BRITISH GOLF LINKS
by Horace Hutchinson
Sports Media Group, 353 pages, $85
That the best book of 2005 was originally published in 1897 is less a reflection on the weakness of this year's field than it is a recognition of the enduring superiority and importance of Links. Golf's first coffee-table volume can be approached in several ways: as an elegy to a parade gone by, as a Baedeker to 54 remarkable courses, as an instructional on playing them, and as a fashion guide to swings and dress now blessedly passé. The past is an important place, particularly in a milieu as historically resonant as golf, and Hutchinson, the game's first eminent recorder, preserved it to a tee. Lushly reproduced, this facsimile edition includes an afterword on how these courses have changed, yet it's in seeing the ways they haven't that makes British Golf Links so extraordinary.
ON GOLF: THE GAME, THE PLAYERS, AND A PERSONAL HISTORY OF OBSESSION
by Timothy O'Grady
Thomas Dunne Books, 207 pages, $22.95
An American novelist who writes like a native Irishman, O'Grady spins his long, complex relationship with the game into a striking meditation that stylishly links his father, Arnold Palmer, Golf in the Kingdom and the fragility of the swing.
LOST BALLS: GREAT HOLES, TOUGH SHOTS, AND BAD LIES
by Charles Lindsay
Bulfinch Press, 128 pages, $29.95
Lindsay's howlingly hysterical photographs of the horrible things we do to golf balls--and they to us--put the tragedy and comedy of the game into focus. An intro by John Updike adds welcome perspective.
WHEN WAR PLAYED THROUGH
by John Strege
Gotham Books, 326 pages, $27.50
Put Allied golfers in a German POW camp and what do they do? Build a course and a club of their own. Strege's fascinating history of golf during World War II and the ends that duffers went to on all fronts to keep swinging makes for a chronicle worth surrendering to.
GOLF'S GOLDEN AGE: ROBERT T. JONES JR. AND THE LEGENDARY PLAYERS OF THE '10S, '20S, AND '30S
by Rand Jerris, with photographs by George S. Pietzcker
National Geographic, 160 pages, $27
They had faces then, and nobody froze them more compellingly than "Photo" Pietzcker. His artful character studies in sepia--including Jones, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Francis Ouimet--are as visually alluring as the game itself.
THE SLAM: BOBBY JONES AND THE PRICE OF GLORY
by Curt Sampson
Rodale Press, 272 pages, $24.95
Using a quasi-diary format, Sampson effectively reconstructs Jones's annus mirabilis of 75 years ago and through it creates an affecting exploration of the perfect if utterly conflicted hero for an imperfect age.
THIS GOLFING LIFE
by Michael Bamberger
Atlantic Monthly Press, 272 pages, $24
SI senior writer Bamberger adapts some of his finest work--including profiles of Tiger, Jack, Annika and even his own high school golf coach--and fashions a personal journey that nicely mixes memoir with first-rate reportage.
FIFTY PLACES TO PLAY GOLF BEFORE YOU DIE: GOLF EXPERTS SHARE THE WORLD'S GREATEST DESTINATIONS
by Chris Santella
Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 224 pages, $24.95
Great idea--ask 50 big-name golf folks such as Pete Dye and Nick Faldo where they would choose to tee it up and why. If some destinations are obvious (St. Andrews, Pebble Beach) and a few self-serving (Donald Trump unabashedly talks up Trump National), others (Royal Thimphu, in Bhutan) should be varied and interesting enough to incite a lively 19th-hole debate.
SPORTS MEDIA GROUP (HUTCHINSON)
THOMAS DUNNE BOOKS (O'GRADY)
CHARLES LINDSAY/BULFINCH PRESS (LINDSAY)
GOTHAM BOOKS (STREGE)
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BOOKS (JERIS)
RODALE PRESS (SAMPSON)
ATLANTIC MONTHLY PRESS (BAMBERGER)
STEWART, TABORI & CHANG (SANTELLA)