Getting out onto the golf course isn’t always possible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your skills. As a golfer, you’re never done learning, absorbing information, or making the small adjustments that can make all the difference.
Thankfully, you can still build your skills by reading some of the best golf books. The information contained within may not fix your short game or add yards to your drive, but it will present concepts and fundamentals that you can carry with you onto the links. The game of golf is every bit of a mental game as it is a physical one, and these books can give you the extra edge in both departments.
Reading isn’t for everyone. Research shows that about a quarter of Americans don’t read a single book all year. Perhaps that’s because there’s so much content on the web, or maybe it’s because people aren’t finding the books that interest them.
But whether you’re a golfer, aspiring caddy, or just a faithful PGA Tour enthusiast, many of the best golf books written are timeless and contain ideas and strategies you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Here are some of the best golf books to put on your reading list.
First published in 1995, “Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect” is often considered must-read in the world of best golf books. However, it’s not about technique or strategy. It’s all about the psychology of the game.
As a professor of sports psychology at the University of Virginia for over 20 years and named "Godfather of Sports Psychology for Golf” by Golf World, Dr. Bob Rotella has been diving into the mindset and psychology that drives golfers and athletes to excel in athletics.
Rather than focus on what you do to hit a clean shot, it addresses the idea that a sound mental approach is equally as important. It also centers on the idea that a “perfect round” is entirely in the eye of the beholder and that such an idea may not exist altogether. Can you really hit a hole-in-one on every hole of a par-3 golf course? Probably not.
If you’ve had a case of the yips or you’re “in your own head” about a drive or what golf club to use, this is the book that can calm your nerves.
A former pro golfer and coach of players like U.S. Open winner Tom Kite and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, Harvey Penick was inducted posthumously into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002. But during the later years of his life, Penick penned what is the top-selling, best book ever written on golf.
In “Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teaching From a Lifetime of Golf,” Penick has a knack for turning intermediate and advanced techniques into simple ideas. Sayings such as “take dead aim” and “swing the club like a weed cutter” are attributed to him—two ideologies that even professional golfers have added to their mindset.
Much of the source material is from scribblings and notes that Penick made during his time as the head golf pro at Austin Country Club, but it’s all been edited and condensed into short, concise, and easy-to-read chapters that you can immediately apply to your game.
Sports movies have the tendency to border on maudlin, but when you pare it down to the true story, you uncover stories of perseverance and inspiration. In “The Greatest Game Ever Played”—which reads like a Hollywood script—you learn the story of 20-year-old amateur golfer Francis Ouimet.
Ouimet grew up just across from one of the most famous golf courses in the world even today—Brookline Country Club. He worked as a caddie, but decided to enter the 1913 U.S. Open, which was open to all competitors at the time.
Tied with two British pro golfers after four rounds, Ouimet played a legendary 18-hole playoff to win the U.S. Open by a whopping five strokes—and all with a 10-year-old caddie by his side. The victory propelled Ouimet into stardom, and he’s largely credited with popularizing golf in America at the beginning of the 20th century as a result.
It’s a story of overcoming adversity, being an underdog, and believing in yourself. As a golfer, it’s the inspiration you need to play your best golf game.
How do you teach the best golfer in the world to become even better? Ask Hank Haney. In his book “The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods,” Haney discusses how Tiger Woods was always worried about “the big miss”—a shot that would derail an entire round. By teaching Woods how to improve his swing, Haney helped coach Woods to six major championships in six years—a stunning achievement by any stretch of the imagination.
Beyond the story itself, you can use Haney’s main idea as a golf swing coach: “My philosophy as a teacher is to teach my students to become their own best teacher by getting them to understand the flight of the golf ball and how it relates to the swing, with emphasis on swinging the golf club on their own correct swing plane.”
Pro Tip: If you want to dive deeper into Tiger’s game, check out Tiger Woods’ “How I Play Golf,” which dives into the psychological, physical, and metaphysical aspects of Tiger’s game.
If you struggle with your short game or have no idea what a Texas wedge is, “Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible” is just that—the definitive collection of how to hit out of the sand or chip from the fairway when you’re close to the green.
Still, it’s more than just a golf instruction book to improve your short game, it’s about learning how to learn the game. Understanding the technique of your short game swings, the goal behind a shot, and how to practice are just parts of the equation. Pelz teaches you how to learn your short game, and eventually, how to apply these ideas to your practice and the course.
Perfect for beginners up to advanced players, this best-seller isn’t just a golf writer speaking of first-hand knowledge; it’s one of the best golf books to become a true student of the game.
If you’re searching for a bit of applicable inspiration, “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” should become a part of your library. Penned in 1957 by one of golf’s most legendary players, one of the best golf books remains timeless in its approach to a golf swing.
Through five illustrated chapters, Hogan describes every aspect of a golf swing, including:
If you’re a visual learner, this book is a worthy ally, allowing you to make every shot count whether you’re in the tee box or on the driving range. And just in case you’re still on the fence, Hogan truly believed that any golfer with average coordination could break 80 with a bit of practice. Just let that sink in.
The mass media loves Tiger Woods, but even he’s still three majors shy of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 championship title. That stunning record may never be broken, and even if you never saw Nicklaus play, you can still play like him with his self-composed book “Golf My Way.”
Originally published in 1974, “Golf My Way” includes every aspect of Nicklaus’ game in his own words, ranging from putts to drives to mental approach. With over two million copies sold, it’s a great golf book for people of all ages and talent levels.
In the early 1990s, golf writer John Feinstein spent a month with various golfers on the PGA Tour, providing some of the greatest insight into the world of pro golf. During his adventures, he covered Paul Azinger’s return from a bout with cancer, Nick Price’s prowess with the putter, and Davis Love III’s extraordinary play at the Ryder Cup. Once he returned home, he compiled his findings into arguably one of the best golf books that dive deep into the mindset, drama, and backdrop of the tour.
But what he discovered was not what you’d expect—there’s a fine line between greatness and failure on the golf course. As Feinstein describes it, “One week you've discovered the secret to the game; the next week you never want to play it again.”
If you want to break away from the nonfiction aspect of the best golf books, “Golf in the Kingdom” is a viable alternative. First published in 1971 and subsequently translated into 19 languages, the book chronicles the story of a young man on a layover in Scotland who meets a mystical golfer.
Over a 24-hour period, the golfer teaches him about the game of golf and spirituality and wraps up in a satisfying denouement of golf, mysticism, and the link between the two.
Although video-based platforms like YouTube have become the go-to instructional option for the avid amateur golfer, books have their rightful place just beside them. The benefits of reading one of the best golf books go far beyond your game—unplugging regularly has been proven to increase concentration and productivity—two things that can go a long way toward becoming a better linksman.
So choose one of the books above, crack the spine, and uncover a wealth of knowledge that many golfers never utilize. You just might find that your strategy, mental approach, and technique improve more than other methods.