On Par: The Everyday Golfer’s Survival Guide

by Bill Pennington

Inspired by his New York Times weekly column "On Par," Bill Pennington has created a delightful compendium of all things golf that no golfer—whether a weekend duffer or a PGA pro—can afford to miss. Part instruction, part education, part hilarity, On Par is the go-to guide for the twenty-first-century golfer.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780544002173
  • ISBN-10: 0544002172
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication Date: 05/07/2013
  • Carton Quantity: 24

Also available in:

About the Book
About the Author
Excerpts
Reviews
  • About the Book
    “No one can completely cover the game of golf like Bill Pennington and no book can comprehensively tell the story of the sport with the same wit, wisdom and knowledge like On Par. "—Jim Nantz, CBS Sports

    Bill Pennington, the voice of the everyday golfer, has traveled the globe in search of golf’s essentials—those basic principles, those ultimate truths (and, who are we kidding, any trick or quick fix he can pick up along the way) that will improve anyone’s game. He has consulted elite golf instructors as well as countless caddies, groundskeepers, parking lot attendants, and bartenders. He has played rounds with Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, and Justin Timberlake. He has spoken with psychiatrists, economists, and Zen masters. On a particularly bad outing, he even discoursed on the fickleness of golf with a wise raccoon.

    In On Par, Pennington distills this wisdom in an insightful guide to the game. From equipment to the language of golf, from camaraderie to the short-game/long-game debate, Pennington informs and entertains readers as he gets to the essence of the game, including that Holy Grail, the hole in one. Part instruction, part therapy, and shot through with Pennington’s trademark wit and humor, this is a book for everyone who has felt the game’s distinct pull—and slice.

    “A phenomenal guide . . . As all golfers know, the sport is about more than being able to hit a good shot and this book takes you through the journey, arming you with everything you need to know.”—Annika Sorenstam

    “If you like golf, you’ll like [this book] . . . On Par blends practical advice for beginners . . . golf history . . . trivia . . . and Pennington’s entertaining dispatches from out on the course.”—NPR’s Only a Game

    Subjects

    Related Subjects

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts

    INTRODUCTION

    They say golf is like life, but don’t believe them.
    Golf is more complicated than that.
    —Gardner Dickinson, longtime American tour pro


