Essential, classic books for golfers

Classic reads: 15 essential golf books that should be in every golfer's library

Perhaps you've got a golfer on your holiday gift list or you're just looking to begin your own library, countless golf books are published each year. In fact, a search for "golf books" on Amazon returns more than 70,000 titles, and after a brief glimpse of the top "recommended" titles, many of them are hardly "classics."

So where should you start? After much editing of our own, here's our list of books -- all from different authors -- that every golfer's library should include. We've sorted them by genre, from instruction to humor to courses and travel. We've also selected our favorite biography of three of the most legendary golfers: Arnie, Jack and Tiger.

What are your personal favorites that have stood the test of time? Be sure to tell us in the comments below, or tweet us @golfadvisor.

Your collection's Arnold Palmer book: "A Life Well Played: My Stories," by Arnold Palmer

Described as Arnold Palmer's parting gift to the world and recently released, this is a collection of stories and memoirs as told to Golf World and Golf Digest contributor Dave Shedloski by arguably golf's most popular and certainly most charismatic player ever.

Your collection's Ben Hogan book: "Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf," by Ben Hogan

Widely interpreted and never truly understood, Ben Hogan's five fundamentals are still debated today. It's a true must-have for any collector, even if it doesn't help your game.

You collection's Tiger Woods book: "How I Play Golf," by Tiger Woods

Maybe you can get better by learning Tiger Woods' secrets in "How I play Golf.

We were tempted to go with Hank Haney's "The Big Miss," but in the end, maybe we should just appreciate how Tiger Woods actually played the game. After all, when Woods was in his prime, nobody did it better, so as an avid golfer, you'll want to know what he says were the five secrets to his amazing success (of course, the sixth secret was immense talent.)

Your collection's book on the mental side of golf: "Golf is Not a Game of Perfect," by Dr. Bob Rotella

We all know the mental side of golf is just as, if not more, important than the physical side, so if you play golf, this is a must-read. In a dynamic blend of anecdote and lessons, Dr. Bob Rotella has written the definitive book on golf sports psychology.

You collection's book on social change: "Uneven Lies: The Heroic Story of African-Americans in Golf," by Pete McDaniel

Uneven Lies" chronicles the struggles and triumphs of African-Americans in golf.

Beginning with the 1896 U.S. Open when blacks first played in national competition, to the invention of the golf tee by an African-American dentist and the barriers that golfers of color had to break over the last century plus, you'll get a different side of golf history, one that's just now getting the attention it deserves.

Your collection's overall swing instruction book: "The Golf Swing," by David Leadbetter

David Leadbetter's first major instruction book came during his star pupil Nick Faldo's heyday, and there might not be a more definitive book on the golf swing today.

You collection's short game instruction book: "Dave Pelz's Short Game Bible" (with James A. Frank)

As a former NASA scientist, nobody has done more study and analysis on the short game than Dave Pelz, the guru to great amateurs and professionals everywhere. The book is more than 400 pages, and you can pair it with Pelz's equally thick "Putting Bible."

Your collection's classic fiction book: "Golf in the Kingdom," by Michael Murphy

Ah, the mystical side of golf as explored by a young man en route to India who stops in Scotland to be led through a phenomenal round of golf by the mysterious teacher Shivas Irons. It's both a journey of the soul and the links.

Your collection's on-course tale: "The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever," by Mark Frost

This account of the greatest private match ever played, this one is the result of a bet pitting amateurs Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward vs. the great Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan in a 1956 showdown that's a real page turner.

Your collection's book of eternal wisdom: "Harvey Penick's Little Red Book" (with Bud Shrake)

Harvey Penick, the legendary golf professional from Austin Country Club, compiled a lifetime's worth of pearls of golf wisdom into a loosely kept, red book during his teaching career. It was compiled and immortalized with author Bud Shrake in 1992 and soon became the best-selling sports book of all time. Penick mentored many of Texas' greatest players during his lifetime, including Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite. When Crenshaw bent to his knees and wept upon winning the 1995 Masters days after Penick passed away, those who had read the The Little Red Book knew exactly why.

Your collection's coffee table book: "True Links," by George Peper and Malcolm Campbell

If you're like me and love links golf, this book, subtitled, "An Illustrated Guide to the Glories of the World's 246 Links Courses," is a must. In fact, you might be surprised to know that there are just a handful of true links courses in North America, but there are more than 200 in the rest of the world.

Your collection's humor book: "Dead Solid Perfect," by Dan Jenkins

The author of "North Dallas Forty" and "Semi-Tough" scored a double eagle with "Dead Solid Perfect," the Texan's uproarious 1974 irreverent novel about life on the PGA Tour.

You collection's definitive Jack Nicklaus book: "Golf My Way," by Jack Nicklaus with Ken Bowden

If Greg Norman learned to play golf by reading Jack Nicklaus' first instruction book, it seems like the rest of us could get a lot of out it as well. And we can. There are plenty of great stories about Nicklaus and his longtime teacher Jack Grout, by the way.

Your collection's travel book: "Planet Golf," by Darius Oliver

This amazingly beautifully photographed insider's view of the 100 greatest golf courses built in the modern era is a companion volume to Planet Golf and Planet Golf USA. With comments by the world's leading golf architects and Darius Oliver's detailed, exclusive first reviews of masterpieces such as Cabot Cliffs in Canada, Ardfin in Scotland, Cape Wickham in Australia and Tara Iti in New Zealand, more than 20 countries are represented.

Oliver is also one of three co-authors on course architect Tom Doak's five-part series, "A Confidential Guide to Golf Courses." While three of five volumes have been released thus far, when complete, it will have the most comprehensive listing of courses and expert ratings of courses (using the infamous "Doak Scale") in existence. (Those looking for a must-have collector's item should seek out Doak's 1996 print of the guide which features an even more raw opinion from the up-and-coming architect.)

Your collection's book on course architecture: "Bury Me in a Pot Bunker," by Pete Dye with Mark Shaw

We all have an opinion on one of golf's most unique architects: Pete Dye, a designer who follows his own set of rules. This is "Golf through the Eyes of the Game's Most Challenging Course Designer," as it's subtitled.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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I have over 200 books in my golf collection.
Funniest golf book ever written: Missing Links. Rick Reilly.
My "must have" in any collection: Tommy's Honor. Kevin Cook. Skip the movie and read the book.

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Education of a Golfer, by Sam Snead....very entertaining and enlightening. You may have to dig for it as it is at least 40 years old.

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Classic reads: 15 essential golf books that should be in every golfer's library