JOHN DEMPSEY: Golf Book Almost as Fun As Playing
With apologies to Howard Ward, I've never found reading about golf to be nearly as much fun as playing it.
That just changed.
It's not because playing is any less fun than it's always been, though I must confess that recent poor play is trying my patience. It's because I've recently come upon a book that's more fun than a barrel of old putters.
The book is "A Disorderly Compendium of Golf: Wisdom, Folly, Rules, Truths, Trivia and More." That's quite a title, but it's quite a book.
The author is Lorne Rubenstein, the savvy and talented golf columnist from the Toronto Globe and Mail.
Rubenstein, whose "A Season in Dornoch" has become a classic, is one of those rare folks whose love and passion for golf are matched by his gifts as a writer. He likes golf in its simplest forms and invariably takes readers on journeys that are as meaningful as they are entertaining.
The Compendium, which Rubenstein has put together with Jeff Newman, a writer for Links and The New York Times, is chock full of bits and snatches about those things that make golf the quirky and wonderful game that it is.
It's the perfect bedside/plane flight/dentist's office/back porch/bathroom visit/cab ride/rain delay reader -- full of tidbits that can be swallowed whole in as little as five minutes.
There are nearly 200 "chapters" in this 390-page book. Everything from "How to Get on Bethpage Black" to the origins of tour caddies' nicknames. It includes all you need to know about golf cart etiquette, as well as the authors' 40 favorite lines from "Caddyshack ('I tell you, I never saw dead people smoke before.')"
Admittedly, this is a book for the golf junkie. But it is the perfect book for the golf junkie-people who really care about the names of the holes at Augusta and the Old Course, people who want to know the best 18 holes in the world that include blind shots, and people who need to know how to make the most popular sandwich sold at The Masters -- the pimento cheese special.
This is a book for people who are so obsessed about the game that they want to know about the greatest shots in history, club by club. The greatest one-iron? Nicklaus on Pebble's 17th in 1972. Five iron? -- Jerry Pate's shot to the 18th in the last round of the 1976 Open at the Atlanta Athletic Club. You get the idea.
For folks who are into lists, there are Golf magazine's list of the world's greatest 18 holes. (Astonishingly, the fifth hole on Pinehurst No. 2 is absent from the list -- a scandalous omission.)
There is even a list of the most famous and feared hazards and obstacles in the game -- Rae's Creek at Augusta, the Church Pews at Oakmont, the Road Hole Bunker at the Old Course, and a famous bunker at Pine Valley, the name of which escapes me.
There are a few recurring features in the book that I found especially entertaining. "Three-Hanky Golf" tells stories, scattered throughout the book, of golf's most poignant tales (Davis Love's 1997 PGA win is a great example). "Famous Collapses in Majors" tells the sad stories of golfers like Ed Sneed, Patty Sheehan and Jean Van de Velde who are better known for the tournaments they lost than the ones they won.
"The Golfer's Life List" provides the ultimate "to-do" list for devotees of this great game: there are instructions on how to organize a tournament, how to take a child out for a first game of golf, and how to follow Tiger Woods for an entire round.
Fine literature this is not, but it's a must-have for the golf nuts on our Christmas lists. It's a book that will make you laugh, that will help fill your idle moments, and that will teach you more arcane golf lore than it's healthy for you to know.
And, because it is slightly larger than normal size, it fits perfectly into a Christmas stocking. Ideally, an argyle Christmas stocking.
More like this story