Golf is a sport with quirky traditions and customs like no other. In Preferred Lies by Charles Happel and Mike Clayton the history of the sport is covered thoroughly. It is a series of quite brief, easy to read, chapters that covers the lot; famous tournaments, players, courses and meltdowns.
The effort that goes into maintaining the image of Augusta National Golf Club is well known, but this book outlines it in detail; and it’s one huge operation. All shot data since 2002 is stored in a database and drives subtle changes to the course each year. The Mission Statement, for want of a better term, is that the winning total is between 8 and 10 under par. That’s a pretty small range for a 72 hole tournament but more often than not it is met.
All of the greens have been equipped with an underground Sub-Air hydronic fan system, and under the sand in each bunker face a cloth material is placed to stop the underlying “dirty” sand migrating into the vivid white sand.
And the pin placement on the 16th encourages golfers to go for a hole in one and, again, it works.
And pity the guy who is stationed upstream to intercept and rubbish that may be floating down.
Golf is, of course, a sport strongly associated with elite white Anglo-Saxon protestants. However, the chapter on the playing etiquette in Japan shows how they have embraced the sport, and its formalities and etiquette r; while making it their own.
An example of this is in the language; Naisu paa means Nice Par; naisu shotto is naice shot, and it’s not hard to work out what naisu patto means.
The courses are not as challenging as in other countries. The philosophy there is that life is hectic and stressful enough; golf should be an escape from all of that. They also have an almost universal rule insisting that players eat a meal after nine holes.
Also unusual is the Pine Valley course in the USA. Widely regarded as the world’s toughest course, yet it is little known as it doesn’t have the spectator capacity to hold big tournaments. There is no rough as such at Pine Valley; if you don’t land it on the fairway the ball ends up in either sand or trees.
Yet despite all this the clubrooms lack the preciousness or snobbery of other courses. When there are rain delays players set up putting or chipping competitions in the clubhouse.
From a New Zealand angle, there is a Steve Williams chapter.
The evolution of the Ryder Cup, given recent developments, is an interesting one.
Preferred Lies would be a good read for someone taking up the sport, and a good test for those who think they know everything about the history of the sport; and there are plenty of those people.
It is also a book that can be read in random order; which might be a challenge for the target market.