“What are some good books about golf course architecture?” I get asked this question frequently, so for this post I’ve put together a list of books about architecture that I have read or plan to read.
First, though, if you’re looking to learn some of the basics, I’d suggest starting with our Golf Course Architecture 101 series.
Books for beginners
The Anatomy of a Golf Course by Tom Doak
One of today’s foremost architects details all aspects of golf course architecture. Topics range from drainage and construction to the psychology of hole design. After reading this book, you will have a good grasp of the philosophies behind and challenges of building golf courses. To illustrate his points, Doak uses excellent sketches.
Grounds for Golf by Geoff Shackelford
Meant to be a primer on golf course architecture, Grounds for Golf gives readers a solid foundation of knowledge in the subject. Shackelford dives into the history of GCA and explains the basics with the help of illustrations from Gil Hanse.
Methods of Early Golf Architecture: Volume I and Volume II
These books offer quick passages on various topics from the greatest architects of the Golden Age: C. B. Macdonald, Alister MacKenzie, George Thomas, Robert Hunter, H. S. Colt, and A. W. Tillinghast. They are a great way to build an introductory knowledge about how designers of the 1910s-30s thought about golf courses.
Books for the nearly obsessed
The Spirit of St. Andrews by Alister MacKenzie
You can find a good portion of this book in Volume 1 of Methods of Early Golf Architecture, but The Spirit of St. Andrews in its entirety is a must. It gives you deep insight into the ideas, principles, and attitudes of arguably the greatest architect ever.
Tom Doak’s Little Red Book of Golf Course Architecture by Tom Doak
As someone with a mild case of attention deficit disorder, I appreciate this book’s structure: a collection of brief excerpts from Tom Doak’s posts the architecture-focused internet forum Golf Club Atlas. Topics range from particular golf courses to guiding GCA principles. While either beginners or experts can enjoy this book, I would recommend building a basis of architecture knowledge before reading it.
Geoff Shackelford’s array of GCA books…
The Art of Golf Design (with Michael Miller)
Masters of the Links: Essays on the Art of Golf and Course Design
The Golden Age of Golf Course Design
Few have written as much on GCA as Geoff Shackelford. Of the books of his I have read, I particularly enjoyed The Art of Golf Design, which combines Michael Miller’s beautiful artwork with Shackelford’s immense knowledge and incisive voice.
Golf Has Never Failed Me by Donald Ross
This is the autobiography of America’s most prolific Golden Age architect. On the podcast I did with him, Riley Johns recommended this book to me, and I really enjoyed it. Ross breaks down the different facets of a golf course in a concise and witty style.
Donald Ross – long iron play is virtually extinct in today's game. pic.twitter.com/kPvmAvVkFj
— the fried egg (@the_fried_egg) September 9, 2017
Books for the completely obsessed
Sand and Golf by George Waters
This book explores the relationship between sandy soil and great golf. George Waters is an outstanding GCA mind, and in Sand and Golf, he pairs his words with brilliant photographs.
The Evangelist of Golf by George Bahto
This is one of the toughest golf books to get your hands on affordably, but it’s worth the effort. It goes into detail about C. B. Macdonald’s life, courses, template holes, and titanic influence on the GCA discipline.
I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my short list. Fellow GCA nuts tell me that Hunter has an engaging style and a unique way of explaining design principles.