Few sporting activities have produced a more extensive published literature than the game of golf. From biographies and manuals to atlases and novels, golf books have long commanded the fascination of professionals and amateurs alike. Over the past century, the literature of golf in all of its forms and formats has continued to grow as the popularity of the game has increased and as golfers, courses, and tournaments have spread around the world.
While the extent of golf literature is impressive, its growth has been a relatively recent development. A primitive version of golf was played in Scotland as early as the fifteenth century, but only a few scattered references to the beginnings of the game survive in manuscripts, legal documents, and occasional published sources. It was not until the later nineteenth century, with the rapid growth of interest in the game and expansion of courses to accommodate increased participation, that books on golf become a literature in their own right.
Golf was a fresh experience, propelled to wider popularity by easy railroad and highway access to courses, reduced costs and improved reliability of golf equipment, substantial increases in leisure time, and a new middle-class obsession with the outdoors and physical fitness. For men and women, college students and children alike, golf was an irresistible new expression of the contemporary age. Along with bicycling, gymnastics, tennis, and other sporting enthusiasms of the late nineteenth century, golf and books about golf rode a sweeping wave of social change into the dramatically reshaped culture of modern times.
"Reading the Greens" takes a new look at this enduring phenomenon, not by studying the lay of the course, the slope of the turf, or the site of the cup, but by examining the rich array of published literature that the game has produced.
Books and other printed golf materials displayed in this exhibition were drawn from the Arthur W. Schultz Golf Collection, which includes more than 1,600 books on the history of golf presented to the University of Chicago Library by Arthur W. Schultz. Titles in the collection, maintained in the Department of Special Collections, reflect an avid golfer's interest in the historical, social, and technical aspects of the game. Arthur W. Schultz is an alumnus and Life Trustee of the University of Chicago.
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