Golf has a rich story-telling tradition – what else are you going to do between shots? But the game also has a strict code of politesse, and these tendencies often conflict. Tell the tale, sure, but don’t offend anyone.
It’s why the rare golf pro who shoots as straight with his opinions as he does with his club is a valuable resource, and Mike Clayton definitely falls into this category. As his collaborator Charles Happell notes in the book, Clayton’s opinions don’t carry many shades of grey. From his time as a tour player to his next act as a course designer, Clayton has been a clear, consistent voice on issues such as the adverse impact of ball and club technology, the need to preserve the great courses, and the money lust that drives the tour.
It’s slyly hinted at in the title, but the central principle of Preferred Lies is a willingness to call golf on its bullshit. Organised as a series of essays, the authors range across a variety of terrain: great players present and past, tournaments and Clayton’s own specialty, courses (two things he hates: trees and carts). There are also welcome contributions from other voices: Steve Williams chimes in on caddies, Rob Sitch on not thinking, and the late Peter Thomson – himself a truth-teller over his esteemed golfing life – shares his thoughts on the wonder of the Old Course at St Andrews.
Alongside the commentary, the reader will find some wonderful golf stories. For all his criticism, Clayton is an unabashed lover of the game’s lore – it galled him to find out, when he met a talented young amateur at the Australian Open a few years ago, that the kid had no idea who Bob Shearer was. He could have used this book.
Good for: Conversation pieces at the