Not to be outdone in the "official history" sweepstakes, the USGA joins the fray with Golf—The Greatest Game ( Harper Collins, $50), a tribute to "golf in America" that comprises nearly 400 photographs, an introduction by John Updike, "reflections" from Arnold Palmer and essays by a number of golf writers, including SI's Jaime Diaz. This hefty volume, a menace to the sturdiest of coffee tables, pretty much covers the course, from chapters on amateurs and professionals, male and female, to sections on weekend hackers and celebrity golfers. Writes one celebrity, actor Jack Lemmon: "I would rather open on Broadway in Hamlet with no rehearsals than tee off at Pebble Beach."
A useful chronology details the history of golf from 1457, when an act of Parliament in Scotland outlawed the game because it interfered with archery practice, to 1993, the year 17-year-old Tiger Woods won his third straight U.S. Junior Amateur championship.
The Hogan Mystique (The American Golfer, Inc., $50) has, obviously, a much narrower focus as it follows, in words and pictures, the career of Ben Hogan, the dour Texan whom many experts still consider the game's greatest shotmaker. The pictures are by award-winning photographer Jules Alexander, the words by golf writer Dan Jenkins, golfer Ben Crenshaw, sports columnist Dave Anderson and golf commentator and former U.S. Open champion Ken Venturi, all Hogan pals. Venturi provides a television-style running commentary as captions to the pictures. When Hogan tipped his cap, writes Venturi of a photo showing a becapped Hogan solemnly leaving a green, it "was like someone else waving his arms or throwing a fist in the air."
Jenkins, for his part, is unusually reverent. "Over the years," he writes, "I've sometimes joked that if [sportswriter] O.B. Keeler was smart enough to come from Atlanta when a guy named [Bobby] Jones was dominating the game, I had been just as smart in another era. I managed to get myself born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, and grow to find myself quite often in the presence of a guy named Hogan."
Actually, Hogan was no less smart to have been in the presence of a writer named Jenkins.