Lost Balls

lost-ballsThis is familiar psychological territory for golfers of all abilities, coping with the potential harrowing effect to their scorecard if the next swing goes wayward and the result is an unrequited search resulting in a lost ball.  As John Updike says in the foreword of this clever book, “this lost ball represents two strokes, and two extra strokes could mean the hole and even, if could be, the match, the entire outing, the day itself.”

In a very creative photographic collection Charles Lindsay has brought life to this unique aspect of our game in a book called “Lost Balls-Great Holes, Tough Shots, and Bad Lies”.

It is worth it for the Updike forward alone where he eloquently frames the issues that lost balls play in our game and why it strikes such a familiar chord for us.  “The whereabouts of the ball are in a sense the key to every ball game, but the whereabouts are most picturesque in golf.  Tangles of raspberry….sandy beds of shallow little watercress-choked creeks….snake infested moonscapes of pre-Cambrian basalt…all these nasty patches of environment can play host to a misplayed golf ball.  We have all been there.”

Through his camera lens Charles Lindsay captures the wild, the innocent, and the five-minute shuffle that accompanies all of these often futile searches.  He includes images of domestic animals, wild animals, and a few upright animals against dramatic topography from Ireland to Idaho and everywhere in between.

As a bonus, Lindsay peppers it with some wonderful quotes you can repeat in your Saturday group.

Mark Twain’s politically correct:  “It’s good sportsmanship not to pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.”

Ullyses S. Grant: “It does look like a very good exercise.  But what is the little white ball for?”

Alan Shepard from the moon surface: “Got more dirt than ball.  Here we go again…..”

This is the ultimate coffee table book for your home or office.  Every golfing friend who picks this up will give you that twisted, knowing smile as they leaf through an assembly of engaging photos that depict disturbingly familiar circumstances from notable golf venues around the world.

Lost Balls: Great Holes, Tough Shots, and Bad Lies

Charles Lindsay (2005)



True Links

True LInksTwo former editors of golf magazines of substance have put together ‘True Links’ an illustrated guide to the 246 Links golf courses in the world.  Much in the vein of Larry Lambrecht’s ‘Emerald Gems’ and James Finegan’s ‘Scotland-Where Golf Is Great’ this is a thoughtful presentation of photos and supporting research on the links courses that define the game of golf.

George Peper, a former editor of Golf Magazine, and Malcolm Campbell, a former editor of Golf Monthly, bring their expertise to the task of defining and documenting the active links courses around the world.  Augmented by the vivid photography of Iain Lowe and other supporting photographers this book brings to life the grandeur of links courses from the British Isles and around the world and puts their individual stories in the context of the evolution of golf over the centuries.

Their premise is that links courses remain the soul of a game that has spawned over 30,000 golf playing grounds around the world.  In the prologue they say, “Links golf is the game distilled to its core virtues.  To walk beside the sea with a brisk breeze on your cheek and firm,sandy turf beneath your feet is to experience golf not only as it was hundreds of years ago but arguably as it should be today-a simple, beguiling game in need of no embellishment.”

If you asked the greatest players who ever played the game where they would prefer to play every day links courses like The Old Course at St. Andrews, Royal Country Down, Muirfield, and Ballybunion would come to their lips.  The style of golf these courses demand bring out the deep seated talents of all players so the satisfaction of playing them well is very special.

Tom Watson, arguably one of the most successful players in Open Championships contested on links courses, slowly came to accept and embrace the demands of links golf.  He describes what he discovered, “Don’t fight it…enjoy it.  Solve the puzzle……Calculating the wind, allowing for the firm terrain, trusting your judgment and feel…that is the joy of playing a links.  You need almost a sixth sense, an ability to adjust to all the conditions and somehow get your ball to travel the proper distance-whether through the air or along the ground.  That is the essence of links golf.  But the links giveth and the links taketh away.  It can be cruel and beautiful in the same round, occasionally on the same hole, and once in a while on the same shot.  When you figure out all the equations properly and the shot comes off as intended, nothing is more satisfying.”  I have a feeling Phil has come to share this sentiment recently.

True Links begins by defining what distinguishes under 250 of the courses in the world as Links courses.  The British Golf Museum in St. Andrews defines linksland as “a stretch of land near the coast…characterized by undulating terrain, often associated with dunes, infertile sandy soil, and indigeneous grasses as marram, sea lyme, and the fescues and bents which, when properly managed, produce the fine textured tight turf for which links are famed.”  Add to this the quirky and sudden changes of wind and rain that seaside venues present and you have a chess game on grass against the elements and the higher order who choreographs them.

The result of this requirement of turf, terrain, and weather is that many of the most familiar and storied seaside courses are left off of the list of Links courses.  Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Royal Melbourne, Whistling Straits, Shinnecock Hills, and The Ocean Course at Kiawah are spectacular and challenging venues we equate with links golf but they lack either the firm sandy turf, the associated dunes, or the close proximity to the sea that strictly defines a links course and the brand of low to the ground golf associated with them.

