Attorney John Jenchura, an eager golfer and partner in the Honeybrook Golf Club in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, has written a book that is properly called a history of championship golf. Golf—A Good Walk and Then Some offers some tidbits about the history of the sport of golf but emphases the male and female professional golfers who have dominated the sport over the past 150 years. The book includes an appendix of the winners of major golf championships and team competitions.
The first section of the book provides a brief history of the origins and early history of golf but offers little information not reported in H.B. Martin’s Fifty Years of American Golf published in 1936. This section, however, demonstrates the folly of Milton Friedman’s thesis that “an unfettered free market allows innovation to flourish and permits both products and services to achieve their market potential.” It turns out that the sport and business of golf flourished only after rules and regulations were adopted and enforced. Like many sports, advances in technology have profoundly affected golf. The author references several of these technological changes in his history of golf, but after discussing the evolution of the golf ball, he misses the opportunity to integrate these changes more solidly into his narrative of championship golf.
The second section of the book incorporates the role women began to play in the history of championship golf, and to his credit John Jenchura continues to include women’s championship golf in the balance of the book. This section and the next section emphasize the competition between Scotland/England and the United States for dominance in the sport, the emergence of the golf club for the elite, and how the “caddy” turned professional golfer came to replace the idle rich as champions of tournament golf.
The balance of the book focuses on the individual, professional golfers who came to dominate discussions of the sport. To be sure, we are told that until 1920 professional competitors were barred from the clubhouses of country clubs where they worked and competed. In 1924 the United States Golf Association (USGA) steel-shafted golf clubs were permitted in tournaments for the first time, that in1938 the USGA limited players to fourteen golf clubs in their golf bag, in 1947 they revised and simplified the rules of golf from sixty-one rules to twenty-one, and in 1951 the center-shafted putter was legalized. And on the personal side, Byron Nelson helped popularize the modern swing, and professional golf stars such as Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus became golf course designers.
Golf—A Good Walk and Then Some is a decent book and is an easy read but also represents a missed opportunity to tell the history of the sport of golf rather than simply that of championship golf. It would be helpful to know more about how, if at all, the Royal Montreal Golf Club, founded in 1873, influenced the growth of elite golf and country clubs throughout North America to the point that every state in the U.S. had a golf course by 1900. How the use of steel-shafted clubs altered the game once played with hickory [End Page 546] shaft clubs? Why golf morphed from a rich man’s sport, to a middle-class sport played by plumbers as well as Wall Street barons? How the sport spread to nearly every nation on earth? How golf course designers made millions on real estate developments? And, how television popularized the sport? That book is yet to be written.