Best Golf Instruction Books: 14 Of Our Favorite

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There are a lot of ways to learn to play golf. Oftentimes, the best way is to just go out and play, but sometimes playing with a bad swing just entrenches that bad swing into your game and you do not actually improve.

One way to learn some good habits is to find an instructional book that you read in your leisure time. This is a great way to keep the game on your mind and learn some tips while you are at it.

The following are 14 of the Best Golf Instruction Books out there. Try a couple out and let the game sink into your mind as much as possible before the next time you even hit a ball.

Best Golf Instruction Books


Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons


Published: 1957

Author Bio: Ben Hogan will make anyone’s list of all-time greatest golfers. He worked on his swing tirelessly and developed a repeatable, textbook swing that allowed him to be one of 5 players in golf to earn a career grand slam. Hogan’s reputation as a ball striker is what sets him apart from other golfers in history. He looked at golf almost scientifically and played the game that way as well.

Key Takeaways: Ben Hogan believed that everyone, if they developed a small number of correct and repeatable movements, could break 80. The converse of that is that too many golfers repeat the same superfluous motions that are difficult to repeat and cannot develop a consistent swing. The 5 Lessons cover these topics:

  1. The Grip.
  2. Stance and Posture.
  3. The First Part of The Swing.
  4. The Second Part of The Swing.
  5. Summary and Review.

Hogan tells readers to spend 30 minutes every day learning the grip until you have it down and that your stance and posture makes up a large percentage of how successful your shot will be. He then breaks the entire golf swing into 2 parts: backswing and downswing. If you can do these simple things well, then you can shoot under 80 in Hogan’s estimation.

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Harvey Pennick’s Little Red Book


Published: 1992

Author Bio: Harvey Pennick was a professional golfer but is much more well-known as a coach and author. In fact, he coached 5 different players into the Golf Hall of Fame: Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Mickey Wright, Betsy Rawls, and Kathy Whitworth. Pennick also served as Head Golf Coach for the Texas Longhorns for 33 years during which the team won 21 Conference Championships. In 2002, 7 years after his death, Pennick was elected to the Golf Hall of Fame.

Key Takeaways: The Little Red Book is, essentially, a book filled with little nuggets of wisdom that one of golf’s greatest coaches and instructors kept for years. He basically noticed certain patterns that led golfers to success and kept those notes in a book that he never meant to publish. After being convinced to publish in 1992, this book became required reading for golfers everywhere. Some of those “nuggets” include:

  • A tiny change to a golf swing can make a big difference. Don’t overdo it.
  • If you devote 2 weeks of your practice time doing nothing but chipping, you can lower your score from 95 to 90.
  • The more time you spend on a putting green, the better yours scores will be.
  • If the average golfer would hit a 3-wood off of the tee, he would be much more successful.

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How I Play Golf – Tiger Woods


Published: 2001

Author Bio: If you are reading this, then you probably do not need an author biography for Tiger Woods. Tiger is known as either the best or second best golfer in the history of the game to almost anyone who knows anything about golf. To learn how Tiger plays the game and some of the secrets of his success would be something that any golfer would want to learn.

Key Takeaways: This book is a great look at the basics of the game of golf from one of the greatest to ever play. Tiger starts out by talking about his mindset of never being content and always pushing. He then moves on to some basics about the short game. He discusses putting, chipping, and getting up and down from any spot and any lie. Tiger then moves on to what most people think of when they think of Tiger, the long game. He closes with the fundamentals of the mental aspect of golf. Basically this is Tiger walking you through the basics of the sport that he dominated for many years.

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Golf My Way – Jack Nicklaus


Published: 1974

Author Bio: There are a lot of great golfers in the history of the sport, but 2 men stand above the rest. Jack Nicklaus is one of those 2. He is the all-time leader with 18 major championships and he was the runner-up in a staggering 17 more. The Golden Bear was a great golfer, ambassador, and course designer. He has been in some of the most famous matches ever, and if you want to learn the game of golf there is not a better teacher.

Key Takeaways: The main thing that Nicklaus tries to teach throughout the book is to find what works for you and use it. This book was written by Jack himself, and because of that you really gain insight into his thoughts and philosophies. Practice routines, swing philosophy, mental toughness, short game tips, and even managing the game as you grow older are all topics covered within the book. The main thing Nicklaus conveys, as mentioned before, is to find what works for you and use it.

