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by Richard J. Moss

Pub Date: June 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-8032-4482-5
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Moss (History, Emeritus/Colby Coll.; Eden in the Pines: A History of Pinehurst Village, 2005, etc.) presents a study of golf’s development in the United States.

In this painstakingly thorough review of the history of golf in America, the author categorizes it as a community, consisting not just of those at the top—the professionals and executives who control golf organizations—but also the millions who play, either on private or public courses throughout the country, as well as spectators of the professional game. This idea of a community, one of many such that formed in response to the upheavals and modernizations of the 20th century, is one of several themes Moss develops as he traces the sport’s evolution from a pastime of American nobility, imported from Scotland in the late 1800s, to a significant part of today’s cultural landscape. Others include the game’s ever-present, often class-based dichotomies: private versus public, professional versus amateur, and “snobs versus slobs” (Caddyshack). The author also covers gender and race, perennial hot-button topics for the sport, as well as the impact of technology, including not only equipment, but, just as important, the rise of the automobile and, later, the golf cart and TV. As one would expect from a historian, the author provides detailed information from period sources and locates developments within the social, cultural and political context of their time. Though Moss includes stories of noteworthy individuals and events, his emphasis on facts and historical analysis rather than narrative makes the reading experience a bit more like playing from the rough and hazards than an easy stroll from fairway to green, and Moss’ occasional inclusion of a first-person aside adds to the feel of listening to a college lecture.

A valuable survey of U.S. golf history, but a bit too dry and academic for casual readers.