The Search for a Cure: Could the answer lie in a trove of musty golf books?
In my last installment in this space, I divulged that my game touched bottom in my first official competition since settling in for the duration in Scotland. Well, I am happy to report that the arduous journey back to mediocrity has begun. And, as a writer, it’s only natural that I should turn to the written word for guidance along the way.
Rather fortuitously, a large infusion of just such advice—in the form of 48 used golf books—have just come into my possession. Allow me to explain.
Since making our big move, my wife and I have frequented the auction house of Anderson & Garland in the somewhat nearby city of Newcastle. Our primary objective? To procure antique furniture on the cheap to furnish our similarly antique home. But the last time around, it was two lots of golf books caught my eye.
I’ve never been much of a collector. And I absolutely abhor hoarding. In fact, one of the big upsides to relocating from California to Scotland was the opportunity to purge ourselves of possessions that have long since outlived their usefulness. There’s much to be said for periodically clearing out space for something new to come into your life.
But, I must confess, I do have a weakness for golf books—having amassed a modest stash over the years. Rest assured, those finds made the cut. I boxed them. The movers loaded them on a truck, then a train and ultimately a ship. They’ve yet to arrive here. But I’ve set aside a prominent wall in our study to display them when they do.
Until then, the new/old additions will just have to fill the gap. The biggest challenge is deciding where to start. There are so many intriguing titles seemingly full of promise.
Here are a few examples:
Learn Golf Backwards by Reg Knight (1965)—I haven’t fared all that well trying to play it facing the target. So, what the heck, this just might work. In fairness to the author, his theory is that you should start by mastering the simplest shot—the two-foot putt—and then work back from there. That’s sage advice. I mean, if you can’t make the short putts, what difference does it make if you’re splitting fairways and knocking it on greens in regulation. But how long will this take? I’ve got another competition, at Royal Dornoch no less, coming up next weekend. I need a quick fix.
The Master-Key to Success at Golf by Leslie King (1962)—This had me thinking Ben Hogan and his mysterious “secret.” However, if the promised key to unlock the door to my golfing potential exists on these pages, King has sadistically buried it. Or, at least, it’s not to be found with a quick scan of the table of contents. I’ll keep going and circle back if necessary.
Golf Isn’t Hard by Norman C. von Nida (1949)—Really!? Good old Norman, an Australian who in this tome is purported to be “the outstanding golfer of the post-war period,” is either a big kidder or seriously delusional. Golf is brutal. Everyone who plays it knows this. Next!
It’s All in the Swing by Kenneth Wilson (1947)—My worst fears realized and, apparently, documented. Was kind of hoping it was all in the equipment, or at least something I can buy. But a swing? An actual golf swing? Better move on…
The Bogey Man by George Plimpton (1967)—Now there’s a title I could actually aspire to! At Southerness, I was more like the double-, triple and other-bogey man. Alas, this isn’t an instruction book but the classic journal of an 18-handicapper floundering in the deep end of three PGA Tour events. If it’s true that misery loves company, it promises to be a very comforting read. But salve for my ailing game? Not so much.
Fortunately, there are other books in this collection that hold more promise of teaching me (or is it reminding me of?) the game’s time-tested techniques. These are the titles that convinced me to cast my lot with these lots:
How to Play Golf by Harry Vardon (1926)
Golfing Memories and Methods by Joyce Wethered (1933)
On Learning Golf by Percy Boomer (1942)
Winning Golf by Byron Nelson (1947)
Swing the Clubhead by Ernest Jones (1953)
Tommy Armour’s ABC’s of Golf by Tommy Armour (1967)
If these books fail me, Plan B consists of chucking it all and retreating to the realm of comic relief. And I’ve got just the book for that, too: Golf Addict Among the Scots by George Houghton (1967).
That’s me, to a broken tee!