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Golf Is Not A Game of Perfect


Published: 1995

Author Bio: Dr. Bob Rotella is consistently recognized as one of the premier sports psychologists in the world and has focused a lot of his work on golfers. He helps people realize that golf is more than just a physical endeavor. In fact, the emotional and mental aspect of the game is what sets golfers apart more often than not. In this book, Dr. Rotella attempts to break down the mindset and attitude needed to play the game of golf on a high level.

Key Takeaways: The key takeaway is the importance of the mental balance and the need for inner strength to be successful in a sport like golf. This is not a formally written book, so the takeaways and advice are not couched in psychological speech, but easy and everyday language. Dr. Rotella believes that with focus and concentration, the nervous energy that makes people forget how to swing a golf club can be turned into adrenaline that actually aids your game. 

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The Golf Swing By David Leadbetter


Published: 2001

Author Bio: David Leadbetter is one of, if not the, most famous instructors in the game of golf. He has written numerous books, taught a lot of great golfers, and shows up on the Golf Channel often. He has worked with golfers like Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Michelle Wie, Lydia Ko, and Nick Price. Next to Butch Harmon and Hank Haney, Leadbetter is probably the most well-known instructor in the game today.

Key Takeaways: The first takeaway is that there are over 250 full color illustrations that bring the teaching and advice to life. Leadbetter has written a step-by-step guide on how to develop and maintain a sound golf swing. He relies on stories and anecdotes that helped transform the swings of some of his clients and pulls back the curtain a little on how he helped his clients become champions. This is a great book for beginners and seasoned golfers alike as it will help you to see the basics of a good swing.

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Hank Haney’s Essentials of The Swing


Published: 2009

Author Bio: One of the best known swing instructors in the game today, Haney is best known for coaching one specific player. A guy by the name of Tiger Woods. In fact, Haney is known for rebuilding Tiger’s swing into one that would win 6 additional majors. Haney methodically breaks the swing into parts and helps golfers work on each aspect separately to build a great swing. 

Key Takeaways: This is a step-by-step guide to building your swing from the ground up. There are a lot of books and instructors out there who can correct a hook or a slice. But even when that “symptom” is cured, oftentimes the swing is just as flawed. This book takes every single aspect of a swing and rebuilds it with power, consistency, and repeatability. There are also a lot of practice tips and color photos to aid the instruction.

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The Complete Golf Manual


Published: 2010

Author Bio: Steve Newell is the instruction editor for Golf World, Europe’s premier golf magazine. He has also worked with a lot of golfers and swing instructors so he has been around the game a lot. What he lacks in name power, he makes up for by writing one of the most thorough golf instruction manuals out there.

Key Takeaways: The title of this book is a perfect description of it. This book covers every aspect of the game. From purchasing the right equipment to showing you exercises that could improve your game, this book has it all. The meat of the book is about playing the game. It teaches you about the different aspects of play like driving, putting, chipping, long irons, wedge play, etc. These in-depth teachings are accompanied by full color photos and diagrams to make it easier to internalize and remember out on the course. If you are looking for a book that acts more like an instructor, then you have found it.

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How To Play Your Best Golf All The Time


Published: 1953

Author Bio: Tommy Armour was a great player in the early 1900s and won 3 major championships during his career. In fact, just 1 week after his US Open win in 1927, Armour shot the worst single hole score in PGA history when it took him 23 shots to finish a par-5. The Silver Scot, as he was known, still has a line of golf clubs and equipment named after him, and this book that he wrote stood as the no. 1 book in golf for many years.

Key Takeaways: Armour set out to write a “text book” for players to study with their final exam being their next trip to the course. The main takeaway is simplicity. Armour argues that we over complicate the game of golf much like we do the rest of our lives, so he takes the game subject-by-subject and simplifies it down to something that becomes more like instinct than thinking. 

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The Slot Swing: The Proven Way To Hit Consistent and Powerful Shots Like The Pros


Published: 2009

Author Bio: Jim McLean was a really good golfer, but a great instructor. He is most known for coining the phrase “X-Factor” which refers to the idea that “the greater the differential between the hips and the shoulders at the top of the swing, the more power a golfer can create.” He has taught professionals like Tom Kite, Cristie Kerr, and Keegan Bradley during his career.

