Recently I spied my copy of Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book on my bookshelf. I had a few extra minutes and so I decided to reacquaint myself with this old friend.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with this book, but for those of you who are not, the Little Red Book is a collection of thoughts and reflections from one of the greatest teachers of the game. These short lessons, anywhere from a few sentences to a few pages, offer a blend of reflections from a bygone era in golf with teachings that stand the test of time. The introduction alone is a nine page collection of memories from eight of golf’s greatest players. This is a book every golfer should read. Some of my favorite entries include:

  1. “Golf should be learned starting at the cup and progressing backward to the tee.” A golfer usually “wants to pull out his driver and smack it, which is the very last thing you will learn if he comes to me.”

  2. Take dead aim. Everytime – aim at a spot on the fairway or green, refuse to allow any negative thoughts to enter into your head, and swing away.

  3. The question is not how good your good shots are, its how bad are your bad ones.

And I could go on and on.

However, what I want to share with you is how this book inspired me to start my own little golf book. In the Spring of 2011, I was deep into my First Tee Coach training and had also just started a mentoring relationship with Todd Kolb. I needed a way to capture all of the new information I was receiving. So I bought a pocket-sized journal at Barnes and Noble to record my thoughts.


While, not at the level of Harvey Penick, here are some of my entries:

  1. (Todd Kolb,  first lesson) Focus on fundamentals: grip, stance, club face. If you change something on your students make sure they know it’s alright to feel awkward.  (Harvey Penick said of any new student: “Any mistakes that are made out there today are mine, not yours.”)

  2. (School of Golf, Golf Channel) Characteristics of a good putter:

    1. Starts the ball on a chosen line.

    2. Good pace: Hits ball the correct distance.

    3. Can repeat on command.

  3. (Golfing with Julie Jansa) Do on the fairway as on the greens: long looks at the hole, short looks at the ball.

  4. (Golf Digest) Focus on the process – don’t worry about what others think.

  5. (First Tee Coach Training) Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

  6. Simple rules summary –  In general if it is a free drop, the distance is one club length. Otherwise it is two club lengths or back as far as you want on a line from the flag.

In the opening section of his book, Harvey Penick made it quite clear he had no intention of sharing the contents of his book with others until near the time of his death.  With all due respect to that intention, I, however, would be happy to share what I have learned with anyone who asks.  And I am always looking for new material so I enjoy discussing this book.  Just ask.  I usually have it with me when I golf.

Steve Zahn