My favourite golf reads of 2019

Over the last few years, golf fans have been extremely blessed with the quality of writing, podcasting, and video that has been produced. It doesn’t matter what section of the game you’re interested in, either. If you want to know more about the professional game, course architecture, equipment, human interest stories, and anything else, chances are excellent that you’re going to be able to find high quality material to fulfill those needs.

Every year, I send out my favourite reads on Twitter, but I never really explain why they resonated with me, so I wanted to change that this year. Below are just a sample of some of the great things I read in 2019, done in order of publishing date, and why they were so special. To read these stories, simply click on the bolded and italicized article name.

‘The most unbelievable story in golf’

  • Author: Alan Shipnuck
  • Outlet:
  • Date: January 8th, 2019

José de Jesús Rodríguez making it as a professional golfer is not something that you would have bet any money on. It has nothing to do with his talent, but instead with the situation he had been placed in, and everything he had to endure. And yet, he’s here and making a run of it as a professional golfer. This story, written by Shipnuck, is a tremendous profile of a man fighting against all odds.

Favourite excerpt

This accidental advocate turned out to be the nephew of a maintenance staffer at Fayetteville’s Stonebridge Meadows Golf Club. He knew the greenkeeping crew was short-handed, and just like that Camarón landed a full-time gig, working six days a week, dawn to dusk. His first paycheck, including overtime, was $380. “When they gave it to me I cried,” Camarón says. Then he marched to Western Union and wired every dollar to his mom in Irapuato. Why not put aside a little for himself? “I was used to having nothing,” he says. “For my family back home, that money meant they could eat. I was proud to send it.”

His Ownself: Dan Jenkins, 1928-2019

  • Author: Tom Callahan
  • Outlet: Golf Digest
  • Date: March 8th, 2019

When Jenkins passed away, there were a lot of people who wrote obituaries, and rightfully so. Jenkins is the dean of golf writing, having covered every important player from Hogan to Spieth at every tournament and venue that’s mattered for the last sixty years. Callahan’s tribute was exactly that: more tribute than obit, full of stories and anecdotes that Jenkins himself likely would have enjoyed seeing in print.

Favourite excerpt

““My advice doesn’t change with electricity,” he said. “Be accurate first, then entertain if it comes natural. Never sell out a fact for a gag. Your job is to inform above all else. Know what to leave out. Don’t try to force-feed an anecdote if it doesn’t fit your piece, no matter how much it amuses you. Save it for another time. Have a conviction about what you cover. Read all the good writers that came before you and made the profession worth being part of—Lardner, Smith, Runyon, etc. Don’t just cover a beat, care-take it. Keep in mind you know more about the subject than your readers or editors. You’re close to it, they aren’t. I think I can say in all honesty that I’ve never written a sentence I didn’t believe, even if it happened to be funny.””

An Unlikely Place (link to buy The Golfers Journal, where you can read the piece and much more)

  • Author: Tom Coyne
  • Outlet: The Golfers Journal
  • Date: Spring 2019 Issue

Coyne travels to Carne to play one of golf’s still hidden treasures. Accompanying video from the NLU crew:

The Quest (link to buy The Golfers Journal, where you can read the piece and much more)

  • Author: Matt Crossman
  • Outlet: The Golfers Journal
  • Date: Spring 2019 Issue

Crossman, a high digit handicap, has three months to make his first ever hole-in-one.

Device divorce brings conversation, community and progress at Augusta National

  • Author: Kyle Porter
  • Outlet: CBS Sports
  • Date: April 10th, 2019

Nobody covers the professional game better than Porter, and while this isn’t directly related to professional golf in the way that his stories usually do, this angle is a great examination of our current society and reliance on devices through a golf lens. I’m sure we can all relate, but Porter also manages to weave in some personal anecdotes that add weight to the piece, making it even better.

Favourite excerpt

It is a great thing that for one week we step away from what we think is real life to participate in what is actually, by definition, real life. The trade-off off for removing our slavish behavior to our beeping rectangular leashes is of course more of what we actually crave: each other, nature, community and conversation.

It’s impossible not to run into Tiger Woods, energy beverage enthusiast, in Augusta

  • Author: Brendan Porath
  • Outlet: SB Nation
  • Date: April 11th, 2019

Much like Porter’s piece above, finding new angles on Tiger Woods is nearly impossible these days, which is one of the reasons why this piece is so great. This is Porath at his absurdist best, as well: fully capable, and better than most, at writing the serious, intelligent take on the game, Porath went into town to talk to people about how noticeable Tiger’s presence is at hocking energy drinks, and it produces some great on-site reporting, and quotes that speak to the hold that Tiger has over everyone.

It’s just a lot of fun.

