Golf's Holy War: The Battle for the Soul of a Game in an Age of Science (Hardcover)
Just as Michael Lewis’s Moneyball captured baseball at a technological turning point, Brett Cyrgalis’s Golf’s Holy War takes us inside golf’s clash between its beloved artistic tradition and its analytic future.
The world of golf is at a crossroads. As technological innovations displace traditional philosophies, the golfing community has splintered into two deeply combative factions: the old-school teachers and players who believe in feel, artistry, and imagination, and the technical minded who want to remake the game around data. In Golf’s Holy War, Brett Cyrgalis takes readers inside the heated battle playing out from weekend hackers to PGA Tour pros.
At the Titleist Performance Institute in Oceanside, California, golfers clad in full-body sensors target weaknesses in their biomechanics, while others take part in mental exercises designed to test their brain’s psychological resilience. Meanwhile, coaches like Michael Hebron purge golfers of all technical information, tapping into the power of intuitive physical learning by playing rudimentary games. From historic St. Andrews to manicured Augusta, experimental communes in California to corporatized conferences in Orlando, William James to Ben Hogan to theoretical physics, the factions of the spiritual and technical push to redefine the boundaries of the game. And yet what does it say that Tiger Woods has orchestrated one of the greatest comebacks in sports history without the aid of a formal coach?
But Golf’s Holy War is more than just a book about golf—it’s a story about modern life and how we are torn between resisting and embracing the changes brought about by the advancements of science and technology. It’s also an exploration of historical legacies, the enriching bonds of education, and the many interpretations of reality.
About the Author
Brett Cyrgalis is a veteran sports writer who worked for the New York Post for fourteen years, covering almost all major sporting events from the Stanley Cup final to the US Opens in golf and tennis. His work has also appeared in The New York Times and Golf Digest, among other publications. He is an accomplished golfer and lives on Long Island.
“What Brett does in this book is really sensational. . . . It’s an excellent read and you’ll definitely enjoy it. . . . In this time when we are pondering the role of data, technology, and science in golf, I just couldn’t think of a better book to read.”
—Geoff Shackelford, The Shack Show
“Thought-provoking and comprehensive . . . The author is a serious, intellectually curious writer, and he incorporates quotes and references from many notables including Albert Einstein, William James, Babe Ruth, and Sigmund Freud. Golf’s Holy War is truly unlike any golf book you have read, and one that will be talked about for some time.”
—Les Shupak, The Met Golfer
“A fascinating look at where technological innovation and hallowed tradition meet in the golf world . . . An obvious hole-in-one for golfers and their coaches.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Brett Cyrgalis has written a highly entertaining, very smart book about a maddening, very stupid game. You should read it.”
“Somehow, this guy gathered an all-world foursome—Sigmund Freud, Babe Ruth, William James, Ben Hogan—in one book. That alone makes it worth the price of admission. Along the way, he goes deep on golf’s most perplexing question: is the game an art, or a science? The answer is yes! Golf’s Holy War shows and tells how and why with rare, true depth.”
“Brett Cyrgalis understands that golf is about balancing dualities. Intellect and emotion, consciousness and unconsciousness, data and anecdote, art and science. The correct blends remain fluid and mysterious, although a recent tidal wave of advances has seen key elements of the game quantified like never before. Can golf’s maddening code be cracked? Through penetrating portraits of a well-chosen collection of pivotal innovators—some famous, some obscure, all consequential and fascinating—Cyrgalis has expertly connected the right dots to contribute a sophisticated and timely state of the game. Of course the mystery endures, but rarely has a golf writer been as illuminating.”
“There is intellectual power in solitude, and yet PGA Tour practice facilities are crowded with theorists, pseudo-scientists and teachers, making the practice ranges at Tour events not a place of discovery, but of danger. It’s there that athletes are trading their genius for the ideas of others and losing the intuition that made them great. Golf’s Holy War describes this battle like an entrenched journalist describing a war.”
“Golf’s Holy War is a fascinating read for anyone who cares about the state of the contemporary game. A tidal wave of science has washed over the sport in recent years, threatening the foundations of the game’s traditions and the defenders of its more mystical qualities. Brett Cyrgalis investigates the ripples it has caused, from the teaching of the golf swing, and the fitness and strategy of the game’s best players, to the design and maintenance of golf courses.”
“Brett’s book is really impressive—thoughtful, very well written, with a really fresh perspective on the game.”
—Sam Weinman of Golf Digest
“Golf’s Holy War is a wonderful survey of the emotional and technical sides of today’s game. Worth buying and reading.”
—Bradley S. Klein on Twitter
“A very rewarding read . . . I learned about so many people I had never come across in any other book or any other medium. . . . It has made the whole golf universe that much richer for me. I greatly enjoyed it. I think any avid golfer or golf fan will enjoy it.”
—Phil Landes, aka “Big Randy,” on No Laying Up’s Trap Draw podcast