The 4 Best Golf Books: A List of Our FavoritesPublished on 03/29/2023 · 6 min readGolfing Expert Jeremy Brown lays out some of the best books on golf you can read, which can also have positive impacts on your life outside of golf as well.
All photos by Jeremy Brown
Golf is an odd game. We drive ourselves crazy trying to hit a little rubber ball hundreds of yards at a time until it falls into a tiny hole in the ground with a flag in it. Some of us talk to the ball like it has ears to hear us. At times, we verbally curse our misfortune or erupt with childlike joy when the odds finally fall in our favor on a one-in-a-million shot. Then, we let these results determine our mood for the rest of the day. To an outside observer with no understanding of golf, we probably look like we’ve gone mad, but within the context of this game which has been passed down for hundreds of years, there’s a common language we all speak. We all understand.
The game is hard.
So, the most responsible among us seek help. My own journey in golf is no exception. I started playing golf in 2020, back when there was not much else anyone could do. I’ll admit I’m a bit obsessive (and I bet you, dear reader, can relate). I was a sponge for my first year and a half, playing any course I could drive to and afford. I’d walk to avoid cart fees and play solo twilight rounds so I could play the most golf per dollar. I tried any gear available to me, read as much information as I could access, and practiced every moment possible. I didn’t know how to play golf, I didn’t know anyone who knew how to play golf, and I couldn’t afford lessons or a coach at the time, so the main resource I turned to was golf books. I share with you today the most useful and insightful among them.
There are as many books written on how to play golf as there are golf courses in the United States (around 15,000) and try as you might, nobody has time to read—or play—them all. From celebrity authors to scientific breakdowns to mystical life-changing adventures in golf, I’ve sifted through the sea of golf writings and compiled a list of four of the most effective, important, and popular titles available today that will improve your score, break down your first-tee fears, and deepen your enjoyment of the game for a lifetime
1. Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan
I’ll start with a classic. If you’re looking to build (or rebuild) a swing from the ground up, I can’t think of a better place to start. First published in 1957 by author and legendary ball-striking scientist Ben Hogan, Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf is a highly-detailed physiology-based breakdown of the keys to an effective, repeatable golf swing. The popular swing taught these days varies in detail a bit from what Hogan teaches, but the bones of his teachings remain rock solid and will not steer you wrong.
It covers everything from posture/stance to grip to ball position in (sometimes excruciating) detail, but for the golf scientist in all of us, there is no better resource than these essays for knowing exactly how to build a swing from scratch. With impressively-detailed illustrations from Anthony Ravielli, visualizing each phase of the golf swing is made simple and digestible. In addition, the timeline Hogan lays out for sticking with each element of the practice is as relevant as ever. So give this masterwork a read and watch your swing transform.
Moving on to a contemporary favorite:
2. Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game by Dr. Joseph Parent
Dr. Joe Parent, a standout figure in the growing field of sports psychology, is a master in the art of the mental game, and he’s given us all the tools to master it yourself in this wildly popular (and effective) collection of thought exercises, anecdotes, and Zen Buddhist proverbs. If that sounds a bit too spiritual for you, remember that golf is played in the mind as much as on the course, if not more so. Equipping ourselves with the mental tools to navigate this sport only makes sense. If we don’t, we’re just making an already difficult game even harder. Renew your enjoyment of golf with a fresh perspective and learn how to take your game seriously without taking yourself seriously. It is transformative.
Next up, the book that brought my score down faster than any other:
3. The Elements of Scoring: A Master’s Guide to Scoring Your Best Even When You’re Not Playing Your Best by Raymond Floyd
Scoring well is not the same as swinging well. Read that again.
Raymond Floyd happens to be a master of both. A statistics fanatic and an absolute killer in competition, every golfer in Ray Floyd’s day feared going toe-to-toe with him. He’s the past record holder for the 72-hole lowest score at Augusta National, and 35 professional wins (including four majors) might convince you that Ray knows how to play and play well.
Reading this book opened up a whole new dimension of the game I had previously taken for granted: scoring. So what if your swing is mechanically perfect? Golf tournaments aren’t decided by who has the prettiest swing. It’s decided by who gets the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes, and there are a lot of different ways to do that. If you’re a high scorer, all the better! You have even more to gain from reading this account from one of the greatest scorers to ever play the game. Every shot counts. Pick this up and watch your score plummet.
Last but certainly not least, If you only ever read one book from this list, make it this next one:
4. Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect by Dr. Bob Rotella
The premier name in sports psychology (well beyond just golf) for over 40 years, Bob Rotella has written more than a dozen books just on golf’s mental game, but this one is the original. From putting to course management to managing expectations, Dr. Rotella’s nuanced wisdom contained in these pages is second to none. As a result, your understanding of golf will be flipped on its head.
With specific stories of PGA and LPGA players feeling stuck in their game and seeking out Dr. Rotella specifically, this conversational account of past successes—and there are many—sheds light on how much golf is about everything but hitting the ball. Approachable, down-to-earth, and digestible instruction are the words I associate with this pick—my No. 1 pick when someone asks for a golf book recommendation. It's soon to be your favorite as well!
Where Can I Find These Books?
Some other honorable mentions include Golf in the Kingdom, A Course Called America, Dream Golf, and The Complete Golfer. Make sure to check your local library or buy used wherever possible. Most, if not all, of these books, can be accessed for free or relatively inexpensively. The benefits to your swing and score—and maybe even your outlook on life—from checking out these titles are limitless. Enrich your love of golf and deepen your understanding of this fascinating, enigmatic, maddening game that brings us together.
I hope you’ve found your next golf read somewhere on this list. Each book has positively impacted my game, both by bringing down the final number on my scorecard and by shedding light on why this game we all play is so richly beautiful and deeply human; my sincere belief is that reading these books will do the same for you!
Here at Curated, we excel at helping connect people with the best information and equipment to level up their game! Talk to one of our dedicated Golfing Experts today to set yourself up for success on the course!