I’ve read a lot of golf books in my day—frankly more than I’d like to admit. everything from Tiger Woods: how I Play Golf to the nearly 400-page gem that is Dave Pelz’s Putting Bible. I’ve read books detailing struggling pros trying make a living on the European Tour, and I’ve read whimsical stories about falling in love with the windswept links in Scotland. Classics like Harvey Penick’s little Red Book and Ben Hogan’s five Lessons couldn’t escape me.
And or all the golf book’s I’ve read, Hank Haney’s the big Miss was easily the biggest page-turner, and perhaps the most insightful.
Hank Haney was Tiger Woods’ coach for about six years, and the big Miss is his account of their years spent together. the duo would eventually split shortly after the Tiger Woods scandal broke. Haney’s account of his time with Woods is absolute gold for any golf nerd – there’s all the detail you could ever want in there about Haney’s coaching strategies and his work on Tiger’s swing.
But at the end of the day what makes this book so remarkable is the insight it provides into the person that is Tiger Woods; a person so often veiled from the public as a result of his self-inflicted invisibility cloak. There’s no doubt that after reading this book I feel like I have a better understanding of Tiger Woods than I ever did before.
Before I dive in and give you a few juicy teasers, let me first address the critics of this book. Many assume that Hank Haney was fired by Woods, and that the publication ofThe big Miss was a move made out of spite and an attempt to make a quick buck.
If you read this book, it seems as though nothing could be farther from the truth. Trust me, I’m not one to be easily sold – I’m about as skeptical as they come, and I certainly was as I began reading. “you can’t talk shit on Tiger!” was my general mind-set. Remember the look on your dad’s face when the 25-year-old came to pick up your 17-year-old sister to take her on a date? Double that. That’s how skeptical I was when I began reading this book.
And having finished it, I truthfully believe that Haney’s honesty was what makes this book such a great read. He shares many actual e-mails and texts that he exchanged with Tiger, and if he was lying I’m sure that it wouldn’t take long for a major lawsuit to come down on him. Let’s face it, Tiger is uber protective of his image. and at the end of the day, Haney readily admits that the publication of the big Miss likely won’t win him any points in Tiger’s eyes.
The picture that Haney paints of Tiger Woods is generally what I had always suspected, but much more severe. Essentially Tiger has been surrounded by people from a very young age that have wanted a piece of him, typically for at least partially selfish reasons. because of this, Tiger lives a life very much in a bubble. but what’s so surprising is that even those close to him, even those within his “inner circle,” are not immune to the bubble.
Tiger, even after years of working with Haney and spending 100+ days a year with him, would routinely be incredibly moody and would give him and everyone else around him the silent treatment. He wouldn’t return phone calls. He generally seemed to show little regard to those who were loyal to him and offered their friendship.
One minute example, which Haney goes back to many times in the book, is the issue of the popsicle (I know you can just feel the suspense building). Haney spent many a night with Tiger and Elin, and he recalls that in the beginning the TV was almost always on during dinner. Elin decided to instate a rule whereby the TV could not be on during dinner, only to have Tiger instate a rule that when he was done eating he could leave the dinner table. He would subsequently scarf down his dinner, leave the table, and go watch TV.
While watching TV after dinner, Tiger often sat with Haney and treated himself to a post-dinner sugar-free popsicle. For years he’d do this, and he never once offered or asked Haney if he’d like a popsicle as well. One day Haney wanted himself a goddamn popsicle, and he sat on the couch in bewilderment because of how uncomfortable he felt asking Tiger simply for popsicle. He finally asked Tiger, who looked at him like he had five heads then muttered, “sure.” It’s this sort of thing that was very unbecoming to Haney.
With regards to Tiger’s game, Haney writes quite a bit about Tiger’s fear of “the big miss” – a big miss right or left, particularly with the driver, that would lead to bogey or worse. He sees this as Tiger’s biggest hurdle, and one he worked tirelessly to provide Tiger with a solution to. His solution was a stinger with a driver, as well as a fade with a driver that would cost Tiger distance but guaranteed him that he wouldn’t miss left. Tiger was reluctant to put either in to play.
Haney also vividly recalls one of Tiger’s first victories that Elin was around for. Elin met Tiger after the round and suggested that they throw a little party to celebrate the win because “that’s what Jesper (Parnevik) used to do,” when Elin worked for him. Tiger’s response was along the lines of “I’m not Jesper, and we’re not having a party. We’re supposed to win.”
Obviously the book is filled with details about the days leading up to and immediately after the Tiger Woods scandal broke. Haney vehemently states that neither himself nor Steve Williams had any idea of the goings-on.
