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July 5, 2024

A good read: legendary golf writer Bernard Darwin

By Jim Surber, PGA professional
Bernard Darwin on Golf book cover

Witness to Ouimet's U.S. Open win

If you’re a true golf fanatic and know about “The Cardinal“ and the “Himalayas,“ you’ll enjoy this insightful romp through the golden age of golf as witnessed by Bernard Darwin, legendary golf writer and a true golf fanatic.

If you’re new to the game, you’ll gain insight into its traditions, intricacies, and subtleties as it grew and spread worldwide from its origins in Great Britain. Being American, one of the things I enjoyed about the book is that it’s written with an old British mindset and sense of humor by the grandson of of the great scientist Charles Darwin.

Bernard Darwin on Golf


414 pages

Lyons Press


Darwun was a first-hand observer of classic moments in American golf as well: He was the scorer in Francis Quimet’s U.S. Open playoff win in 1913 against Harry Vardon and Ted Ray.

Bernard Darwin was an accomplished player in his own right. He was a member of Britain’s Walker Cup team and was captain of the golf team at Cambridge University. He was a regular participant in Britain’s Amateur Championship, playing in 26 of 33 tournaments held from 1898 to 1935, and made it to the semi-final match twice.

Darwin wrote about golf for the Times of London and The American Golfer. In 1934, he was the captain of the Royal & Ancient Club in St. Andrews, Scotland. He wrote dozens of books about golf while, at the same time, was a recognized expert on the works of Charles Dickens. Born in 1876 and dying in 1961, his career spanned what is commonly accepted as the golden age of golf.

As an example of the most human wonderings of his mind, he compares his love of golf to his dog Johnny’s love of playing fetch with a ball, and how Johnny never tired of it, just as we avid golfers never tire of the game of golf.

His examples of how the characteristics of each round can produce excitement, humor, frustration and joy are all so relatable. If you want to know the answer to the existential question, “Is it better to have under-clubbed or over-clubbed,” you must read the book. The psychological insight may impress you.

Within the pages of “Bernard Darwin on Golf,” you may also find some cures for golf faults that you may be experiencing in your own game – cures that have been lost over time but are no less valid in today’s world of modern golf equipment.

Travel & Leisure Golf calls it “The best golf book ever.” Originally compiled by editor Jeff Silverman and published in hardback in 2003,the book  is being republished in paperback for a second time with a new preface by Silverman and new forward by eight-time PGA Tour winner Brad Faxon, Advance copies may be ordered  for $26.95 through Barnes & Noble.

Bernard Darwin’s observations on golf are an effortless read, ideally consumed slowly over many days and savored like excellent scotch whiskey to complement the end to the day before sleep.

Have fun with this read. Many inward smiles await you!

Jim Surber, a lifetime member of the PGA of America and former golf magazine publisher, is an avid reader of golf books. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Featured image courtesy of Lyons Press

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