Category Archives: Books

Wide Open Fairways: A Journey Across the Landscapes of Modern Golf by Dr. Bradley S. Klein

Wide Open Fairways: A Journey Across the Landscapes of Modern Golf by Dr. Bradley S. KleinIn golf the playing field is also landscape, where nature and the shaping of it conspire to test athletic prowess. Bradley S. Klein, a leading expert on golf course design and economics, finds much to contemplate, and much more to report, in the way these wide-open spaces function as landscapes that inspire us, stimulate our senses, and reveal the special nature of particular places.

A mediation on what makes golf course compelling landscapes, there is also a personal memoir that follows Klein’s unique journey across the golfing terrain, from the Bronx and Long Island suburbia to the American prairie and thePacific Northwest. Whether discussing Robert Moses and Donald Trump and the making ofNew York City, or the role of golf in the development of the atomic bomb, or the relevance of Willa Cather to how the game has taken hold in Nebraska Sandhills, Klein is always looking for the freedom and the meaning of golf’s wide-open spaces. As he searches, he offers a deeply informed and absorbing view of golf courses as cultural markers, linking the game to larger issues of land use, ecology, design, and imagination.

An Interview with Dr. Bradley S. Klein

1. What motivated you to write “Wide Open Fairways: A Journey Across the Landscapes of Modern Golf” and why now?

I’ve been writing short essays and columns for 25 years and I wanted to extend them into longer, more analytical studies of golf – or more particularly, about the landscapes that I think are the most compelling in all of sorts – golf courses.

2. What will readers discover in “Wide Open Fairways” that is absent from most other contemporary golf books?

I’m a writer by basic disposition, and I think there’s a great tradition of golf writing. In the face of all of these coffee-table pictorials about great golf courses there are precious few detailed accounts of what makes these sports fields so special.

The notion that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is only true if you’re reading people who can’t properly express the feelings and power of what these places suggest to you. I’m someone who works off of feelings and sensibilities. My writing is non-technical; I hardly ever take notes about golf courses and have no interest in describing how you play it – or worse yet, how someone else plays it. So I wanted to convey something that I think is missing in all of the literature about golf – the place of these as cultural landmarks, rooted in specific places and ways of life. So I invoke history, fiction, imagination and politics. I spend so much time on the road – 150 days a year, and I’ve been doing it for 20 years – that I thought I had something different to offer golfers.

Besides that, I think that golf can be made interesting to non-golfers. In fact, my imagined audience as I write is always the non-golfer, someone who reads and thinks creatively but would normally think golf boring and a waste of time. If I can capture them and draw them in, then I’ve done my job. So I had all of these short essays from various publications sitting around and the task was to translate them into a sustained idiom with more depth and context than my magazine space allows me. So I situate these accounts, whether it’s the Nebraska Sand Hills and Willa Cather’s fictional accounts about the struggles of life on the prairie; or the role of the Los Alamos,New Mexicogolf course in the development of the atomic bomb; or the way flooding affects golf inMinot,North Dakota.

3. This book is more than a chronicling of compelling golf landscapes, it is also a memoir. What prompted you to share your personal journey in this particular piece of work?

The immediate occasion for this book was my father’s death in May 2011. I literally started it the day after he died and finished it a year later, on the night before his unveiling – the Jewish ritual of showing the gravestone. The first part of the book is a very personal account of what it was like growing up with a mentally ill dad. He wasn’t wacko crazy, just not quite ‘there” and unable to focus on our needs as kids growing up. I had a powerful but sad relationship with him, and it took a very long time for him to see that I was there as his son.

Along the way, I found golf as a refuge; thus the attraction of getting out of the house early in the day and exploring the freedom that “wide open space” afforded me. So the book starts off there, in a sad but weirdly comic way. And it ends with a chapter describing how I was able to create my own golf course, so to speak, through a municipal project in the town where we now live inConnecticut, where we got Pete Dye to design a course for $1 that we spent nine years building.

So the book, while personal, also is a public account of how golf can provide a refuge. And in this I doubt I am alone. I’m sure many others have shared in the sense of freedom and joy that golf provides. What I tried to do in this book was explain that sense of freedom – something you can’t get from a picture of a beautiful golf course.

4. This certainly isn’t the first book that you’ve written. What other meaningful golf books have you written and/or published?

