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How I Play Golf Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 9, 2001
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In this book, Tiger covers every aspect of the game and provides the kind of simplification that makes his advice useful to almost any golfer. This is no easy trick because every golf swing is different which is why golf professionals exist. It is clear this book was written to "give back" to the golfing world. What I mean is that Tiger tries to simplify and shows by example what he believes are the keys to a successful golf swing.
Okay, here is the problem. Currently Tiger has had multiple back surgeries and is likely done at the championship level. At some point, someone is going to write a book that has the subtitle "How to play good golf and not ruin your back". Certainly Jack Nicklaus would appreciate this advice since he can no longer walk very well due to a bad back. But this is the caution that every golfer must consider. A good golf swing highly stresses your back and emulating a good golf swing is a dangerous business. This is okay in your 20s and maybe 30s, but by the time you're in your 40s, some consideration is needed to keep your core strong. By the way, there are books that are written like "Golf after 40" and others that show exercises to keep your core strong, but how hard is it to give up hitting your 7-iron to the same distance you did when you were 25?
Anyway, the tone, approach, and teaching method are all really well done in this book and definitely worth a read. And if nothing else, maybe help one to refocus on the positive aspects of what Tiger has done for golf and with this book, golf education.
First, I'll mention what you won't find. This book is not overly technical and can be read profitably by recreational golfers and even non-golfers. The book is thoroughly illustrated with photographs (they are actually the primary medium of instruction), which is quite different than Ben Hogan's classic "Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf". By way of comparision, this book is considerably less technical than Hogan's book.
The book is laid out by tackling the shortest shots first - putts. Tiger explains that the book proceeds with the shortest shots and progresses through longer shots because he was taught golf that way. He explains why he plays the game the way he does (for example, he uses the interlocking grip instead of the more common overlap grip) and frequently points out other methods that could work. Tiger is quite thorough about exploring not just the technical aspects of playing shots, but also the mental side of the game, such as pre-shot routine and course management. He periodically uses actual pivotal moments from tournaments (such as the 13th at Augusta on Sunday at the 2001 Masters) he played in as illustrations of the principles he talks about in his book.
Another fascinating aspect of "How I Play Golf" is when Tiger discusses the off-course side of his golf preparation. Obviously, this includes exercise and fitness, but also includes diet and nutrition. He doesn't get too in depth about any of these subjects (he's actually quite secretive about the details of his exercise routine), but explains the general principles of why he does what he does. Tiger Woods is one of the most fit people on the planet, and the emphasis on physical well-being is a great message for the public.
Since this book was published shortly after he completed the Tiger Slam in 2001, there is undoubtedly much that he would change if he wrote another book like this right now, eight years later. Nevertheless, the information here can help a wide range of golfers. Even if you don't play golf, this book is still enjoyable to read and may convince you to give the game a try. It would be fascinating if Tiger wrote another book like this near the end of his competitive playing career to see the evolution of his thoughts on playing golf - we can only hope!