But the scandal aside, there are plenty of other glorious first-hand details in the book. For example, Haney shares a text that Tiger sent to him after Ian Poulter bummed a ride back to Florida on Tiger’s plane. yes, Tiger thinks Poulter is a d-bag.
Haney is also particularly protective of his record as Tiger’s coach. Many reflect on Tiger’s best years as being in the early 2000′s, and they undoubtedly were. and while Butch Harmon coached Tiger to eight major championship victories, Haney managed only six in his years with Tiger. That said, it is true that the swing Haney taught Tiger won a higher percentage of the time.
Ultimately it would be Haney’s call to break off his relationship with Tiger. He felt he had been as loyal as could be, and had genuinely tried to be the best friend and coach to Tiger that he could. but Tiger’s stand-offish nature, his reluctance to implement Haney’s ideas, and his general treatment of others drove Haney to end their relationship – an engagement for which Woods paid Haney only $50,000 per year.
But while much of what I’ve written about thus far sounds like sour grapes, Haney makes very deliberate efforts to not focus only on the negative. Haney is a man who has studied the great golfers in the history of the game as much as just about anybody, and he has no doubt that when Tiger plays at his highest level he’s far and away the best golfer that has ever lived.
But perhaps more importantly, he holds himself and the others in Tiger’s inner circle accountable – accountable for not putting Tiger in check and pushing him to be less guarded, more honest, and generally a more well-rounded human being.
In Haney’s eyes it was always all about Tiger with everybody around him, to the extent that no one dared question him or his actions. Tiger insulated himself, and ultimately if someone around him had stood up to him and prompted him to be better, perhaps “the big Miss” that we’ve seen as of late could have been avoided.
If you love golf or Tiger Woods, read this book. It’s fantastic insight into one of the most enigmatic athletes to ever reach the highest level of sport.
Geoff Roberts is the Founder & Managing Editor of howiGit.com, a Boston sports blog.
There's nothing like a good book, right? And even better if it's a good golf book.
This week, we asked our PGA.com Facebook friends to tell us: What's the best golf book you've ever read?
there were plenty of titles to choose from and with nearly 200 responses, you covered many of them. Here are the nine that stood above the rest, according to our readers:
9. the big miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank D. Haney. Probably the newest golf book to hit the bookstore shelves, but also — arguably — the most talked about ever. Is it one of the best golf books ever? That's for you, the reader, to decide. Facebook fan quotes:
"'the big miss.' Come for the Tiger stories, stay for the unique golf/life insights." — Jamal Speller
"'the big miss,' is a must read!" — Skip Maiwald
8. Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game by Joseph Parent. Dr. Parent, a noted PGA coach and Buddhist instructor, presents the PAR approach (focusing on Preparation, Action, and Response to Results). When this book came out in the early 2000s, many players on the PGA Tour raved about it.
Facebook fan quotes: "'Zen Golf.'" Mind over matter." — John Steinberg
"'Zen Golf.'" — Dustin Thompson
7. A good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour by John Feinstein. This book is a quick read that provides an amazing inside look at life on the PGA Tour.
Facebook fan quotes:
"'A good Walk Spoiled.' A little dated now, but a great inside-the-ropes look at the PGA Tour.' — John Cinnamon
"A good Walk Spoiled." — Alexandra Irish
6. Caddy for Life: the Bruce Edwards Story by John Feinstein. Feinstein made the list again, with this incredible book about Bruce Edwards, the late caddie of eight-time major winner Tom Watson, who lost his battle to Lou Gehrig's Disease at age 49 in April, 2004. Edwards was on the bag for all of Watson's majors and continued to do the job even as his health deteriorated.
Facebook fan quotes:
"anything by Feinstein, but, 'Caddy For Life,' is especially good." — Mike Rexroat
"'Caddy For Life.'" — Dan Hipp
"'Caddy for Life, the Bruce Edwards Story.'" — Brent Swyryda
"'Caddy for Life." — Eric Thomas
5. Golf in the Kingdom by Michael Murphy. Written in 1971, Murphy's novel has sold over 1 million copies. It's about a young traveler's golfing experience in Scotland during a layover, where he meets a golf pro (Shivas Irons), who teaches him about the game and spirituality.