Well, they were meaningful to me. I’ll let others decide if they had any meaning for them. My first collection of short essays, called “Rough Meditations,” came out in 1997 and in an expanded edition in 2006. I also spent three years writing a very detailed biography, “Discovering Donald Ross” that won the USGA International Book Award for 2001 and was reissued in an expanded edition in 2011. Along the way I also wrote a club history, “Desert Forest Golf Club: the First 40 Years” (2004), that is actually a history of golf inArizona. And another club history about “Sebonack” (2009), which manages to convey a good bit of the history of golf course design onLong Island. These last two projects involved very close work with a skilled graphics designer, Carol Haralson, who has the considerable virtue of knowing nothing about golf – until now. We seem to work well together and I’m looking forward to working with her again on another project.

About the Author

Bradley S. Klein is architecture editor of Golfweek magazine and runs its national golf course rating system. He is a former PGA Tour caddie and has been inducted into the International Caddie Hall of Fame. He lectures widely to professional trade groups throughout the U.S. and overseas on topics relating to golf design, the golf development industry, and golf course operations and maintenance. Additionally, he makes himself available for speaking engagements and/or book signings at public, private and resort facilities. He can be reached at (860) 508-7696.

Wide Open Fairways: A Journey Across the Landscapes of Modern Golf is available through University of Nebraska Press or at Amazon.com.

Golf Poems-The Greatest Game in Rhythm & Rhyme-an Interview with author Bo Links

 Golf Poems: The Greatest Game in Rhythm and RhymeAuthor Bo Links, avid golfer and steward of the game has just released his newest book: GOLF POEMS – The Greatest Game in Rhythm and Rhyme. This well-written collection of poems provides a riveting reflection about the game, one that will resonate with any golfer who picks up this handy pocket-size book. As the title implies, the book conveys a meaningful image as to what makes the game so engaging, so special.

Here is Bo to tell us a little bit about the book.

1. What motivated you to write Golf Poems: The Greatest Game in Rhythm and Rhyme?
The game has always fascinated me. Every round is an adventure, no two shots alike. I wanted to capture the essence of all this in a little book that would be accessible to everyone. I also enjoy the game with my friends at the 19th hole and I wanted to provide stanzas for toasts that can be used any time, any place — but which will strike a responsive chord with golfers anywhere in the world.

2. You’ve described this book as an exploration of golf? Please explain how and why?
What is it like to be afraid on the green? Anyone who’s been there knows what I’m talking about. So go read “Desperate Thoughts of A Bad Putter.” It cuts to the bone with respect to a fear over a three-footer for all the marbles. The same is true when it comes to wind, which is the game’s most difficult (and fickle) challenge. So I wrote “The Wind By Any Name.” I’ve tried to touch on all aspects of the game in a very short, little space.

2. This is an impressive compilation of poems, which echo your thoughts and feelings about the game of golf. Within the collection you must have a favorite. If so, which poem and why?
These poems are like children. I love them all. And within them, there are stanzas that ring in my ears. Like this final one from “Home on the Range.” It speaks to the fact that optimism is a vital trait we should all cultivate:

For the true golfer knows
That dreams never die
As long as he swings
And continues to try.

There is a similar vein in that poem about the wind:

When, at last
The sun has set
And dusk begins to grow
With all our strokes recorded
We’ll reflect, and smile, and know
That though the wind was raging
And stole from us the score
We’ll rise at dawn tomorrow
To battle it once more.

3. You’ve given back to the game of golf for many years now, especially through your ongoing advocacy work in support of public golf. One of the projects you are most passionate about is “Saving Sharp Park“… a MacKenzie-designed golf course, in Pacifica, Calif. You’ve even written a poem about this course which appears in Golf Poems. Why such a connection to this modest, public course?
There’s an old saying: Still waters run deep. A corollary is that simple things touch us the deepest.SharpPark is a simple place, but the vibe there is so undeniably pure that it represents all that is good about the game. There is no class distinction there; no division. We’re all equals, fighting the same fight, struggling against the same demons. And when the battle is over, we retire to the same bar to drink together, laugh together and sometimes to cry together. And when you consider that all of this takes place in an incredibly beautiful place, where Alister MacKenzie worked his magic for public course golfers 80 year ago….well, how can you not save it? I can’t say it any better than that.

4. Golf Poems isn’t the only book you’ve penned. What other pieces of work have you written/published?
My first book, Follow the Wind, is the story of a young boy who meets up with Ben Hogan. Together they explore the richness of life itself and what makes golf such an important part of it. The story had touched golfers (and non-golfers) the world over. I once bumped into Deane Beman, former PGA TOUR commissioner, who told me he regularly read the story to his grandchildren when they were growing up. Quite a compliment.

