A Difficult Par: Robert Trent Jones Sr. and the Making of Modern Golf

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Overview

The definitive account of modern golf’s foremost architect from the New York Times bestselling author of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong 
 
Robert Trent Jones was the most prolific and influential golf course architect of the twentieth century and became the archetypical modern golf course designer. Jones spread the gospel of golf by designing ...

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A Difficult Par: Robert Trent Jones Sr. and the Making of Modern Golf

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Overview

The definitive account of modern golf’s foremost architect from the New York Times bestselling author of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong 
 
Robert Trent Jones was the most prolific and influential golf course architect of the twentieth century and became the archetypical modern golf course designer. Jones spread the gospel of golf by designing courses in forty-two US states and twenty-eight countries. Twenty U.S. Opens, America’s national championship, have been contested on Jones-designed courses.
 
New York Times bestselling biographer James R. Hansen, author of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, recounts how an English immigrant boy arrived in upstate New York in 1912, just as golf was emerging as a popular pastime in America. Jones excelled as a golfer, earning admission to Cornell University, whose faculty consented to a curriculum tailored to teach him the knowledge needed to design golf courses. Cornell provided the springboard for an act of self-invention that propelled Jones from obscurity to worldwide fame.  
 
Jones believed that every hole should be “a difficult par but an easy bogey.” As gifted as he was at golf design, Jones was equally skilled as a salesman, promoter, and entrepreneur. Golf Digest’s annual rankings of the 100 Greatest Golf Courses have regularly featured about fifty Jones designs, paving the path for his two sons, Robert Jr., and Rees, whose work would carry on their father’s tradition. Hansen examines Jones’s legacy in all its complexity and influence, including the fraternal rivalry of Jones’s distinguished sons.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If you have any passion for golf design, A Difficult Par should be the next book you read on the subject. It puts so much into perspective."
—GolfDigest.com
 
"This remarkable book is fitting tribute to a towering figure."
Golf Course Architecture Magazine
 
"4/5 Stars. Outstanding…A tremendous addition to the study of the history of golf course architecture. It is a detailed and fascinating look into the life of a man who, it can be argued, did more to shape the face of modern golf, both directly and by his influence, than any other person in the game."
San Francisco Examiner
 
"This book is a defining moment in golf literature."
The Met Golfer

"An affecting family portrait. A prohibitive favorite for golf book of the year."
Departures Magazine

"An expansive study of Jones' life and work…authoritative and meticulously researched. . . . for the course architecture aficionado, it is a revelatory dissertation."
—WorldGolf.com

"Superb…For anyone serious about golf, the history of the game or course design, this fine biography is a must. An in-depth biography of one of the greatest golf course architects of all time."
—Shelf Awareness for Readers

"Painstakingly researched, filled with kinds of fascinating insights...Highly recommended."
—Sportsology.info

"The most complete accounting to date of the evolution of Mr. Jones Sr.'s design elements...A Difficult Par deserves to be, and has now become, an important volume in the historical record of golf course architecture and design."
Golf Letter

"Fascinating…Every golfer who has ever wondered about the philosophy behind course design will thoroughly enjoy this biography."
—GolfGurls.com 

"Complicated…narrative rich in detail.. Hansen ably shows us a life filled with unrivaled success and deep end-of-life disappointment."
—Kirkus Reviews

"In this magisterial study of Robert Trent Jones, James R. Hansen narrates the remarkable achievements of the world’s most celebrated golf course architect. Hansen not only delves deeply into Jones’s Walter Mitty-like personality, he sets Jones's achievements into the context of America’s reach as the world’s leading economic and cultural power. A Difficult Par is a rich three-dimensional account of an extraordinary and uniquely American life."
—John Strawn, author of Driving The Green and the former CEO of Robert Trent Jones II

"Most of us in the golf world felt this was a book that could never be written. It took a decade of dogged persistence on Hansen's part to produce not just a candid and truthful biography of Trent Jones but a veritable masterpiece in sport literature."
—David Mackintosh, veteran international golf writer, Buenos Aires Herald   

"Robert Trent Jones was the most influential man in golf course design since Old Tom Morris. This biography by James Hansen is essential reading for all who love golf and golf courses. There is no book like it, answering far more questions about the leading personalities and practices of modern golf course design than any author has ever achieved."
—Dr. Michael C. Hurdzan, former president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects

"A Difficult Par is an American Dream saga—the story of an impoverished but ambitious young man without a high school diploma who married the girl of his dreams and gained fame and fortune as the world's premier golf architect. In this remarkable biography, James R. Hansen combines an engrossing family saga of courtship, romance, marital love, father-son tensions, and sibling rivalries with a detailed chronicle of Jones's business practices and a fascinating analysis of Jones's theory and practice of golf architecture. Hansen skillfully describes dozens of Jones's most celebrated courses, clearly demonstrating that Jones's genius lay in his ability to design a course that would severely test the world's premier golfers, but also provide an enjoyable round for hackers and duffers who struggle to break 100."
—George B. Kirsch, Professor Emeritus of History at Manhattan College and author of Golf in America

"A Difficult Par paints a memorable portrait of the life and works of the father of modern golf architecture, and depicts his remarkable succession from immigrant to immortal.  A must read for students of the game and its most noble names."
—Warner Bott Berry, author of Scotsman’s Dream

"By a long way the best golf biography I have ever read, the first time, to my knowledge, that a historian of such eminence has shone the light of his professional skills on one of the game's major figures."
—Adam Lawrence, editor, Golf Course Architecture

"As a historian and simple lover of classic golf course architecture, I've been waiting a long time for a comprehensive biography of the man who shaped the landscape of the modern game. With A Difficult Par, James Hansen has done the game of golf a great service by delivering a beautifully written and  defining examination of the complicated life and legacy of Robert Trent Jones, including the dynastic succession that continues to shape the game we know today. This wonderful book is an easy birdie and difficult to put down. A well-worn copy deserves to be on every true golf lover's bookshelf."
—James Dodson, author of Final Rounds and Ben Hogan: An American Life

Praise for First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong

“Even if you think you know everything about Neil Armstrong and America’s historic mission to be the first to land men on the Moon, this remarkable book by Dr. James Hansen contributes a host of fascinating new insights into not only the character of Apollo 11’s enigmatic commander but also into the nature of the spacefaring enterprise itself. It is a book for all time.”—Walter Cronkite “A powerful, unrelenting biography of a man who stands as a living testimony to everyday grit and determination. . . . Hansen has achieved something quite remarkable.... A magnificent panorama of the second half of the American twentieth century. . . . A must for astronaut buffs and history readers alike.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review “Let it be said at once that his book is an outstanding success.... Immaculately researched and packed with detail, but written in a way that will appeal to readers of all kinds.... This is an important book, and should be in every scientific library.”—Sir Patrick Moore, London Times Educational Supplement “A fine authorized biography brimming with groundbreaking research, fresh anecdotes and fair-minded analysis. . . . Hansen should be commended for decoding the enigmatic Armstrong: a space hero short on words but sky-high on Midwestern integrity.”—Douglas Brinkley, New York Times Book Review “[Hansen’s] mastery of detail is put to splendid use. The narrative of the moon mission is crisp and dramatic, the science clear. He deftly takes us back into those few days of global fascination with the adventure of the three distant voyagers, and the tense uncertainty about how it would turn out. The moon landing is old mental furniture for everyone of Baby Boom age and older….I finished Hansen’s Apollo story with a wholly fresh sense of awe at the magnitude of NASA’s achievement…. a compelling and nuanced portrait of the astronaut…. to understand Armstrong on his own terms is to see a large truth of our time.”—James Tobin, Chicago Tribune “A riveting chronicle…. [T]he book is a work of a true scholar…. The dramatic description of the actual landing … actually makes one’s heart pound, and one feels like going through it again and again….A must book not only for space buffs but for the general reader as well.”—Srinivas Laxman, The Times of India “[A] taut, well-told tale of our nation's race to the moon and the man who took the first step.”—Doug Allyn, The Flint Journal   “A great read.”—The Kansas City Star, Noteworthy Book of 2005 

Praise for First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong"Even if you think you know everything about Neil Armstrong and America’s historic mission to be the first to land men on the Moon, this remarkable book by Dr. James Hansen contributes a host of fascinating new insights into not only the character of Apollo 11’s enigmatic commander but also into the nature of the spacefaring enterprise itself. It is a book for all time."
Walter Cronkite