The authors pay homage to the great architects that drew links courses out of the unique terrain nature presented in the British Isles.  From Old Tom Morris to Harry Colt, James Braid, C.B. MacDonald, Alistar MacKenzie, Donald Ross, and A.W. Tillinghast they show the linkage of thought and design the great architects made studying the challenges of links courses and how they incorporated them into what would become the classic courses of the Golden Age of Course Architecture.   This respect for links design feature continues to be seen in the contemporary work of Pete Dye, Tom Doak, Ben Crenshaw, Bill Coore and others in places like Whistling Straits, Bandon Dunes, Sand Hills, and Cabot Links.

The Crucible is a chapter dedicated to the grand daddy of them all, The Old Course at St. Andrews.  Tracing it back to days of shepherds hitting rocks with their herding staffs, through Royal edicts against playing, to Rabbit Wars for the land’s usage, we get a sense of how the game evolved.  Rules, equipment, course construction and maintenance were forged over centuries throughout Scotland.  The standard of the number of holes, the routing, the cup, the ball, and all the rest came from trial and error and the guiding will of a series of individuals who sought to regiment and standardize the game they were playing.

What follows is a chapter called The Icons which gives vibrant imagery and context to the 25 links courses that have defined the game.  Quirky courses-Lahinch and Ballybunion, original classics-Prestwick, North Berwick, and Rye, the full array of Royals-Aberdeen, Birkdale, St. Georges and Portrush , and the mysticals- Royal Dornoch and Royal County Down come to life as the authors explain the developmental history and unique characters of these pioneering links.

The Classics are the next level spawned by the Icons-they are the broader inventory we have come to know as links courses.  Many are familiar, Machrihanish, Lundin Links, Waterville, Country Sligo, and St. Andrews Jubilee.  Others less so The Island, Enniscronne, Gullane, Aberdovey, and Ballyliffen.   From there they go to The Exotics covering the links courses outside the British Isles in The Neatherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

The journey ends with The Moderns, links courses that have come on line in the last forty years and reinvigorated the interest of golfers in the true tradition of the game.  New entries in Ireland-Tralee, Doonbeg, and The European Club, Scotland-Kingsbarns, Castle Stuart, and Trump International, and North America-Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Old MacDonald, and Cabot Links are testimony that the influence of links golf design on the pleasure and enjoyment of golf continues.

Peper and Campbell argue that the future of golf remains in the hands of this movement.  The demands of environmental responsibility and financial viability in developing new courses once again directs the architect’s attention to the minimalist approach to designing and maintaining a links course.  Jim Arthur, an agronomist and promoter of natural links in Scotland put this way.  “Lack of money has always been a great limiting influence on the making of mistakes.  The poorest clubs have the best courses…in greenskeeping one should ask a farmer what to do and then go and do exactly the opposite.”   The coast of Oregon and Nova Scotia, the sand hills of Nebraska, and down under in Tasmania Australia credence has been paid to this notion with fine result.

For an understanding of the place of links courses in the historical time line of golf, simple reminiscence of the places one has played, or in developing a bucket list of what is yet to come, True Links is a book that should have a place on your library shelf.  This is a book you will reach for on a regular basis.

True Links

George Peper and Malcolm Campbell (2010)

October, 2013


Scotland-Where Golf Is Great

Where Golf Is Great

Whether you want to take sentimental memory walk through a recent trip across the pond or help  planning the trip of your life to the home of golf next summer, James Finegan’s “Scotland-Where Golf Is Great” belongs on your coffee table. This is the seminal work of the most informed American golf writer on the subject of golf in the British Isles.

Since his first visit in 1952 he has traveled the to Scotland over 30 times playing the great and the unknown courses across the length and breadth of the country.  With his wife Harriet he spent a dozen summers renting a flat overlooking the splendor of St. Andrews and played the Old Course more than 100 times.  A low single digit player he has developed a keen understanding of the nuances and pleasures of links golf in the old country and shares it with the rest of us in this fine book.

His writings herein on the golf courses, accommodations, and sights of interest in Scotland are second to none.  The presentation is further embellished by the breathtaking golf course photography of Laurence Lambrecht (author of Emerald Gems)  and the images of sights of interest by Tim Thompson.

Through his lens you can experience the uniqueness of the golf experience of over 90 courses in Scotland.  Finegan takes you on a counterclockwise tour that begins at the Kingdom of Fife with St. Andrews and Carnoustie, meanders north to the gems of the Scottish Highlands from Cruden Bay to Royal Dornoch, back down the west coast to the remote island outposts of Machrihanish and Machrie, on to west coast treasures of Loch Lomand, Royal Troon, and Turnberry, and finishing with the East Lothian Coast  home of North Berwick, Gullane, and the storied Muirfield Links.