Key Takeaways: The “slot” refers to the half-way down position in the downswing where the club is approaching the ball from the inside-out. McLean argues that all pros and very few amateurs find their club in the slot position therefore losing power, consistency, and missing out on the type of swing that produces results. With the help of 75 illustrations and by looking at some of the greatest ball strikers of his time, McLean shows the average golfer how to find the slot and hit the ball with all of the potential you have.

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Zen Golf: Mastering The Mental Game


Published: 2002

Author Bio: Dr. Joe Parent holds a Ph.D in Social Psychology and is a practicing Buddhist with a doctor of practice and study in that tradition as well. His approach to golf, tennis, acting, etc. focuses on confidence and the mental attributes needed for success. Parent is a believer in blocking out distractions while not overthinking and to play in almost a “zen” state.

Key Takeaways: Any golfer who has ever played the game realizes that golf is as much, if not more, a mental pursuit as it is a physical one. If you are looking for an instructional book to cure your slice, this one probably will not work. But if you are looking for some tips on how to stay mentally sharp on the course and to play with confidence even when you are struggling, this book is unlike most others. Dr. Parent will teach you some techniques to keep your mind clear and to play the way that you know how to play without any mental distractions.

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Short Game Bible


Published: 1999

Author Bio: Another renowned golf instructor, Dave Pelz is the technical and short-game consultant to Golf Magazine. Pelz used to be a research scientist for NASA and he brings that type of intelligence and analytics into golf instruction. Pelz focuses almost exclusively on the short game because statistics show that it is the biggest determinant to success on the course.

Key Takeaways: To put it one way, “Drive for the show, putt for the dough.” This reference does not fully apply, but the point is that your short game (putting included) is the key to lower scores on the course. The premise is that golfers do not need to buy the latest and greatest equipment, they need to work on their short game and putting, and Pelz uses this book to teach you how to do just that.

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Unconscious Putting


Published: 2011

Author Bio: Dave Stockton is a golf instructor who focuses on putting. In fact, after winning the 2009 Open Championship, Phil Mickelson credited a few putting lessons with Stockton as one of the things that helped him win that major. Stockton has taught a lot of PGA Tour and LPGA Tour Champions some putting strategies that have helped their careers and has become one of the foremost experts in the putting stroke.

Key Takeaways: Stockton believes that every player has their own “signature” stroke that works for them. It is the process of finding that stroke rather than copying someone else that will lead you to success on the greens and in turn on the scorecard. Stockton teaches golfers how to find that stroke. He also gives tips on the mental side of putting and gives some valuable advice on reading greens and purchasing the right equipment.

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Every Shot Counts


Published: 2014

Author Bio: Mark Broadie is a Professor of Business at Columbia Business school, not a professional golfer. He uses statistical models and data to pinpoint the parts of the golf game that truly lower scores and are predictive of how a golfer will play. Just like you have seen a new focus on 3-point shooting in the NBA, home runs and OBP in MLB, and passing in the NFL, Broadie is changing the game of golf by relying on numbers and statistics rather than feel and tradition. 

Key Takeaways: This book has been dubbed the “Moneyball of golf” referring to the Oakland A’s system of finding and scouting players based on cold, hard facts and data. This book looks like a college statistics book with all of the graphs, formulas, and numerical conclusions. A couple of things that he argues are:

  • Your driver is more important than your putter in terms of strokes gained per round.
  • Approach shots are more important than drives or putts.
  • Laying up to a “full swing” wedge is not the right thing to do.
  • Your drive accounts for 28% of shots gained, and your approach 40%.

There are a lot more statistics, but many of the things golfers hold on to are shown to be false…at least statistically.

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Final Thoughts

There are a lot of ways to become a better golfer. It turns out, reading and studying golf instruction books is one of those ways. Reading about strategy, seeing detailed pictures and diagrams of swings, and learning how other players learned their stroke are great ways to improve your game both mentally and physically. If you cannot be on the course, the range, or the practice green, you might as well learn some other ways to improve your game.


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