A Short History of Golf
As a self-confessed golf nerd with a well-thumbed copy of the 1996 International Golf Almanack alongside books on Nicklaus, Palmer and Steve Williams on my bookshelf, I was hugely excited to get my hands on A Short History of Golf.
The book races through close to two centuries worth of golfing legends and those who fell short of that status, combining results and triumphant stories with the more heartbreaking tales that the sport is littered with.
From the days of Hogan, Snead and others that I knew little about, to the Big Three and the exploding prize pools that accompanied the transition into the Tour that we know today, the book covers an immense amount in its 244 pages. Quotes from those involved in the events described are littered throughout, offering different perspectives on some of the most well-known moments in golf, which is sure to interest even the most knowledgeable of fans. While it is undeniably a history book, Cleary has managed to steer well clear of the dull narrative that often dominates chronological histories, and has managed to create a book that is equal parts interesting and informative. The first few pages surprised me, as the style and flow of the book feels more like a conversation with a particularly well-read mate rather than the history textbook style I was expecting!
A retelling of Nick Faldo’s 18 pars in the final round of the 1987 Open is followed by a section on the incredible, yet not widely known achievements of ‘Babe’ Zaharias in the plethora of sports that she dominated before taking up golf. The book flows between moments remembered the world over to those rarely mentioned, and in doing so pieces together an extensive history of the sport we love, warts and all. I was surprised to find Apartheid and gender equality discussed, but in a global game the impact of issues like these is undeniable, and perhaps I should have expected to see them crop up in its pages.
Chapters range from the glory days of “The King of TV” to “Oncers and the Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, illustrating the fickle and sometimes cruel nature of the game that those who tee it up regularly will be all too familiar with. Without losers there would be no winners and the book doesn’t shy away from telling stories from both sides. ‘Magnificent Seve’ and ‘Jean Clod’ (Van De Velde) have their hugely different experiences recounted in a section each, the contrasting highs and lows all too obvious.
The only real issue I found with A Short History of Golf was the number of university readings and assignments I put off so I could
finish reading it! While the next few weeks of study may not thank me for it, the amount of incredible, inspiring and downright interesting information within keeps the pages turning, and I’m glad I was able to do so.
The book is a history of the game as told by a golf nut, and that enthusiasm and passion dominates, creating a page-turner that will appeal to history buffs and sports fans alike.
Without losers there would be no winners and the book doesn’t shy away from telling stories from both sides. ‘Magnificent Seve’ and ‘Jean Clod’ (Van De Velde) have their hugely different experiences recounted in a section each.
A Short History of Golf by Matt Cleary, published by New Holland, RRP $32.99. Available from all good bookstores or online www. newhollandpublishers.com
The late great of Spain, Seve Ballesteros.