Facebook fan quotes:
"'Golf in the Kingdom,' Michael Murphy." — Carl Davis
"'Golf in the Kingdom.'" — David J. Enger
"'Golf in the Kingdom,' by Michael Murphy or anything by Mark Frost." — Alex Demitraszek
4. Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost. Set in 1913, this book brings to life the story of Francis Ouimet, who became the first amateur to win the U.S. Open. Making Ouimet's unlikely victory all the more special, was that it came on the course where he caddied — the Country Club in Brookline — against the greats of the day, Harry Vardon, Ted Ray, Jim Barnes and Walter Hagen.
Facebook fan quotes:
"'the Greatest Game Ever Played.'" — Brennan Leslie
"'the Greatest Game Ever Played,' I actually read it before I saw the movie!" — Jeff Daniels
"'the Greatest Game Ever Played,' Mark Frost." — John Cissel
"'Greatest Game Ever Played.' Hands down." — Sean P. Wells
3. Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: the Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan. Hogan's emphasis in this classic, and it's a great one: "the average golfer is entirely capable of building a repeating swing and breaking 80."
Facebook fan quotes:
"'Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: the Modern Fundamentals of Golf.' If you apply yourself after reading, you'll not only get better, you'll enjoy yourself more." — Scott Floyd
"Hogan's, 'Five Lessons.'" — Harry Nash
"I have two. like wine, a red and a white. I read, 'Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: the Modern Fundamentals of Golf,' and it took 10 strokes off my game almost instantly 25 years ago. I also read Harvey Penick's, 'little Red Book,' over the winter and found it a marvelous read for any golfer. so, like a good wine, I take both down off the shelf if need be. the white book, (Hogan's), if I have technical or swing problems, or, a red, (Penick's), if I have a need for soothing or reinforcing my game, mentally. taken in moderation, both can make your game much more enjoyable." — Mike Osterbur
"Ben Hogan's, 'Five Fundamentals.' it has been my favorite. I refer to that book over and over." — Hanes Myers
"I can't believe Ben Hogan is not on this post more than just a few!" — Hanes Myers
2. Golf is Not a Game of Perfect by Dr. Bob Rotella. For years, Rotella has served as a mind doctor to many of the best players in the world. In this book, Rotella explains how you can develop a great mindset to take to — and use on — the course.
Facebook fan quotes:
"'Golf is Not a Game of Perfect,' Dr. Bob Rotella." — Robert Leonard
"'Golf is Not a Game of Perfect,' Dr. Bob Rotella. Outstanding!" — Ken Tirohn
"'Golf is Not a Game of Perfect,' Bob Rotella." — William Bishop Saunders
"'Golf is Not a Game of Perfect,' by Dr. Bob Rotella. My favorite golf book, because since golf is not a game of perfect shots, the author gives you the mind set to deal with it. (Which happens to be a lot of commonsense which interestingly, many of us don't bring to the course.)" — Kim Zagajeski Gallagher
"'Golf is Not a Game of Perfect,' by Rotella. really helped me to become a better player when I learned to let go of my bad shots. Changed my thinking about the game." — David Watson
"'Golf is Not a Game of Perfect,' by Dr. Bob Rotella. it changed my golf game tremendously. I went from shooting around a five handicap to always shooting under par. now I'm not saying that it can take 10 strokes off everybody's average as it did mine. but it will change the way you think when you're out on the course. I'm also a very committed golfer." — Cody Dezern
1. Harvey Penick's little Red Golf Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf by Harvey Penick with Bud Shrake. This is the highest selling golf book ever published by one of the game's most beloved figures. This is an absolute must read for anyone who loves the game.
Facebook fan quotes:
"Harvey Penick's, 'little Red Book.'" — Mattie Trump
"Harvey Penick's, 'little Red Book.'" — Cathleen Twohig
"Harvey Penick's, 'little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime in Golf.' A must read for all golfers. full of wisdom for everyone!" — Annette DeMarrais Gester
"Gotta be Harvey's, 'little Red Book.' it stays by my bedside so I can brush up from time to time." — Mark Boyd
"Harvey Penick's, 'little Red Book.' My high school golf teacher gave me a copy seven years ago when I was senior and I still haven't lost it. Not only does it teach you golf but also how to be a golfer." — Joseph Tyler Walski
"Harvey Penick's, 'little Red Book!' End of story!" — Patrick Burns
"Harvey Penick's, 'little Red Book,' it has and will stand the test of time." — Kris E. Wilson
"Harvey Penick's, 'little Red Book.' A timeless classic. If the lessons are good enough for Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, they're good enough for me." — Aaron Levine
"Harvey Penick's, 'little Red Book.' it is full of a lifetime of learning by one of golf's best students and teachers. it also contains sage advice for golfers when they are off the course." — Neil Swartz
"Penick, 'little Red Book,' is the only book you ever need." — Jimmy McCants
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