Golf is a highly popular sport. Recent surveys by the National Golf Foundation suggest that there are currently about 25 million golfers in America, with about 4 million of them playing golf twice a month. Golf and golf enthusiasts spend an estimated $75 billion dollars a year on the game. What makes it unique is the variety of approaches to the subject. It wavers in a plane between a mind-blowingly technical and a transcendental experience. It is played widely as an amateur sport, used as low energy recreation for decreasing blood pressure and getting out in the fresh air - the type of exercise frequently recommended by doctors.
However, at its highest levels, golf can be incredibly competitive, highly technical and those who reach the top attain a kind of genius status - a place in society somewhere between Stephen Hawking and the Dalai Lama. Well, they do in the golfing world. Corporate business people use golf as a way to network, entertain clients and to conduct tricky negotiations.
Its slow pace and need for concentration and technical ability attracts intelligent enthusiasts, all eager to swing their way up to a higher golfing status. It is a game of the body and the mind, more so than most other sports. The products in this category reflect this sometimes confusingly varied approach, which ranges through full-on psychological analysis to technical bibles, biographical wisdom and straight-forward gimmickry. Each type has its place. These reviews are written to help you fight your way through the maze and choose a selection of helpful reading.
The style of the products in this category depend on the author. As always with any subject, it is best to read around and we would recommend the beginner considers choosing one of each from at least two of the following formats. There are a handful of books reviewed here that were written by golfing legends from decades ago. These lovingly transcribed handbooks are golfing gold and will help you to stay inspired. These come lower down in the ratings because they are less modern and shiny.
Then there are technical manuals that help you with the 'nitty gritty.' These technical guides should provide you with a comprehensive back-up system for reference. Finally there are the E-books that come in the form of or with accompanying audio guides, videos and other multimedia support. Depending on your pocket and learning style, you might find these to be useful learning aids.
The products in the top of this category tend to be designed to improve one or other aspect of your game, either your swing, the drive, the short game etc. Something can be gained from learning these, but beware of authors claiming to be magicians. That said, they tend to be the more popular product here so will only have attained consistency of sale if they are any good. These "magic cure" products are mostly designed for all levels, but not all are suitable for beginners and some may bore the experienced, so it would pay you to give this some thought.
Levels of Fitness and Physique
Are you a woman? Bear in mind that some of these authors have not considered this possibility. There may be aspects of the physical technique and also advice on kit that will vary depending on your physique - male or female. For women golfers, it is worth cross-referencing your reading list with the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) or asking at your local golf club about good authors.
One book here was written by women professional golfers, so should take women's golf into account, but some of the older books may be a little old fashioned and you might find some techniques have not borne differences in physique in mind, and also the LPGA standard. Technically speaking, there should not be much difference in the short game, but there may be some different ways of approaching the swing for the long drive as a certain level of muscle power may be taken for granted. Different approaches may vary quite dramatically so watch out ladies that the techniques do apply to you before you buy any product.
This point, of course, applies to all humans of varying levels of age and fitness. Golf need not be a macho young man's sport. Any good teacher will be able to apply their technique to suit people of all shapes, sizes and physical capabilities.
Qualifications and Experience of the Author or Tutor
Many of the comprehensive guides in this category combine methods learned from a selection of golfing masters. At the high levels, golf can be very technical, and there can be something to be learned from their experience. Is the author a golf champion, a professional teacher or an experienced amateur? Just because someone is a golfing legend, it doesn't automatically follow that they are a good teacher or indeed a good writer. Can the golf champion explain what really makes them a success? This is not really something that can be taught and the buyer should beware of such claims. Imagine if it were so easy - everyone would be winning.
Nevertheless, every golfing professional has their own techniques that have worked for them and might work for you too. What is noticeable about these highly popular autobiographical golfing guides is that the character of the legend tends to rub off which can be a very inspiring read.
The authors of the products in this category vary quite a lot in terms of qualifications, but much is to be gained from different perspectives from different backgrounds and fields of expertise. The expertise of the author will reflect the format and style of the product. For example, some of the sports psychologists vary between taking a practical system-based approach, whilst others will focus on explaining the mental aspect of the game. These buying points have been considered when writing the reviews.
This category includes products quite similar in format because they are all books in one form or another. The major differences may be found in portability, i.e. can you carry it around in your back pocket on the course? Some of the more comprehensive guides are meant as home reference, but some are hand books. The different formats are paperbacks, hardbacks, e-books and kindle editions.
If you have the appropriate technology, a kindle edition is very portable, but an e-book may need to be printed out onto A4, so if it is sold as a handbook, this is not very practical. Also, some of the products higher up in the category have accompanying websites and videos. These can be very useful to watch and learn from alongside the book, and a great modern improvement to home learning - particularly in learning a sport.
Much of the exercises, however, can be practised in your living room without a club, or in the garden without a ball so you you don't always need a lot of space. Having a range of learning materials close to hand is a bonus, and depending on quality, the more varied the better.
Value for Money
There are some very affordable books in this category. The little paperbacks are very useful and will not make a large dent in your pocket, and some can be downloaded in Kindle format as well, bringing them up to date for everyday use. Some of the more expensive products, usually e-books, claim to teach you a special technique, so you are paying for the brand and the accompanied multimedia teaching aids that go with that brand.
With the paperbacks and hard backs you tend to get what you pay for and the pricing is fairly transparent. One e-book here is cheaper than any of the paperbacks but you will have to decide if you want something modern and up to date, written by an unknown or traditional in style written by a golfing legend. Some books will be an investment and can be used for reference, and others are simply a good weekend read.
The Bottom Line
You should always consider your learning style, budget and the various features that are most important to you. For example, would you like to have:
If you're interested in learning how to break 80, without breaking the bank, then a downloadable ebook (that comes with a wealth of special offer bonuses) is certainly something you should consider. Especially as most of the ebooks we have reviewed come with money-back guarantees. Or you could go for two separate products which complement each other.
For example, an old-fashioned paperback/hardcover book written by a legendary golfer along with a 21st century ebook with lifetime updates and access to supporting material online. Thankfully, there are lots of great resources on the market to meet the requirements of a variety of golf enthusiasts.