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Key Putting Books -- Reviews, Recommendations & Links
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If the book is listed as Out-of-print and is not apparently available, send me email and I'll be glad to try and find a copy for you. (Hey, I used to own a bookstore!)
[See also my Top Ten Current Putting Books Listmania at Amazon.com.]
Updated July 29, 2007 4:34 AM

Thomas Nikolai,

The Superintendent's Guide to Controlling Putting Green Speed (John Wiley & Sons 2004)

Let renowned expert Thomas Nikolai bring you up to speed on establishing and maintaining the best green speeds for your course. He covers it all: playability, environmental and weather factors, mowing, turfgrass species selection... every consideration that influences how fast and how far a given putt will go. Dr. Nikolai -- turfgrass academic specialist at Michigan State and green speed specialist for The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America -- distills a wealth of research and first-hand experience into easy-to-follow advice on how to deal with the common problems associated with green speed, techniques on how to find the ideal speed for your greens, and the correct use of current technology, including the Stimpmeter. His non-technical language makes the information accessible whether you're a golf course superintendent or a student.

Walter Ostroske & John Devaney,

Two-putt Greens in 18 Days: A How-to Guide for the Weekend Golfer (Berkeley Pub. 1992).

Paperback, 1223 pp. $8.00. A simple book for amateurs who want want a basic plan to improve putting, written for weekend golfers. Pretty sound, but a few quirks. Not bad for the price and suited to the intended audience.

Steve Page,

Putting Secrets: Weekend Golfer (St. Martin's 1997), 144 pp.

Paperback, 122 pp. $9.56. This is a book by a weekend golfer for weekend golfers. Covers the conventional basics pretty well, with decent drawings to illustrate the text.


Arnold Palmer & Peter Dobereiner,

Arnold Palmer's Complete Book of Putting (Atheneum 1986).

Hardback, 163 pp. Out of print. This book is obviously written by Dobereiner, with only oversight input from Palmer, but the book is probably better for that. Dobereiner basically throws in everything about putting, so the underlying technique explained is somewhat obscured but nonetheless laced with valuable insights, especially about the relationship between technique and "instinct." All together, a real gem of a book. More about putting than Palmer.

Highly recommended.

James S., Dr. Payne and Larry W. Wagster

PEOPLEWISE Putting: Get Your Brain in the Game (Ceshore Publishing 2005), 192 pp.

Joe Parent,

Zen Putting: Mastering the Mental Game on the Greens

(Gotham Books 2007).

Hardback, 207 pp. $22.50. Yet another "sports psych" inside the putting green ropes .... While he purports to limit the discussion to the "mental game," Parent inevitably slops over into technique, where he is just repeating the same old story that people came up with about these mysteries years ago. For example, pages 84-88 concern aiming, and Parent has no useful knowledge to share, but he shares it anyway. Similar tosh riddles the book, about "gravity" ("We can think of gravity as an ally instead of an enemy") and distance control (putt to the fringe and "guess" whether the stroke was too long or too short, and then "When you look to see how it turned out, the visual feedback lets you know intuitively how much bigger or smaller a swing to make on the next one."), and similar tough-nut issues that have next to nothing to do with Zen or sports psychology. At points, it appears that Parent has been raiding my kitchen for his teachings, without attribution (e.g., compare his up tiers and down, pages 141-145, with my prior article Putting Green Tiers are Taller than You Think and my "Intuitively Adding Sections of a Putt" in the ZipTips section for Touch) -- more power to him. Other than these mistaken and ill-advised forays into actual technique, Parent does a useful job of making SOME Zen mental control approaches compatible with good putting techniques (e.g., breathing and perspective) but not others (i.e., "soft gaze"). He should probably read James Austin's magnificant books about Zen and western neuroscience, Zen and the Brain (MIT 1999), 872 pp, and Zen-Brain Reflections (MIT 2006), 592 pp, which greatly outshine Parent's meager suggestions. Altogether, Parent and his "Chogyam Trungpa schtick" is not too hurtful if you don't take it seriously, and just suck a tidbit or two out. But in general it is not a good idea to think that something "Zen" is needed, when competence and paying attention is really about all there is to mental control. There are NO Zen "tricks" that anyone should try to learn, as this is a goofy dead-end street. Relax the eyes and jaw and use certain breathing techniques and stay in the present with perceptions of the body and the world, yes, but that does not require "Zen" packaging. The book has the unfortunate "look and feel" of one of the insubstantial offerings by Dr Bob, so now we have Dr Joe. A bit too faddish for my tastes.

Unenthusiastically Recommended.