My second book, Riverbank Tweed & Roadmap Jenkins: Tales from the Caddie Yard, is a series of related short stores, all told in a caddie’s laconic voice. I apply golf’s many lessons to life beyond the fairway. The characters are unforgettable, as are the events that take place. A game of “one ball” at Harding Park and a US Open qualifier during a lightning storm at Cypress Point.

I’ve also written several extended essays about golf in San Francisco, including Return to Glory (about the 2005 AmEx battle between Tiger Woods and John Daly at the restored Harding Park) and More Than A Game (about the 2009 Presidents Cup Match at Harding as well as the establishment of a First Tee facility at a troubled middle school in the middle of one of the City’s worst neighborhoods).

I try and strike a responsive chord with golfers the world over. Ben Crenshaw recently wrote to me after reading Golf Poems to say that the game is fortunate to have people like me out there writing about it with such passion. It was one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received.

5. If you had only one round of golf left to play, where would it be (name course) and who would accompany you in the foursome?
The Old Course atSt. Andrews with Ben Crenshaw, Bobby Jones and Old Tom Morris…playing with Old Tom’s equipment.

The book is available exclusively at Amazon, both in paperback and e-book form. Paperback is $12.99 and the Kindle version is $2.99.

About the Author

Bo LinksBO LINKS is a San Francisco attorney and an avid golfer and has spent a lifetime plumbing the depths of the ancient game. He has written two previous golf books: Follow the Wind and Riverbank Tweed and Roadmap Jenkins-Tales from the Caddie Yard. Links has dabbled in golf architecture (having twice won the Lido Design Contest sponsored by the Alister MacKenzie Society), and helped organize local golfers through the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance in an effort to preserve affordable golf. His latest effort in that regard has been the battle to Save Sharp Park, a treasured Alister MacKenzie course located in Pacifica, CA, just 10 miles south of San Francisco. He has served on the United States Golf Association’s Green Section Committee for more than 20 years and is frequently a keynote speaker at golf association meetings and conferences addressing issues of immense importance to golfers and the golf industry.If you are interested in Bo Links as a featured speaker for your organization or corporate golf outing, contact Patty Burness at (415) 564-3890 or via pburness@sbcglobal.net.

An interview with Al Barkow, Author of The Upset, Jack Fleck’s Incredible Victory over Ben Hogan at the U.S. Open

The award-winning Al Barkow has been writing about golf for some 55 years including his tenure as former editor-in-chief of Golf and Golf Illustrated magazines. Al’s book Gettin’ to the Dance Floor: an Oral History of American Golf, won the first USGA International Golf Book of the Year award in 1986. He is also the 2005 recipient of the PGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to his new book, The Upset, Barkow has recently published another interesting book, Golf’s All-Time Firsts, Mosts, Leasts, and a Few Intriguing Nevers. It is a fun read, packed with facts and stats and trivia, too, with a lot of golf history woven throughout and plenty of “most asked but never answered” questions about golf.

When it comes to U.S. Open Championships at the Olympic Club there have been a few. Why did you choose to focus on the 1955 championship (Fleck’s win over Hogan) as opposed to the others (1966, 1987 or 1998)?

Because it was so great an upset, not only one of the most remarkable in the history of golf but in all sports.

Did Jack Fleck really out play Hogan? Or was he just lucky?

No, he out played him.  Fleck out-hit him off the tee, hit some very fine iron shots and executed some excellent trouble shots. He had a plugged lie in a bunker and got up-and-down with a superior sand shot.

Through your work as journalist, you knew both Fleck and Hogan. What trait/s did you most admire in each player, and why?

I knew Hogan better than Fleck, and found him to be someone who was not going to divulge anything about his personal life or his golf technique. He could be somewhat devious, and as I point out in the book. At the same time, he was truly a great golfer with a tremendous work ethic and golf intelligence. Fleck was very single-minded about his golf. He was actually a better player than he thought he was.

What will surprise readers the most when they read The Upset?

My take on Hogan will be different than most people have had to date. I like to think it’s a deeper and more straightforward, unblinking look at the man’s character as I was able to define it from my interviews with him and with others about him.

The biggest surprise will be Fleck’s practice of Hatha Yoga, a form of Buddhism, that was in very large part how he was able to be so cool under the pressure of going head-to-head with one of the greatest Open players in the game’s history and also a man with a very intimidating manner.