Favourite excerpt

The cashier at the Circle K on Washington Road said business is brisk. “They come in and take pictures,” she said. “They buy a lot more beer and more Monsters. Just a lot more stuff.” Whether the increased business was the result of the Tiger effect or the fact that thousands of travelers are in town for one of the biggest sporting events in the world was not specifically stated. We’ll choose to believe the sales boost is the imprimatur of Tiger bringing taurine to the quarter-zipped and pleated-khaki dads of America.

Tiger Woods returns to glory, harkening emotions of the past in genius performance at 2019 Masters

  • Author: Kyle Porter
  • Outlet: CBS Sports
  • Date: April 15th, 2019

Truthfully, you could have picked any number of ‘Tiger wins the Masters’ recaps to put in this list, but I went with Porter’s, as I most enjoyed the family angle he took in creating this piece. It’s just a tremendous read that I won’t spoil, so please just go and read it.

Favourite excerpt

As Woods finally entered the scoring building to make his historic round official, the sun was sheathed by a bundle of clouds. It began to rain. The scene and the reality of it all were both surreal. It was a reminder that, some day, all of this will wash away. All of the memories and all of the bodies and all of the jackets and all of the trophies will be laid to rest.

The sun holds on as long as it can, then it gives way to the inevitable.

When Open returns to Royal Portrush, tales of redemption will sweep aside reality

  • Author: Eamon Lynch
  • Outlet: Golfweek
  • Date: April 21st, 2019

As much as people want to separate sports, politics, religion, and the like, the fact is that it’s absolutely impossible. Northern Ireland is a perfect example of this, and as someone who knows just the base level of information on what has gone on and continues to go on there, it’s not something I’d ever be comfortable speaking to, but that’s where Lynch comes in.

These things are complicated, and they are always worth talking about.

Favourite excerpt

Self-congratulatory back-slapping by elected blowhards is so familiar a part of professional golf that it won’t really register with those who travel to Portrush. But it will be a galling spectacle for the people who must continue to live with increasing tribal tensions, sporadic violence and diminishing opportunities long after the Open caravan leaves town.

Sand, Water & Time (link to buy The Golfers Journal, where you can read the piece and much more)

  • Author: D.J. Piehowski
  • Outlet: The Golfers Journal
  • Date: Summer 2019 Issue

D.J. takes a look at the building of Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs. Tremendous photography is alongside D.J.’s incredible story of how one of the best golf resorts in the world came to be.

All Brooks Koepka needs is hate

  • Author: Kevin Van Valkenburg
  • Outlet: ESPN
  • Date: June 12th, 2019

Despite being arguably the best player in the world, and having opened himself up a little bit more in the past year, I don’t feel as though we know a ton about Brooks Koepka at this stage, at least in comparison to someone like Spieth or Rory McIlroy. One thing that has become clear though is that Koepka feeds off of any kind of perceived slight, which may not be all that unique in golf or professional sports as a whole, but it’s the way that Koepka approaches it that’s different.

KVV weaves quotes in from several top players, including Koepka, as well as his father, and it helps paint a picture that, so far, has been incomplete. He wants to win major championships, and if he gets some other tournaments along the way, that’s cool, but it’s not his focus. He wants us to doubt that his approach makes sense, and that he’s capable of pulling it off. He cares, even if it may seem like he doesn’t.

Favourite excerpt

Koepka wants our love. Don’t for a second believe the storyline that he doesn’t care what people think about him. Koepka cares deeply, and he longs to be acknowledged as the best player in the sport.

He doesn’t need our love, though. He needs our bile. Our indifference. That’s what turns him into the Hulk of the golfing universe.

Gay men are nearly invisible in golf, but we’re not non-existent

  • Author: Eamon Lynch
  • Outlet: Golfweek
  • Date: June 30th, 2019

Few people put a smile to my face more with their writing than Lynch, who is constantly biting about the professional game and has a way with words that few people have, golf or otherwise. This one though was far more personal in tone, and serves as a reminder that not everyone is fighting the same battles that you are.

Favourite excerpt

There are well-intentioned people who insist proclamations about sexuality are unnecessary, but that’s a privilege reserved for those who’ve never been presumed by society to be someone other than who they are. There’s also a rump who will glance at this epistle and frothily demand that liberal propaganda be kept out of golf, though experience unfailingly shows such people object only when the views being expressed contradict their own.

How Rory McIlroy’s failure to make the Open cut became a reason to celebrate him

  • Author: Brendan Porath
  • Outlet: SB Nation
  • Date: July 20th, 2019

We’re rarely let in on the best players in the world these days, but if there’s one player who does do that more often than most, it’s Rory McIlroy. There was no better example of that this year than his performance and interview after the second round at the Open Championship.

This isn’t a traditional story in that Porath handled it with numbered points instead of paragraphs, but it really works. Rory is a complex person, and he was dealing with a complex situation, as Lynch noted above. This very clearly meant the world to him, and watching him appear so vulnerable on this stage was captivating.

Favourite excerpt

Anything about the Pringles can. There’s so, so much there.