 

Willie Park Jr.,

The Art of Putting (J&J Gray & Co. 1920)

Hardback, 47 pp. Out of print, rare. Park Jr. was a great putter, and his book is devoted exclusively to putting. Park's father Willie Park Sr. was a great champion of the Open and a clubmaker of Musselburgh, Scotland. As a lad, Park and his boyhood pals practiced putting endlessly on the Musselburgh "putting clock" until daylight gave out; then they moved into his father's shop on the brick floor, where they had scratched out small dimples in the brick as "holes" and set candles around and continued putting. Park gave us the saying, "A man who can putt is a match for anyone." Creator of the goose-neck putter abnd designer of numerous courses. Many finer points of putting are already present here. Definitely worth reading!

Recommended.

Park, Willie , The Art of Putting ( Edinburgh : J. & J. Gray 1920)

Dave Pelz and Rick Mastroni

Putt Like the Pros: Dave Pelz's Scientific Way to Improving Your Stroke, Reading Greens, and Lowering Your Score (Harper 1989).

Paperback, 224 pp. $13.00. Pelz presents a sketch of some of the physics for putter-ball impact dynamics (none on hole interaction) and uses robots and gizmos to ascertain what he believes are "optimal" techniques, mostly from something akin to an "engineering" perspective. Recognized as a guru, mostly through speaking and Golf Channel appearances, but relies too heavily on mechanistic formulations of technique that amount to bandaids without addressing the root processes of targeting and stroke control. Pretty good for helping bad golfers stop using bad technique, but not so good about helping accomplished putters know how optimal techniques function. Some of his research is pretty suspect from a scientific point of view, especially his claim to have proved that 17 inches is the best go-by speed for all putts on all types of greens. His original research proved just the opposite, but he never mentions the published article, in Golf Digest, July 1977, pages 52-55, where he said there is NOT any one optimal go-by speed, and the speed varies from 5 inches to 40 inches depending upon grass type and playing condition. Most of the other stuff here is derivative from others (without attribution or acknowledgement), including ball balance and roundness (Bob Charles in the 1960s and Golf Digest in the early 1970s), the "lumpy doughnut" (Golf Digest's "volcano" in the early 1970s), pro putting stats (Cochran and Stobbs, Search for the Perfect Swing and PGA studies), the TruRoller (Edward Stimp and the Stimpmeter from the 1930s and later), the shoulder pendulum stroke (Bob Charles, George Archer, others, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s), and so on. His physics is handled much better by Daisch, The Physics of Ball Games (discussing "true roll" mechanics of impact, and ball-putter interactions including face angle deflections). Fundamentally, Pelz dresses up a lot of reasonably sound putting advice from others in his own pseudo-scientific garb and writes about "discoveries." Most of this is aimed at the bad putter, to stop using bad techniques. But fundamentally, apart from helping promote the shoulder stroke, Pelz has little to offer in terms of HOW problems of putting are best solved or accomplished. He relies almost exclusively upon training aids and a seriously stale concept of motor learning by rote repetition that was mostly left behind by sports science in the 1970s and 1980s.

Dave Pelz and James Frank,

Dave Pelz's Putting Bible (Harper & Row 2000).

Hardback, 394 pp., $30.00. As the second volume in Pelz's "Scoring Game Series" after the successful Short Game Bible (1999), this putting book is a bit flat by comparison. The "bible" refers to Pelz's personal journal of learning about putting. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have advanced the ball much since the 1986 book, Putt Like the Pros. The Bible is essentially warmed over PLTP, with next to nothing of significance new. (James Frank is the editor in chief of Golf magazine, and has his own putting book - see above.) Pelz makes a great deal out of statistics, but these are statistics compiled from amateur golfers attending his short game schools, so they reflect that sample population. It's a little bothersome to read so much scientifically attired verbiage simply to learn that bad putters would do better if they used a pendulum stroke and bought Pelz's training devices to try to fashion one. And that is about all the book really offers when you get down to the brass tacks of wanting to know "how" to putt your best. Pelz's answer is repeatedly: Buy my training aids and have faith. Not good enough. It's a pity, because in some of his Golf Magazne articles, Pelz displays the occasional talent for getting down to brass tacks, once he gets past explaining all his research efforts.

Dave Pelz,

Dave Pelz's 10 Minutes a Day to Better Putting [ILLUSTRATED] (Doubleday 2002)

Publisher: "Crisp, easy-to-follow photographs illustrate ten-minute drills, accompanied by explanatory text on the facing page."

 

PGA Professional

Putting (HarperCollinsWillow 1992), 160 pp.