Al BarkowWhat was the most challenging chapter for you to pen?

I didn’t find any chapter especially challenging. I had a lot of facts about the play of both Fleck and Hogan during the playoff, and had a reasonable insight on how they went about their life on and off the course.

They say golf is a mind game. What do you surmise was going on in the minds of Hogan and Fleck during those last holes?

Hogan was far more anxious to win than it appeared; he really wanted to set the record with a fifth US Open title. As a result he over-extended his play on the final hole of the playoff, and it cost him any chance of either tying or winning the championship. Because Fleck was so within himself mentally, the result of his yoga exercises and the mental calm that came with it, he simply played by instinct and did not feel pressed to perform.

Crystal ball question: If you were to player a round of golf with Fleck, and another round of golf with Hogan, how would the experiences differ?

Hogan would be more critical of mistakes I might make, or, if he thought I had no ability he would simply ignore me and take little notice of my play. Fleck would be more outgoing and companionable.

An Interview with Bradley S. Klein, Author of Discovering Donald Ross: The Architect and His Golf Course-Expanded Edition

Bradley S. KleinIt’s been 10 years since Bradley Klein first published his well-received survey of the artistry of Donald Ross. It was lauded at the time as “…the most thoroughly researched book ever produced on the life and work of a golf course architect.” (Brian McCallen, Golf Magazine).

Here is what Bradley has to say about this new expanded edition:

What motivated you to write such a detailed chronicle about the life and work of golf course architect Donald Ross?

I am a trained academic, used to working for weeks and years in libraries, and there was no sustained, serious book about the life work of any designer that wasn’t a puff piece. So I thought it was time to explore a golf course architect as a craftsman and as a professional and to treat them much like one might treat a musician, writer or artist for what influenced them and how their entire body of work evolved.

What will readers discover about Ross in this recently released 2nd edition of Discovering Donald Ross that was absent in your original 367-page book about the famed architect?

The expanded edition deals with restoration developments the last ten years; how Ross and classical design became an accepted part of the American golf course landscape; and how in the process Pinehurst No. 2 has been totally reshaped.

Discovering Donald Ross-Expanded EditionIn addition to your work as architectural editor for Golfweek, you are considered an authority on the work of Donald Ross. What separates his design work from other course architects?

He did exquisite routings — incredibly efficient, no wasted space on the site, and he had a simplicity of form and yet endless variation of shot angle, of deflection into the green, and of the consequences for a slightly off line shot. He was subtle — something that is sorely lacking today and that even his contemporaries were not strong on.

Conducting research on the life of Ross must have been a project in itself. Where did it take you? Any unusual discoveries?

Three years, 150+ courses, every house Ross lived in, I even slept in two of his bedrooms, found his old caddie in Pinehurst, kneeled at his grave, spent a lot of time with his daughter and also his granddaughter, even walked the path he took off the boat in Boston when he arrived in April 1899. Spent 100 days in Pinehurst, and the folks at the Resort were very gracious in putting up with me.

After completing this 2nd edition of Discovering Donald Ross, are there any unanswered questions about this gentleman or his work? If Ross were alive today what questions would you be compelled to ask?

I am amazed at his ceaseless train travel; I’d like to ask if he regrets having done so many courses (400) that he couldn’t see them all or refine many of them. I’d also like to know what he would do differently with today’s distances; he was designing in an era when 200 yards was a good drive.

About Bradley Klein

Bradley S. Klein is architecture editor of Golfweek magazine and runs its national golf course rating system. A former PGA Tour caddie and 2006 inductee into the International Caddie Hall of Fame, he holds a Ph.D. in political science and enjoyed a distinguished academic career in international relations before retiring from university research and teaching in 1999 to devote himself full time to golf writing.

He has written and lectured widely on sports media, golf design, the golf development industry, golf course operations and maintenance. He is also a design consultant, including involvement in Old Macdonald, the fourth course at Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon, opened in 2010.

Klein won the Golf Writers Association of America’s award for the best column of 2006. His golf books include a collection of essays, “Rough Meditations” (1997, 2006), and two club histories, “Desert Forest Golf Club: The First Forty Years” (2004) and “Sebonack: Classic Golf by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak” (2006, 2009). His next book, due out in 2012, is “Wide Open Fairways: The Landscapes of Golf.”