From his pen:

The Old Course: “The most useful tip I can provide … is one you won’t get from a caddie..roughly 80% of the putts are straight, whether from 40 feet or 4 feet.”

Carnoustie: “Puts more pressure on the swing than any course in the British Isles….No
shot is a breather….this is the most confrontational golf course we will ever play.”

Cruden Bay: “Should on no account be missed..(standing) beside the clubhouse and looking down….. in all its turbulent splendor, lies one of the most awe-inspiring stretches of linksland ever dedicated to the game.”

Royal Dornoch:  “We are consistently struck by such a wonderful sense of naturalness as we make our way around…everything simply looks as if it has been this way for centuries.”

Machrihanish:  “The opening hole is…superior to just about every other 1st hole in the world…Our drive is fired on the diagonal across the Atlantic’s waves to an undulating fairway that skirts the shoreline…This is thrilling, tempting, tantalizing business…away we go on a round that will give us enormous pleasure not only as we play it but as we hark back to it again and again.”

Turnberry:  “The next eight holes (starting at 4) are strung out like a necklace, along and above the sea.  If there is any other links course where eight consecutive holes are able to produce challenge of this level and pleasure of this depth, I don’t know where it might be.”

North Berwick:  “For pure golfing pleasure, a pleasure bred of diversity, challenge, unpredictability, proximity to the sea, and the satisfaction of true links shot making, few courses can equal North Berwick’s West Links.  Is it a candidate for one course to play, day in and day out, for the rest of your life? Oh my, yes.”

An invaluable extra for trip planning, Finegan includes experienced recommendations of places to eat and places to stay.  His reviews take you right down to what primo room to request and what delectable dish to order.

Your coffee table is beckoning for this one.  If this book is within reach of your most comfortable reading chair you will find yourself leafing through it regularly to relive the grandeur and excitement of the links experience.

Scotland-Where Golf Is Great

James W. Finegan (2006/2010)


Classic Golf

Walter Iooss is one of the most celebrated sports photographers in history.  As their senior sports photographer he has contributed over 300 Sports Illustrated covers to the magazine over his illustrious 40 year career.

This book is a compilation of over 200 black and white and color images that catalog the personalities of the greatest players in golf in the modern era.  In an arena where shutter clicks are verboten during a player’s swing, Iooss somehow stealthly captured the swings of the greatest players in the game in full action.

Hogan, Palmer, Venturi, Chi-Chi, Nicklaus, Trevino, Watson, Miller, Crenshaw, and Tiger-they are all here and so many more.  The common denominator is images of players-their swings, their personas, their unfiltered emotions.  In these photos Iooss captures the drama of the moment as well as the nature of the man in the heat of competition.   With his personal collection, Iooss should have his own room in the USGA museum in Far Hills, New Jersey.

Arnie and Jack   Ligonier, Pa 1965   (walteriooss.com)

As you look through this book you cannot help but shake your head, time and time again, saying to yourself, “I remember that picture, I remember that look”.  It is like a personal bit of time travel for those of us who have religiously followed the game for so long.

Dan Jenkins said, “In this splendid book, Walter Iooss makes the sport of golf look as colorful and thrilling as it actually was in the second half of the twentieth century”.

If you can find this book you should add it to the stack under the coffee table in your family room.  You will find yourself picking it up regularly for another joyous walk down memory lane.

(Click here to review Walter Iooss’s Golf Portfolio on walteriooss.com)

Classic Golf-The Photographs of Walter Iooss Jr.

Walter Iooss (2004)

Emerald Gems-Links of Ireland

Laurence Lambrecht is one of the most accomplished golf photographers out there and this book is a seminal work on fine collection of links courses in the Emerald Isle.  A coffee table book the size of your coffee table features images and descriptives of every one of the 47 links courses in Ireland.

The book organizes the courses by geographic sections of the country so you can get a good sense of proximity of each of the links offerings around the country.  Every course has a number of stunning photographs as well as an erudite descriptive of the course by a knowledgeable expert familiar with the course.  These supporting text entries are from the hands of people like Pat Ruddy, David Feherty, David Davies, Ivan Morris, and others and they really embrace and enhance the presentation of each course.

Besides being a nostalgic display book for your family room that you can thumb through from time to time, this would serve as a travel resource on links golf in Ireland.  This book along with James Finegan’s “Emerald Fairways and Foam-Flecked Seas” is all you need to plan a memorable golf trip with your buddies to Ireland.

You can buy the book from Larry Lambrecht’s website for around $90.  He also has a fine collection of related prints, calendars and note cards to choose from.

(Click to go to Larry Lambrecht’s website)

Emerald Gems-The Links of Ireland

Laurence Lambrecht  (2002)