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A Threesome of Book Reviews

By: Dr. John Wagner


I have been reading three books at a time and found that each had its moments. I waited until a week to review them to let them simmer for awhile. Waiting so long changed my outlook. Unfortunately, it lowered two of them in my recommendations. So here we go.

“An Idiot for All Seasons” by David Feherty

Someone wrote recently that there has never been a good novel about golf nor a great humor book on golf. I feel that "The Greatest Game Ever Played," even though not a novel, reads like one and is a fine book. Feherty's effort challenges the humor part of the allegation as I found myself almost laughing out loud at some of his stories. He writes even better than he speaks, as I enjoy his comments during a televised golf tournament very much.

While reading I thought that this person really has a great view on life and seemed to be enjoying himself. About halfway through I read a recent article in Golf magazine about Feherty's private life and his battle with alcohol and depression. That put a different slant on his writing for me, and I ended up with a better appreciation for his ability as a communicator.

Feherty just has a unique knack for using the written – and spoken – word. I couldn’t read a lot of pages at one time; it was more fun to read a few pages and savor them. When you read a lot at one time, all of his metaphors may get boring and some of the humor is lost.

To me “An Idiot for All Seasons” is a good, but not great, read. Several days after finishing it, I don’t remember a lot of the specifics, but know I enjoyed it.

“An Idiot for All Seasons,” by David Feherty, Rugged Land, 2005, 273 pages, $24.95 (hardcover), ISBN 1590710606

Every Shot Must Have A Purpose” by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott

"The excellence of anyone's game depends on self-control," wrote Alex Morrison, author of the 1932 instructional, “A New Way To Better Golf." This is one of many quotes from Nilsson and Marriott’s book, which indicates a lot about their philosophy for proper preparation before swinging a club.

After reading this, I’m not sure the authors have any new ideas; mostly this is new packaging for philosophies published earlier. For example, we all try to visualize a shot before hitting the ball. Here, they want you to enter the "think box" before address.

The book is also just a little too "religious" for me. It wants the player to have all aspects of his or her life under control. It’s as if you must not let other factors bother your game. This is fine if you’re a touring pro. But I’m playing for the enjoyment of the game and the friendships, not to play and practice as if a future U.S. Open was on the line.

That said, the book could be a nice reference for a young, serious sort hoping to make a living on the tour or to see a rapid improvement with their game. I think of it as being a book Ben Hogan would have enjoyed. But I don’t want to live my life as Hogan did his.

The authors talk about having fun. But such a suggestion seems to be forced. I certainly didn’t get the feeling that they would be happy if you strayed from their program.

If this book was the size of Penick's “Little Red Book,” I think it could have said more as some of the ideas are very repetitious. It had me entering the "think box" and the "hit box" so often that I wanted to just go out to my "sand box" and play.

Please understand this book is not for me due to its rigid approach. I certainly couldn’t picture Walter Hagen enjoying it, but Hogan would. So, if you like a menu to golf and life, then this book may be for you.

“Every Shot Must Have A Purpose,” by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, Gotham Books, 2005, $22.50 (hardcover), ISBN 1592401570

Back Swings: A Golf Omnibus,” by James Y. Bartlett

This is a collection of Bartlett’s essays, most of which appeared in Forbes magazine’s “FYI.” These pieces are relaxing to read as they discuss golf history and tidbits about interesting players, courses and people involved in the game.

I often found myself leaving Nilsson and Marriott’s book after only a few pages to read one of Bartlett’s articles, just to refresh my mind and take me to a more comfortable place. I’ve read him for years and have always enjoyed his work.

I did not read all of the pieces in the book, and thus didn’t have a chance to read new thoughts or reread old ones, which I’d forgotten anyway. Bartlett’s style is relaxed but informative. I’d buy this just to read every now and then as it’s just plain fun. Thanks for the break Mr. Bartlett.

Back Swings: A Golf Omnibus,” by James Y. Bartlett, Yeoman House, 478 pages, $19.95, ISBN 0975467654

Dr. John Wagner has been a Seattle dentist for 37 years. He’s been published in several dental journals as well as had several articles appear in the turf magazine for Pacific Northwest golf course superintendents. John has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Washington Business School for several years and as a guest lecturer for several dental societies. Dr. Wagner is the co-designer (with Steve Shea of the Berger Partnership) of a golf course in Japan that cost over $120 million and was built by Wadsworth Golf Construction. He’s a Past President of the Washington State Golf Association and the current President of the Pacific Coast Golf Association. John is currently a Member of the USGA Green Section and a Director of the WSGA.