Library Journal
06/01/2014
Most golf books deal with the courses rather than designers, but Hansen (The Life of Neil A. Armstrong) covers here the life of the most prolific golf architect of the 20th century, Robert Trent Jones (1906–2000). The author does a credible (if lengthy) job of conveying the complexity of Jones the person, as well as Jones the golf-course architect. On the human side this is an American-dream story: humble beginnings, bootstrapping and entrepreneurism, success, failure, implosion. (Think Frank Lloyd Wright.) On the golf-course architecture side, Hansen explores Jones's design ideal: that the course should defend par but allow for bogey. This philosophy led him to help redesign several holes at the Augusta National Golf Club, GA, and to assist the United States Golf Association set up numerous U.S. Open courses. Jones also seems to have been the first to recognize the advantage of using a course as a way to develop residential real estate, how improvements in technology would affect course length, and the development of multiple tees that required minimal maintenance. At the end, though, the architect battled with his sons and longtime employees and associates. VERDICT Suitable for those who are very interested in golf architecture.—Steven Silkunas, Fernandina Beach, FL
Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-10
Hansen (First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, 2005, etc.) returns with the complicated story of the celebrated golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. (1906-2000).The author has clearly inhaled the extensive Jones archive at Cornell (which he attended and where he designed nine holes of the university course) and delivers a narrative rich in detail (sometimes over-rich) about a transformational figure in the history of golf. There are really several stories here. Hansen relates the biography of Jones (no relation to golfing legend Bobby Jones, though the two were friends and sometimes worked together), the cultural and social histories of golf in the United States and beyond, the processes of designing and building a golf course and, sadly, the internecine warfare that erupted between his two sons, Bobby and Rees, both of whom entered the business, as well. Young Jones' interest in golf began in mercenary fashion (he was caddying for cash); then he discovered he could play well but not well enough to prosper. He got interested in design, went to Cornell for some courses in landscape architecture and then embarked on a career in golf course design and construction. He made and lost fortunes but by the 1960s was generally acknowledged as the best in the world. Players weren't always happy, however, since his courses were/are demanding. Hansen tells us about the construction of some of his great courses—and redesigns—including Baltusrol, Oak Hill, Firestone and myriads of others. (The author appends a list of them all.) Golf aficionados will appreciate the detail about the courses and about some of the key matches he recounts. Those interested in the business aspects of Jones' enterprises will sigh about his questionable judgment at key points in his career, and those interested in family dynamics will find much to ponder—e.g., a bitter filial rivalry and an embittered mother whose will caused problems for everyone.Hansen ably shows us a life filled with unrivaled success and deep end-of-life disappointment.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592408238
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/8/2014
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 170,078
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Besides being an acclaimed New York Times bestselling author, James R. Hansen has always been an avid golfer and plays to a six handicap.  Hansen has played and studied more than six hundred courses around the world. He lives in Auburn, Alabama.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2015

    Highland Recommended

    I have read over 90 golf books, both fiction and non-fiction, but this was the first book I read devoted to a golf architect. It was long overdue. "A Difficult Par" was interesting, enjoyably and very informative. The title itself hints very nicely at Jones' philosophy of golf course design. The reader is informed about the beginning of golf course architecture in America and the affect that both world wars had on the number and nature of new course development. In addition to chronicling the evolution of Robert Trent Jones Sr.' career and it affect on golf in the united States(and it was significant), the book juxtaposes some of the well know events in U. S. golf history (e.g. Ken Venturi's 1964 Open win at Congressional in unbelievable heat, Ben Hogan's 1951 Open win at Oakland Hills which included a finishing round of 67, what many, including Hogan himself, consider the best round ever played) with Jones' course design/remodeling work. Jones was a strong proponent of the "strategic" and "heroic" design concepts. The later know today as risk/reward golf holes. Just as the general public and those responsible for building or remodeling golf courses during Jones' early and mid career, the reader learns just how much influence the golf architect has on the enjoyment and popularity of the amateur and the development of the professional game.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2014

    Scnoeva

    (I can barely spell that so call me Nova.) She walks in and drinks a whole bottle in 30 seconds. She wipes her mouth on her sleeve.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2014

    Venus

    She went to the bar and got a brink before sitiing on the stool, her mind driffting to other thoughts. She sighed feeling more lonely than she had in years.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2014

    Bar

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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