Historic Golf Gear and Memorabilia of Golf Collectors in the Hudson Valley and Westchester, NY
Masterpieces and mementos: Hudson Valley and Westchester’s golf collectors preserve and celebrate the game
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Bill Smittle, Valhalla
You may find an electronic range finder in Bill Smittle’s hand, but you probably won’t catch him reading an e-book. The head pro at Scarsdale Golf Club is addicted to books, specifically golf books. And he’s partial to the real thing. “There’s something about holding a book in your hand,” he says. “Smelling the mustiness and imagining where it’s been.”
Smittle, 51, has more than 3,200 golf books in his collection, most of them published before 1950. The oldest is a history of a course in Scotland that doesn’t exist anymore. The book was published in 1852. “I’m fortunate to travel to Europe every fall with some of the members at Scarsdale,” he says, “and I often go a day or two early to hunt through the bookshops in Scotland and England.”
The first collectible book Smittle acquired was an autographed copy of The Walter Hagen Story, a gift from his boss at Oakland Hills Country Club, the storied club in Michigan where Smittle worked before he came to Scarsdale 24 years ago. Hagen, one of the legends of the game, was the first golf professional at Oakland Hills.
“At one time I thought I might be a golf course architect,” Smittle says, “so much of my collection pertains to either course construction or design.” For other golf architecture aficionados, he recommends Eighteen Stakes on a Sunday Afternoon: A Chronicle of Golf Course Architecture in North America by Geoffrey Cornish. The most useful instruction book in his collection is Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by the golf great himself. Though published in 2005, Smittle considers Fearless Golf: Conquering the Mental Game — a “golf psychology” book written by Gio Valiante — a classic.
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