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.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - FEATURE - WORDS BY ALEX MCDON­ALD

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.

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