upcoming in the hope that Canadian golfers can scour used book stores to find the treasures within these covers.

    As for Sandra, I’ve been meaning to buy her lunch!

  • I remember sitting on the porch at Pinehurst and offering to buy an after dinner port for some US friends – beware – six ports cost $360US plus tip!

  • Hi Gary! Another interesting post!! Is the Brian Bond you mention the same guy who used to be a member at Bolton Golf Club? Kind of a portly guy, if I remember. But he could hit it a ton. Reminded me of Ken Venning…

    As for my favourite golf book, it has to be Swing Machine Golf authored by Paul Wilson. Beautiful book that actually does what it says: it instructs!

  • Chris, the Brian Bond that I used to know was an assistant at Mississauga, had a brother Wayne, both were pros and very good players. I wonder where Brian is, somewhere enjoying a big cigar.

  • I, too, have a copy of James Haber’s book. I bought it many years ago and read it over and over again. Each time, I see improvement in my game. My swing feels less forced and my score goes down! Its amazing how such a small book can be so insughtful – and so timeless… I hope others find it equally helpful.

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