Golf in America
An inclusive narrative of golf's history and popularity in the United States
In 1888, native Scotsman and iron magnate John Reid and a fellow countryman played an informal game of golf in Reid's cow pasture in Yonkers, New York. Only months later they founded the St. Andrews Golf Club, the first modern golf club in the United States. Ever since, Americans from all walks of life have been teeing off and enjoying the addictive Scottish sport on public and private courses across the country. In this concise social history of golf in the United States from the 1880s to the present, George B. Kirsch tracks the surprising growth of golf as a popular, mainstream sport, in contrast to the stereotype of golf as a pastime enjoyed only by the rich elite.
While golf retains a strong association with upper-class, male-dominated, socially exclusive country clubs, it has also boasted a dedicated following among Americans from different social classes, ethnic backgrounds, races, and genders. In addition to classic heroes such as Francis Ouiment, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, and Ben Hogan, the annals of golf's early history also include African American players--John Shippen Jr., Ted Rhodes, and Charlie Sifford--as well as both white and black female players such as Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Betsy Rawls, Ann Gregory, and former tennis champ Althea Gibson.
Golf in America tells the stories of these champions and many others, including celebrities Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and President Dwight Eisenhower, who further increased the sport's visibility and widespread appeal via television. The book also chronicles the challenges of two world wars and the Great Depression, during which country clubs reduced fees and relaxed admission restrictions to maintain memberships, and many golfers of modest means patronized municipal courses. Kirsch highlights the history of public golf courses in the United States, from Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to Boston's Franklin Park, Chicago's Jackson Park, and other municipal and semiprivate courses that have gone relatively unnoticed in the sport's history.
Examining golf's recent history, Golf in America looks at the impact of television and the rivalry between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, both of whom in 1996 were impressed by an upstart named Eldrick "Tiger" Woods. Illustrated with nearly two dozen photographs, this book shows that golf in America has always reflected a democratic spirit, evolving into a sport that now rivals baseball for the honor of being acclaimed "America's national pastime."
"You’ll pardon my fleeting interest in yet another instructional tract, or coffee-table book of pretty courses. . . . For readers more interested in where the game sits on the country’s cultural landscape than in whether anyone was better than Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan, Golf in America is an indispensable guide."--Golfweek
"Kirsch traces golf's path in the United States, hitting the high notes just right."--Golf Digest
"Exceptional."--The Globe and Mail
"Kirsch delivers excellent pen portraits of the great, good and obscure in American golf, and quotes richly from the golfing literature of the early twentieth century when exploring the game’s meanings and appeal."--David Goldblatt, Times Literary Supplement
"As the first true social history of American golf, Golf in America changes our understanding of the place of golf in American sport. A truly special achievement."--Steven Schlossman, professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University and historian of the U.S. Open Championship and the Curtis Cup Match
"Golf in America is the best one-volume history of American golf. Kirsch astutely covers a wide variety of topics, including the Americanization of golf, the rise of Jewish country clubs, the struggles of women and African American golfers for equal treatment, the environmental effects of golf courses, and even the role of the motorized golf cart. An extremely thorough and contextualized contribution to our understanding of sport history."--Steven A. Riess, author of City Games: The Evolution of American Urban Society and the Rise of Sports
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