    I BEGAN PLAYING golf seriously after college and was soon invited to an upscale private country club in Connecticut. As a former caddie, I knew how to dress the part and how to act, but my game was barely suitable for a dusty municipal course, let alone one of the more challenging layouts in the Northeast.
       So, it was not a surprise that by the third hole I found myself in the deep rough a few feet behind a slender tree. I tried to chip out to the fairway but instead hammered my ball directly into the trunk of the tree before me. The ball ricocheted backward and struck me square in the forehead.
       I hadn’t hit the ball very hard, so I was mostly dazed by the impact. And, like many a beginner, I was frustrated. With an exasperated “That’s unbelievable,” I casually tossed the pitching wedge I was holding backward over my head. I didn’t fling it; I just lofted it in the air.
       The club lodged in the low-lying limbs of a pine tree about 10 feet off the ground.
       Now this was getting embarrassing.
       Fortunately, my hosts at the club—nice people, but they were my elders and they certainly expected me to behave—were busy on the opposite side of the fairway looking for an errant shot in the woods. No one had seen my clown act. I was alone and unnoticed on my side of the hole.
       I quickly grabbed another club from my bag, and since the tree branch with the pitching wedge was almost close enough to touch, I tossed the second club at the wedge, hoping to knock it free.
       If you play golf, you know what happened next. The second club caught in the tree, too.
       Now, with great haste, I drove my golf cart under the tree limb and stood on the back of the cart so I could shake the branch with one hand as I smacked it with a third club held in my other hand. It was at this moment that the cart with my gracious hosts pulled up beside me.
       And there I was, well dressed and well mannered, except I was standing on a golf cart using both hands to extricate not one but two of my golf clubs that had somehow ended up suspended in a tree.
       I turned and tried to smile.
       “What’s that big red welt on your forehead?” one of my hosts asked.
       “I hit myself with my ball,” I answered.
       You might wonder how an early golf day like that could have led to the next two decades of (mostly) happy golfing. I admit, at that moment, it’s not what I would have predicted.
       But then, I didn’t expect my hosts to break out laughing. I didn’t expect to laugh, too, trying to explain myself. And I did not expect them to then recount their own stories of golf misfortune, stories that might not have ended up with them shaking a tree for mislaid clubs but were nonetheless in the category of “the things this game will make you do.”
       So it was at that moment, perhaps for the first time, that I felt like a golfer.
       Does being a golfer mean enduring clumsy embarrassment? Well, yes, it does sometimes, but that wasn’t the point. Being a golfer is to join a tribe with an elaborate set of tenets and canons, one with its own mores and protocols and no definable mission other than to chase a little ball into a hole.
       It is a silly game, somewhat childish, a good walk spoiled, as Mark Twain said. It is all those things. So why do we love this game?
       The allure of golf is its simplicity, which leads to a thousand complexities. It is sophisticated because it is subtle. It is perfect because it is wholly and forever imperfect.
       I once asked David Duval, the 2001 British Open champion, what makes golf so difficult and yet so appealing. He said, “It’s all the time to think between shots.”
       I asked the great Phil Mickelson the same question and he said, “It’s all the choices you have.”
       I asked Jack Nicklaus and he replied, “Because you must master so many elements, including yourself.”
       I asked the golf commentator and author David Feherty and he said, “Because it’s a ridiculous game and it’s our fault for playing it.”
       I was tempted to ask Feherty if he had ever lost two clubs in a tree on one hole but realized it wasn’t necessary. He would understand.
       This is a book that speaks to both the exultant and troubled souls of golfers everywhere, men and women like me who are transfixed by the game and long to understand it. Golf is an endeavor of hope, fear, disappointment, glee, perseverance, abandonment, unrelenting gratification and unexpected reward, certain punishment, integrity, cheating, camaraderie, isolation, technology, and oneness with nature, all governed by a stifling set of ancient rules frequently undone by an unseen yet officially recognized karma called “rub of the green.”
       We, the golf tribe, take our golf with eyes wide open—the better to let tears of frustration and of joy flow freely.
       I have played golf seriously for the last thirty years and have covered and written about the game throughout that time as well. For the last several years, I have written a weekly golf column in the New York Times called “On Par,” which has let me come face-to-face with all the simplicities and complexities of golf in its many arenas. But newspaper columns are brief. A book allows us to examine golf’s length and breadth, to propose and ponder solutions to the seemingly unsolvable. Because golf is much more than the quest to master the actual game. Golf transports the player to a foreign land and culture with its own set of mores and protocols. It is a world with quizzical and ever-changing weaponry and settings of great beauty but treacherous hazards.
       Golf is often likened to a battle of self, a crucible of temptation and honor, and it is, but even that seems an understatement since golf means learning to deal with maddening playing partners, changing weather conditions, astonishing inequities, and ugly clothes, not the least of which is hopelessly goofy shoes.
       Then there are the basic steps of learning the game and the behemoth of golf instruction. Everything about this helpful community of teachers is inherently confusing, which might explain why there are several hundred theories on the correct way to learn golf and another thousand theories on how to get better at it. The reality is that the golfing indoctrination never truly ends. The game even has its own ever-evolving language.
       And yet, there is no more dedicated tribe than golfers. If they are not exactly the definition of contentment, they are hearty and resolute. If love means never having to say you’re sorry, then golf means never having to say you’re satisfied.
       Why do golfers say that it never rains on the golf course? Because even when it does, there is nowhere else they would rather be. Why do few serious golfers quit the game? Because they are convinced they are one keen golf tip, or one discerning golf book, away from learning the secret to good golf for good. Why do presidents of the United States play golf? Because it makes running the free world seem easy.
       In the pages th...

  • Reviews
    "No one can completely cover the game of golf like Bill Pennington and no book can comprehensively tell the story of the sport with the same wit, wisdom and knowledge like On Par: The Everyday Golfer's Survival Guide."
    -- Jim Nantz, CBS Sports

    "As a regular reader of Bill's On Par column in The New York Times, I was wondering what fertile golf terrain could possibly be left for him to farm? I soon found out his surplus was even better. And I know he can dig with the best of them. I played a round of golf with him!"
    -- Dan Hicks, NBC Sports Golf Host

    "Bill Pennington takes his first-hand experience as a golfer, as well as his years of getting to know professionals, and delivers a phenomenal guide to the sport I love so much. He does a great job of breaking down the fundamentals of golf to something everybody can enjoy and understand. As all golfers know, the sport is about more than being able to hit a good shot and this book takes you through the journey, arming you with everything you need to know."
    --Annika Sorenstam

    "Put a copy of Bill Pennington's On Par on your shelf and another copy in your golf bag. Often funny, always smart, Pennington zeroes in on the essence of a royally crazy old game."
    --Kevin Cook, author of Titanic Thompson and Tommy's Honor

    "One of the great joys during the golf season is reading Bill Pennington’s golf page, 'On Par,' in The New York Times each Monday morning. Imagine that – a whole page devoted to all things golf! My heart be still. And now we have this wonderful book that’s much more than my Monday morning read. Trust me, if you’re an avid golfer, you’ll devour each and every word."
    -- Martin Davis, golf historian and author, The American Golfer"On Par is the ideal guide for golfers who don’t hit their pitching wedge 160 yards, get paid for wearing white belts, or hang out with Las Vegas cocktail waitresses. And it wouldn’t do those other guys any harm, either."
    – David Owen, author of My Usual Game
×