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A Difficult Par: Robert Trent Jones Sr. and the Making of Modern Golf [Kindle Edition]

James R. Hansen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

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.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 25840 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (8 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G3L6KQ8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #838,410 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read book 20 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A tremendous book telling the unbelievable life of one of the master golf course architects - Robert Trent Jones Snr. His story is compelling reading to those who love golf course architecture and design and a fantastic true life story. It also plots the sometimes difficult family relationships that dominated RTJ's later life. Written in superb detail as the RTJ 'papers' were made available to James Hansen. It's a heavyweight read but it's the type of book where you can read a bit, put it down for a couple of days and pick it up again straight away. I loved every page of it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RTJ, Warts and All 12 May 2014
By David Donelson - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Some of my favorite golf courses were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., but that's not why I consider the story of his life written by James R. Hansen, A Difficult Par, one of the best biographies I've read in a long, long time. What I really enjoyed about the book was the totally unvarnished view it presents of the man's life and accomplishments, good, bad, and otherwise. Quite frankly, most golf biographies are hagiographies barely worth the effort it takes to turn the pages. This one I couldn't put down.

Robert Trent Jones, Sr., may well have been the most influential golf course architect of the game's flowering in the second half of the twentieth century. He was an English immigrant who arrived in the U.S. just as golf was on the verge of becoming a popular past time. His up-by-the bootstraps early life is a prelude to the ego-driven success he enjoyed as the premier designer of his day. As Hansen presents him, Jones was a brilliant architect and a shameless self-promoter. The interplay between the two sides of the man gives the reader rare insight into his spectacularly successful career.

Hansen gives excellent descriptions of everything from the design concepts to the political and financial relationships behind most of the top courses Jones created and renovated, which makes for fascinating reading for golfer and non-golfer alike. His renovation work at Augusta National, the National Golf Links, and Winged Foot, for example, may have been lost with the passage of time, but was important in the history of the game. Many of his post-war original designs are atop every aficionado's "best of" list: Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach, Hazeltine, Spyglass, not to mention the Robert Trent Jones Trail of excellent courses across the state of Alabama.

Golfers in my neck of the world are probably aware of the many contributions Jones made to the quality of the game in the Northeast, particularly in New York, but may not realize how much of that came in the form of public, daily fee courses. Among them are Montauk Downs, Eisenhower Park's White and Blue courses, Marine Park, Bruce Memorial in Greenwich, and Casperkill in Poughkeepsie (originally built for IBM).

Hansen also explores the failures as well as the fabulous successes in Jones's career, many of which illustrated the man's weaknesses as a businessman instead of his strengths as an architect. He pulls no punches when it comes to the less-than-savory history of Jones's relationships with some partners and collaborators both early and late in his career. The complicated relationship between and among Jones and his two sons, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and Rees Jones, gets full play, too, although in a perfectly respectful manner. The book doesn't drag anybody through the mud, but the author doesn't hesitate to show you the puddles along the way.

In many ways, A Difficult Par resembles Jones's favorite design concept: a good golf hole is an easy bogey but a difficult par. It moves along as an easy read with plenty of drama and entertainment value. If you want to dig deeper, however, the well-researched history Hansen presents is well worth careful, studious consideration.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The insights provided by Hansen are excellent, and the incredible amount of research he did ... 22 Aug. 2014
By Richard Bradow - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Having grown up learning to play golf in the Robert Trent Jones era, any golf courses he designed have always been at the top of my must play “wish list.” James Hansen’s RTJ bio provides an in-depth look at how Jones built his career, developed his design philosophy, and became one of the most influential figures in golf in the 20th century. Particularly interesting was the honest portrayal of Jones’ early struggles getting started in the design business and his relationships with both family and associates. The insights provided by Hansen are excellent, and the incredible amount of research he did in writing the book is obvious. “A Difficult Par” is a wonderful journey through the evolution of golf course architecture, and I would highly recommend it to every avid golfer and student of the game.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside knowledge to the architectual side of the game of golf! 5 Nov. 2014
By Kimberly F. - Published on
I read this book from cover to cover, not missing a word. If you are a serious golf nut, and love reading about the game, the architects master minding courses, and all the twists and turns, you will find this book exceptional reading. Although some points were long explanations, I felt that his son Robert Trent Jones, Jr. should have been presented in a better light. His new course at Chambers Bay will be the 2015 site of the US Open, and what an honor that will be for the Jones' family. Mr. Jones, Jr. had much more community involvement both political and volunteer, than was mentioned in the book, which probably could have been explained in more detail...or maybe another book!
The book caught my attention, as I then went to play Stanley Thompson's course in Canada, and found I had a special inside knowledge to the area and the game. I really enjoyed reading this book.
Well done, James Hansen!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A read unlike any other of its kind. 13 Jun. 2014
By Justin Melnick - Published on
I have read many books concerning the topic of golf course architecture history. None of them are so complete and insightful as the story of Robert Trent Jones, Sr., which is only told properly through the lens of his entire family. From his unique path through higher education to many world-traveling golf adventures, all so fascinating and clearly portrayed, it is hard not to feel like you are right there with The Old Man on his journey through life. I am thoroughly impressed by the time and effort it took for Dr. Jim Hansen to accurately represent Mr. Jones and his family. Life stories like this one are not often recorded to this level of detail and perspective, and it is absolutely well worth the read for any golf enthusiast wishing to know more about the most famous American golf course architect of his time, perhaps ever.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Round!! 16 July 2014
By Tom - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The research that went into this book is extensive and impressive! For the author to gain access to the documents and people in order to put this book together speaks volumes about his passion, endurance and drive. An amazing journey following the life of Robert Trent Jones and his family, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. The author visited our golf club last night and he is as down to earth and passionate as his writing. The only knock in my opinion is that perhaps in the effort to present extensive unbiased factual information, and given that this is a biography, I felt more like I was reviewing information rather than engaging with the people, places and events mentioned in the book. The book is a great, informative read and I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly.
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