Does Anyone Read Golf Books ?

10th October 2017

Does anyone read golf books anymore – and if so what ?

These questions came in to my mind after a sequence of surprising events last week.

It all started when I read a review of a book in The Sunday Times on 1st October. I then walked into Foyles in Birmingham a few days later and purchased a copy, paying the full cover price of £14.99. If this wasn’t odd enough I then proceeded to read all 310 pages within a matter of days.

This was most unusual for me in that I rarely touch a newspaper nowadays, almost never pay the full price for a book and rarely read let alone finish one so quickly. I also can’t remember the last time I read a book which wasn’t about golf.

The book in question was ‘The Diary Of A Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell.

Shaun is the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown which for those of you who don’t know is a ‘book town’ in Galloway, south west Scotland (that’s the bit below Trump Turnberry on the golf map). It is a well known outlet in the book trade as it is Scotland’s largest second hand bookshop. As the title suggests the book tells the story of Shaun’s life in the shop. The actual period he covers here being the 12 months between February 2014 and  January 2015.


Given what I have already said you won’t be surprised to learn that I thoroughly enjoyed Shaun’s stories of life in the book trade. I recommend it to you.

I like collecting things and golf has proven to be a fertile ground for such endeavours over many years. It first started for me with cigarette cards and moved onto programmes. It’s now books, hence why I decided to buy and read Shaun’s book.

I have always liked books even though I wouldn’t consider myself a great reader of them. It was therefore only a matter of time before I started to accumulate golf books. I simply couldn’t stop myself.

In the early pages of The Diary Of A Bookseller Shaun tells a story which got me thinking about golf books even more. The salient bits are quoted below: –

Friday 28th February

This morning I went to Callum’s to collect thirty boxes I’d been storing in his garage. This largely consists of a collection of 500 books on golf which I have been trying to get rid of for over a year……The books in his garage were from a collection that I bought from a house in Manchester last year. I didn’t have space on the shelves to put it out, and the warehouse was full, so when Callum offered his garage as a temporary store, I gratefully accepted.

Thursday 6th March

In the morning I unloaded the boxes of books about golf that I picked up from Callum’s on Saturday. I’ve tried to sell them on eBay as a job lot twice, but with no luck, so I will probably put them into auction in Dumfries once I have checked whether there’s anything in there that’s worth listing online.

I do remember seeing this listing on eBay and it was a reasonable collection at a fair price. I did think about bidding but recall being put off by the fact I already had some of them and that their location was a little too remote for me (I recall ‘Dumfries’ was listed). I would have wanted to personally inspect them before paying out and simply couldn’t be bothered to drive up to Scotland to do so. I assume selling big collections of any genre is difficult so I am not surprised that Shaun found 500 books on golf hard to pass on. Unfortunately he doesn’t go on say what actually happened to them or how much he ultimately sold the collection for.

Nevertheless his story got me thinking as I continued to read the book. When was the last time someone told me about or recommended a golf book to me ? Is the literature of golf poorer than other sports ? Why does cricket seem to have book after book published whilst golf appears to languish ?

Last week a second hand bookseller said to me at her counter: ‘I don’t sell many golf books – maybe all the golfers are too busy practicing to read ?’ Perhaps there is some truth in this – after all golf is one of the few sports that can be played alone – but to be honest I doubt it.

In recent years I have built up a reasonable collection – at least in my eyes – of around 800 golf books by trawling eBay and visiting charity and second hand bookshops in every destination I happen to pass through. I am careful as to how much I pay and as to the condition I will accept. I like all golf books except instructional ones, unless they are antiquarian or rare to use trade parlance.

However, I have to admit that I have struggled to find or make the time to read as many of these books as I should have done. I have probably read less than 20 cover to cover. I hope to get to them all eventually but know the reality is I never will.

The Japanese have a word to describe my affliction – ‘ Tsundoku’. It means the art of buying books but never reading them.

I guess as the famous American golf book collector Joseph S.F. Murdoch once said ‘the joy of collecting goes beyond the great pleasure of reading the text’.

I have often dreamed of a life as a specialist bricks and mortar golf book seller in my retirement even though I know there must be little or no money to be made in such a pursuit (even online). I am sure I would buy more books than I would sell if my ambitions were realised.

I like the pursuit of golf books and I like surrounding myself with them – even though my study now seems to have a permanent musty smell (which I believe to be solely book related) – but the time and effort required to read them just seems to elude me.

So the reason for mentioning this is to establish: –

1) how rare my golf book buying (but not reading) affliction is and whether I should seek treatment for it ?

2) whether you still read golf books ?; and

3) if so which ones you enjoy most ?

All replies will be gratefully received in the Comments section below or via Twitter (which come to think of it is the main reason why I struggle to find the time to read newspapers and books anymore).


Copyright © 2014-2017, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

One thought on “Does Anyone Read Golf Books ?

  1. I love reading golf books but mainly those published within the last 20 yrs or so. Writers like James Dodson, John Feinstein, Curt Sampson, Mark Frost, Kevin Cook, Lorne Rubenstein, Roget McStravick, Paul Daley,Neil Sagebiel etc make it so easy. Best starting point is the annual winners of the USGA Herb Warren Wind Award and work from there. There is such a rich vein to work from.

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