Celebrating Shane Lowry: Hometown club cheers for Open champion

  • Author: Sean Martin
  • Outlet: PGA Tour
  • Date: July 21st, 2019

I know I’ve said this a bunch already, but what makes this piece work so well is the angle it takes. Everyone knew that the idea of any Irishman winning the Open at Portrush was going to be a big deal for a lot of reasons, but finding a new way to approach that was going to be difficult. Sean took the approach of going to Lowry’s home club, nearly four hours to the south of Portrush, to watch as they watched Lowry’s crowning achievement.

Favourite excerpt

A member who owns a local printing company made decorations. As Lowry was warming up at Royal Portrush, Molloy’s 26-year-old daughter, Michelle, was hanging banners and bunting. Yellow and green flags – representing the colors of County Offlay — were strewn across the pro shop and bar. Yellow signs read “The Open Comes to Esker Hills.” Michelle, a 26-year-old brand manager for a chocolate company, helps her father with the club’s social media.

Rob Collins and the Long Road out of Hell

  • Author: Will Bardwell
  • Outlet: Lying Four
  • Date: July 29th, 2019

Sweetens Cove has been the online darling of golf course architecture for the last couple of years, with a ton of stories written about what makes that place so special. Having been there myself, I can testify that it really is as special as everyone says it is, but none of those stories has chronicled the beginnings of the course as well as Bardwell’s entry.

His is a masterful display of storytelling, starting with the earliest days of the course and the incredible amount of gumption that architect Rob Collins displayed to make this golfing nirvana a reality. If I had to pick one of these entries as my favourite of the past twelve months, this one would be it.

Favourite excerpt

First, Collins is, at once, wide-eyed about the people who impose obstacles to his work and deeply grateful to those same people for their help; he is, in the same moment, fully aware of the thunderhead above him and grateful for the cloud’s silver lining.

How to Survive a Flood: Soule Park

  • Author: Garrett Morrison
  • Outlet: The Fried Egg
  • Date: August 26th, 2019

After a flood destroyed Soule Park Golf Course back in 2005, no one thought that it could be saved. Thanks to a restoration by Gil Hanse, the course was saved and brought back to its original roots. This story is a great example of what public golf could and should be: minimalistic and affordable on an incredible piece of property.

After reading it, I’ll be shocked if you don’t start looking into trips to the area to play it. Lovely writing, and an incredible group of people giving life back to a course and area that desperately needed it makes this an easy entry on this list.

Favourite excerpt

“It was a hell of a scene. It was apocalyptic. For you and your world there, where Soule Park is your world and your life, it was like the apocalypse. I don’t remember one person that was like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll be okay.’ Pretty much everybody was like, ‘How’s your résumé looking these days?’”

Golfers Journal No. 10

Okay, so my affinity for the Golfers Journal is well known, but I can honestly say that I don’t think there’s ever been a better issue put out than No. 10. Just about every piece in that issue could be listed as the feature piece of its own journal, or would get tons of play were it released online. Examples:

  1. Travis Hill on Ohoopee
  2. Will Bardwell on lost Ross greens
  3. Shane Bacon at the Bad Little Nine
  4. Job Fickett on Brough Creek National
  5. Keith Cutten goes to NGLA

You should absolutely get a subscription to TGJ, but if you’re unsure, purchase No. 10 and it’ll become apparent that you need it in your life.

Rebirth and Reimagining in Mississippi

  • Author: Will Bardwell
  • Outlet: Lying Four
  • Date: December 17th, 2019

Another entry from Bardwell, and again, it features Rob Collins heavily. In what appears at the outset to be a fairly standard early look at a potential new course, what sets this piece apart is the detail that Bardwell gets into when discussing the process. Everything is so meticulously crafted, and it’s the fine details, like the excerpt below that make the article shine.

Favourite excerpt

The waitress brings out dinner — mostly steaks, with onion rings as thick as doughnuts. There are more cocktails, and more laughs. There is no assurance, implicit or otherwise, that any of this will lead anywhere. But there is hope. That and the wine are enough to keep everyone happy for one night.

The wild tale of a $10 flea-market putter and my monthslong quest to find its owner

  • Author: Josh Berhow
  • Outlet:
  • Date: December 19th, 2019

If you’ve ever watched the show ‘American Pickers’, you’ll know that the stars of the show, Mike and Frank, always talk about two things:

  1. The time to buy something is when you see it
  2. Each item has a story

Those two points are incredibly clear in this piece from Josh Berhow, who went on a massive deep dive to find the owner of a putter that he bought at a flea market. It’s a fun read, and one that takes a ton of twists and turns.

Favourite excerpt

After searching the internet for weeks, scrolling through online library archives, rummaging over obituaries and awkwardly cold calling a handful of family members with Bernet ties, I had finally found the putter’s owner.

And so much more.

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