‘Bobby’s Open’ reviewed

‘Bobby’s Open’ by Steven Reid

published in 2012 by Corinthian Books, an imprint of ICON Books 

Click here to see Amazon’s best price. Bobby’s Open: Mr. Jones and the Golf Shot That Defined a Legend


bobby jones, steven reid, bobby's open, The most incredible thing about the American amateur golfer Bobby Jones is that at the age of 28 he won the American and British Amateur Championships and both The Opens in the same year and retired from tournament golf immediately thereafter.

He was the most interesting and outstanding player between the world wars and like all the greatest American players who followed him, he taught himself how to play the running game across the British links courses after having initially hated them.

His early temperament, when for example he was thrashed in the 1923 British Amateur championship by Allan Graham (one of that period’s finest amateurs, alongside John Ball and Hilton) at Hoylake, left much to be desired, we are told.

Steven Reid shows little compassion when describing Jones’s discovery of the Old Course at St Andrews at the 1923 Open. “His first experience was to be a simple dark tragedy. Paraphrasing Winston Churchill’s thoughts about Russia, Jones was to discover that the Old Course was a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. She was in no mood to reveal her intrigue and charm to the youngster on first acquaintance”.

Jones’ visit to Scotland was, however, to prove the making of him and soon afterwards the New York Times indicated a change in Jones’ temperament from a ‘petulant, irascible, passionate, explosive’ youth to a ‘model of sportsmanship, poise, and self-control’ representing a ‘splendid example of self-mastery’.

Jones confided to the great U. S. journalist, O. B. Keeler “I have discovered that if you keep shooting pars at them, they will all crack sooner or later”. Freed of the burden of striving for birdies, Jones became relentless in match play and more consistent in his strokeplay.

One cannot help but wonder if golf is more fun now for the professionals (irrespective of the enormous amount of more money they earn!), who are required to be 20 under par in order to win round the soft, target-style, international tournament courses of today?

This is not the sort of question that Steven Reid poses but he does quote others, such as Laney, saying “Jones became the most ‘balanced’ person I ever encountered in sport, a rare harmonious unity of inner self and outer self which had formerly been at war”.

Jones’ returned to Britain in 1926, still using hickory shafted clubs to hit the rubber-cored, Haskell ball, and composed a 66 over the Sunningdale old course in qualifying for The Open, a round often described by many the greatest ever played.

Moving on to Royal Lytham & St Anne’s for The Open Championship (an event which Steven Reid infuriatingly calls the British Open, despite attempting an explanation. He also refers to ‘St Annes’ throughout the book.), Jones was by now a changed character and took on the world of golf by storm with his charm, dignity and brilliance.

Steven Reid, historian of Royal Lytham & St Anne’s Golf Club, focuses his marketing and presentation of his book around Jones’s famous mashie shot played across the 180 yard dogleg of the seventeenth hole, from sand and onto the green, eventually winning him the 1926 Open Championship from Al Watrous of New York.

The book nevertheless is much more and is a fascinating description of Jones’s wider tournament golfing life and character and it kept my attention to the final page.

Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2012.


Reader Comments

On October 2nd, 2012 Edward Vale said:

I do like reading your interesting golfing reviews and memorabilia but, I must take issue. In the UK, of course it’s The Open. Technically too, that is its name. But why would an American not wish to refer to it as the British Open to distinguish it from the more local US version? When one asks for The Times in New York, that’s what you get; if you want “The London Times”, that’s what you need to ask for. Seems obvious to me. Let’s lose our arrogance.

Dear Edward,
It is not a question of arrogance, purely one of accuracy. You are mixing up what might be effective communication in different parts of the world with less well informed people and the requirement of an esteemed author using the correct terms. The brand ‘The Open Championship’ owned by the R&A, describes a unique, world leading, sporting event that is won by ‘The Champion Golfer’. I don’t think you will find many who have good manners getting particularly bothered about the issue but it is important to maintain the high standards associated with ‘The Open Championship’. I hope you would also respect ‘The Masters’.
Best wishes

On December 15th, 2012 Steven Reid said:

Even before a delightful encounter with Lynne Truss I did refer throughout the book to St Anne’s rather than St Annes. The publisher would not allow me to follow Darwin and Jones himself by referring to St. Anne’s which still seems to be how it should be!

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