Tony Piparo & Steve Kaluzne,

Master the Art and Science of Putting: Training the Eyes, Mind and Body (Sports Performance Centers of Am. 1999).

Spiral bound, approx. 100 pages. $29.95. Dr. Tony Piparo ("Doctor Tee"), sports psychologist and golf instructor, and Dr. Stephen Kaluzne, practicing optometrist and sports vision consultant, are definitely in the forefront of putting science by emphasizing visual and brain processes involved in putting, along with pertinent doses of good old-fashioned sports psychology for stress management and attention / arousal control. Much better than Craig Farnsworth on visual processes. Dr. Piparo did his PhD on putting physiology and it was awarded the American Psychological Society's highest award for that year. He has collaborated with some other leading sports psychologists in the Golf world, including Dr. Robert Christina, Dean of the School of Health and Human performance at UNCG and frequent lecturer at PGA Conventions and top golf academies, and Dr. Debra Crews, Arizona State's resident expert on the neurophysiology of putting and golf-related sports sciences. Dr. Piparo conducted a test of 1,000 golfers to assess putterface alignment abilities, and found that over 90% of all golfers, pros included, seriously misaim the putterface on putts as short as 6 feet. These guys are serious putting gurus!

Also Tony Piparo, Kingdom of the Tiger (Peak Performance 2005).

Highly recommended.

Kermit Ramsay

Drive for Show and Putt for Dough (Sports Illustrated 1998) (spiral notebook) 6 chapters, 150 pp.


Ray, Edward, Driving, Approaching, Putting (New York: Robert M. McBride, 1923)
 

Nicholas Rosa,

Integrating Mind & Body: NLP for Better Golf - Putting (Peak Performance Psychology for Golfers 1998) (Audio Cassette).



Bob Rosburg,

The Putter Book (Golf Digest 1964).

Hardback, 125 pp. Vol 3 of trilogy of golf instruction books. Rosburg, now a TV commentator, was an excellent putter, one of the best in his day, and his book is one of the best. His style was a little unconventional but his appreciation for fundamentals is superb. Rosburg currently is an on-course golf commentator usually for the Senior Tour and also gives tips in Miller Barber et al., Top Tips from Senior Pros (Simon & Schuster 1989) and in the Wide World of Golf video series from the 1990s. (His stroke animation posted on this website comes from this book, which at the time was designed as a "flipbook" animation! It doesn't get any cooler than a flipbook!)

Highly recommended.

Bob Rotella & Bob Cullen,

Putting Out of Your Mind (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2001).

Hardcover. 24pp. $18.40. Same title as the audio tape. Uses anecdotes to line out key mental aspects of typical professional golfer mindsets for putting, such as confidence, forgetting bad putts, selective memory, target focus, staying in the moment, intending to make every putt, and similar psychological tips. Psychology is no substitute for competence, but still, some people need a good dose of psychology until their skills and commitment to trustworthy procedures reduces the need for crisis management. Rotella describes mental states and patterns of thought used by very successful golfers, but these states are engendered and result from a skills development history that underlies these psychological patterns. It is not really sufficient to describe the end-result mental patterns and advise golfers to "get your mind like this." Still, the anecdotes, especially those concerning Bobby Locke, are historically interesting and memorable, and help the astute golfer somewhat as landmarks while the golfer finds his own way into the excellence of competence.

Putting Out of Your Mind ( Audio Tape)

Putting Like a Genius (2002) (Audio Tape)

Recommended with reservation.

RE: Golf is not a Game of Perfect: Customer review: "This book consists of a lot of name dropping and stories from the world of golfing greats. In the appendix section Dr. Bob Rotella sums up all his golf wisdom in four pages. Reading these pages you get all the information Dr. Bob Rotella has to offer."

Paul Runyan,

Paul Runyan's Book for Senior Golfers (Dodd mead 1962).



Paul Runyan & Dick Aultman,

The Short Way to Lower Scoring (Golf Digest 1980).

Hardback. Out of print. Runyan was a great putter in the 1930s and 1940s on Tour, and in later years a much-sought-after golf instructor. He died only a few years ago. His books always include sound advice on putting fundamentals. His personal technique featured a split hand grip (right hand low) that inspired Paul Trevillion with his more bent-over split-hand method. Probably a better technique than many appreciate, and sort of making a comeback these days with the midsize putter. See also Runyan's Book for Senior Golfers (Dodd Mead 1962), 149 pp., out of print.

Recommended.

Book auction info from PBA Galleries:

Runyan, Paul , Golf is a Game ( New York : Calvert Distillering Corp. 1939)

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