Wednesday, June 16, 2010

GOLF BOOK REVIEW: Straight Down the Middle, by: Josh Karp

Funny thing about this blog of mine, it is bringing me opportunities to meet others whom I otherwise would never have met, and who share with me a love for and addiction to the game of golf. Case in point, about a month ago, Josh Karp reached out to me via e-mail, and asked if I would be interested in reading and reviewing his new book "Straight Down The Middle". I, of course, replied that I would love to, and that just as soon as I moved (my family and I recently moved from Chicago, IL to Grayslake, IL) I would find some time to do just that. The book showed up a few days later direct from the folks at, and was promptly packed into one of my "Open Immediately" boxes.

Well, the move happened on June 7th, and I started reading the book on June 9th. Five days later I completed the last chapter (I never knew there was a Shivas Irons Society), and I can tell you I am impressed. Now, the truth be told, I've never actually reviewed a book before, so forgive me if this seems a little proletariat for you. I will also do my best to avoid giving away anything that might make reading this book irrelevant, but honestly, that would be hard to do. As with many golf books I've read, and I have read many, "Straight Down The Middle" can easily be read more than once.

The basic premise is that Josh, a self-proclaimed Agnewish (Agnostic Jew) father of four - yes FOUR young boys, has decided to try to improve his golf game using a veritable cornucopia of Zen-inspired methods and techniques as opposed to the purely mechanical route of hiring Hank Haney and thoroughly embarrassing oneself on television. Josh begins the story as an 18-handicap (meaning he is capable, but struggles to break 90) who, like most of us, frequently melts down after imperfect shots, blaming his own ineptitude as an athlete and even as a person for all the troubles he is made to suffer while on the course. Josh also reportedly has some significant issues with pessimism and worry in general as evidenced by his certainty that any day some fatal malady is going to befall him.

As a father of two children myself (aged 1 and 3), I found the experience he undertook to be both inspirational and unbelievable all at once. Josh's wife should have gotten her name in the title in addition to her top billing in the acknowledgments. His travels and frequent playing, researching, and writing surely had to have put a strain on their marriage and only through her great understanding and patience was Josh able to pull this off, to be sure.

The number of methods available to a golfer in search of a better swing are countless, and Josh legitimately tries many of them. From quantum mechanics to martial arts and meditation, Josh patiently accepts and experiments with each one in turn, allowing each new technique the time it deserves to integrate with Josh's game. I found it particularly interesting when two methods would come in conflict with one another to hear how Josh handled it. One particular case of this was between Steve Yellin, media relations director at Maharishi University in Fairfield, IA and Jim Waldron, owner of the Balance Point Golf School. Josh handles the conflict between Yellin's "feeling your swing" and Waldron's bio-mechanics inspired methods with ease slecting the best of each method and blending them in his own practice.

Josh is an avid golf book reader himself, and is continually drawn to comparisons of these methods with moments in the great golf novel "Golf in the Kingdom" by Michael Murphy, the first of many golf-themed books that I have read myself, and that woke me up to the potential of energy fields, and playing golf in the now. This journey that Josh undertakes culminates with both a trip to golf's Mecca itself in Scotland (though, disappointingly not the Old Course at St. Andrew's) followed by a tournament at the famed Straits course at Whistling Straits in Haven, WI, a course that is, disappointingly, still on my must-play list.

"Straight Down The Middle" is very well-written, engaging, and effortlessly blends Josh's experiences both with playing golf and with learning from the teachers and gurus themselves. Josh also uses his lessons in his personal life, partially exorcising some of his daemons, and helping him to yes, play better golf, but perhaps more importantly, to enjoy the golf he plays.

I think that final point is what I found to be the single most important lesson shared by Josh through his experience, that, for most of us, playing better golf will result from, rather than lead to being happier with how we play. Easier said than done, but something to which each one of us should strive to do more often. I look forward to meeting Josh in person, and to see if I can't garner some deeper nuggets of wisdom while playing swing.

I encourage each of you to click the link below and grab yourself a copy of "Straight Down The Middle". This book will fit very nicely on your bookshelf next to your copies of "Golf in the Kingdom", "Zen Golf", and Harvey Penick's "Little Red Book".

Fairways and Greens!

1 comment:

Fleet Business Book Summaries said...

Thanks for sharing about this book. I've just ordered a copy of it and am waiting for Amazon delivery.


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