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Bradley Klein’s Image Courtesy of Jim Mandeville

Dave Stockton’s Putt to Win: Secrets For Mastering the Other Game of Golf by Dave Stockton and Al Barkow [Paperback]

Dave Stockton's Putt to Win: Secrets For Mastering the Other Game of GolfOur interview with Al Barkow the other day was a reminder about Dave Stockton’s classic book on putting. Putt to Win: Secrets For Mastering the Other Game of Golf has stood the test of time (originally published in 2002) by garnering 25 reviews with an average rating of close to 5.0, the highest.

Stockton was a top money earner on the PGA Senior Tour so he knows a couple things about putting. A great price for one of the classics.


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The Golf Delusion: Why 9 Out of 10 Golfers Make the Same Mistakes by Steve Gould, D.J. Wilkinson; Introduction by Hugh Grant, Released June 1, 2011 [Hardcover]

The Golf DelusionA detailed look deep inside the exclusive Knightsbridge Golf School founded by Leslie King in 1951. Famous for training such notables as Sean Connery (for this Goldfinger golf match), King’s approach to teaching the golf swing is well respected and continues to this day.

“Leslie King was one of the greatest students of the golf swing.” Gary Player

“Leslie King’s method is adaptable for the masses. It’s not for only one type of player. Anybody can learn to play golf the way he teaches.” Bob Toski

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An Interview with Al Barkow, Author of Sam: The One and Only Sam Snead

Al BarkowAl Barkow has been writing about golf for some 55 years including his tenure as former editor-in-chief of Golf and Golf Illustrated magazines. Al’s book Gettin’ to the Dance Floor: an Oral History of American Golf, won the first USGA International Golf Book of the Year award, in 1986.

1. What made you want to write about Sam Snead?

Sam was one of the greatest golfers in the game’s history, but had been ignored as a personality. He was taken to be just an uncommonly gifted athlete who didn’t know what he was doing but just did it, and otherwise, was a cranky, simple-minded rube from the Gettin' to the Dance Floorhills. From a long interview I had with Sam for my book, Gettin’ to the Dance Floor, an Oral History of American Golf, I found that there was much more to the man. For one thing, while he was given a marvelous athletic talent, he worked very hard to make it better and contrary to what Ben Hogan and others said, he knew exactly what he was doing with a golf club. For another, beneath the story-telling and profanity, and womanizing, there was a person with strong, even sentimental feelings about family and friends. I felt people should know more about Snead, and that there was a lot more to know.

2. What separated Snead from other prominent tour players during that era?

What separated Sam from the others, or most of the others of his era was his remarkable ability at the game, and the incredible grace of his action. Every time he swung a club we saw a bit of ballet. He was longer off the tee, had a wonderful touch for the short game, and was a better putter than he was given credit for.

Sam The One and Only Sam Snead3. When conducting research for the book what did you discover about this golf legend that was surprising or even shocking?

Discoveries? He had trouble clubbing himself. He needed a good caddie to put the right club in his hand. I don’t think it was his vision, it was some lack of confidence, which sounds odd but I think was the case. He would look in the bag of 20 handicap golfers to see what they were hitting for a shot from the same distance he had.

For another, he was far more generous with his money than the stories had it. He was always pictured as cheap, someone who hid his money in cans he buried in his backyard and so on. It was not at all the case. Many pros went to Sam for loans when they were down on their luck. However, if any of them did not remember the debt he would never lend them money again. Even if they never paid it back, as long as they acknowledge to Sam that he was owed everything was o.k.

He did have some chicanery about him. He played a lot of golf with amateur golfers – something Ben Hogan and others would never do – and for money. He would ask a golfer for his handicap, when there was time check it out with a phone call to his home course, or simply accept it and go from there. However, Sam always played as a scratch golfer, which meant he didn’t give as many strokes as he should have. He was really a plus six or so, but people didn’t know much about plus handicaps in those days. However, because so many amateurs he played were sandbagging their handicap it all came out about even.

4. If you had to describe Snead in three words (traits) what would they be?

Three words for Sam’s traits: Fun-loving, loyal, proud.

5. Might there be a favorite chapter?

The first chapter is one of my favorites, because it lays out the background from which he came and which shaped his personality.

6. Any plans for another golf-related book?

I am now working on a book on the Ben Hogan, Jack Fleck playoff (1955 US Open). I will also be publishing a book next Spring called Golf”s All-Time Firsts, Mosts, Leasts, and a Few Intriguing Nevers. It is a book of statistics and trivia, with a lot of golf history weaved into it.


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Author’s photo credit: Chris Felver