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.
“Praise for A Difficult Par: Winner of the 2014 Herbert Warren Wind Book Award "If you have any passion for golf design, A Difficult Par should be the next book you read on the subject. It puts so much into perspective." —GolfDigest.com "This remarkable book is fitting tribute to a towering figure." —Golf Course Architecture Magazine "4/5 Stars. Outstanding…A tremendous addition to the study of the history of golf course architecture. It is a detailed and fascinating look into the life of a man who, it can be argued, did more to shape the face of modern golf, both directly and by his influence, than any other person in the game." —San Francisco Examiner "This book is a defining moment in golf literature." —The Met Golfer "An affecting family portrait. A prohibitive favorite for golf book of the year." —Departures Magazine "An expansive study of Jones' life and work…authoritative and meticulously researched. . . . for the course architecture aficionado, it is a revelatory dissertation." —WorldGolf.com "Superb…For anyone serious about golf, the history of the game or course design, this fine biography is a must. An in-depth biography of one of the greatest golf course architects of all time." —Shelf Awareness for Readers "Painstakingly researched, filled with kinds of fascinating insights...Highly recommended." —Sportsology.info "The most complete accounting to date of the evolution of Mr. Jones Sr.'s design elements...A Difficult Par deserves to be, and has now become, an important volume in the historical record of golf course architecture and design." —Golf Letter "Fascinating…Every golfer who has ever wondered about the philosophy behind course design will thoroughly enjoy this biography." —GolfGurls.com "Complicated…narrative rich in detail.. Hansen ably shows us a life filled with unrivaled success and deep end-of-life disappointment." —Kirkus Reviews "In this magisterial study of Robert Trent Jones, James R. Hansen narrates the remarkable achievements of the world’s most celebrated golf course architect. Hansen not only delves deeply into Jones’s Walter Mitty-like personality, he sets Jones's achievements into the context of America’s reach as the world’s leading economic and cultural power. A Difficult Par is a rich three-dimensional account of an extraordinary and uniquely American life." —John Strawn, author of Driving The Green and the former CEO of Robert Trent Jones II "Most of us in the golf world felt this was a book that could never be written. It took a decade of dogged persistence on Hansen's part to produce not just a candid and truthful biography of Trent Jones but a veritable masterpiece in sport literature." —David Mackintosh, veteran international golf writer, Buenos Aires Herald "Robert Trent Jones was the most influential man in golf course design since Old Tom Morris. This biography by James Hansen is essential reading for all who love golf and golf courses. There is no book like it, answering far more questions about the leading personalities and practices of modern golf course design than any author has ever achieved." —Dr. Michael C. Hurdzan, former president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects "A Difficult Par is an American Dream saga—the story of an impoverished but ambitious young man without a high school diploma who married the girl of his dreams and gained fame and fortune as the world's premier golf architect. In this remarkable biography, James R. Hansen combines an engrossing family saga of courtship, romance, marital love, father-son tensions, and sibling rivalries with a detailed chronicle of Jones's business practices and a fascinating analysis of Jones's theory and practice of golf architecture. Hansen skillfully describes dozens of Jones's most celebrated courses, clearly demonstrating that Jones's genius lay in his ability to design a course that would severely test the world's premier golfers, but also provide an enjoyable round for hackers and duffers who struggle to break 100." —George B. Kirsch, Professor Emeritus of History at Manhattan College and author of Golf in America "A Difficult Par paints a memorable portrait of the life and works of the father of modern golf architecture, and depicts his remarkable succession from immigrant to immortal. A must read for students of the game and its most noble names." —Warner Bott Berry, author of Scotsman’s Dream "By a long way the best golf biography I have ever read, the first time, to my knowledge, that a historian of such eminence has shone the light of his professional skills on one of the game's major figures." —Adam Lawrence, editor, Golf Course Architecture "As a historian and simple lover of classic golf course architecture, I've been waiting a long time for a comprehensive biography of the man who shaped the landscape of the modern game. With A Difficult Par, James Hansen has done the game of golf a great service by delivering a beautifully written and defining examination of the complicated life and legacy of Robert Trent Jones, including the dynastic succession that continues to shape the game we know today. This wonderful book is an easy birdie and difficult to put down. A well-worn copy deserves to be on every true golf lover's bookshelf." —James Dodson, author of Final Rounds and Ben Hogan: An American Life Praise for First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong “Even if you think you know everything about Neil Armstrong and America’s historic mission to be the first to land men on the Moon, this remarkable book by Dr. James Hansen contributes a host of fascinating new insights into not only the character of Apollo 11’s enigmatic commander but also into the nature of the spacefaring enterprise itself. It is a book for all time.”—Walter Cronkite“A powerful, unrelenting biography of a man who stands as a living testimony to everyday grit and determination. . . . Hansen has achieved something quite remarkable.... A magnificent panorama of the second half of the American twentieth century. . . . A must for astronaut buffs and history readers alike.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review “Let it be said at once that his book is an outstanding success.... Immaculately researched and packed with detail, but written in a way that will appeal to readers of all kinds.... This is an important book, and should be in every scientific library.”—Sir Patrick Moore, London Times Educational Supplement “A fine authorized biography brimming with groundbreaking research, fresh anecdotes and fair-minded analysis. . . . Hansen should be commended for decoding the enigmatic Armstrong: a space hero short on words but sky-high on Midwestern integrity.”—Douglas Brinkley, New York Times Book Review“[Hansen’s] mastery of detail is put to splendid use. The narrative of the moon mission is crisp and dramatic, the science clear. He deftly takes us back into those few days of global fascination with the adventure of the three distant voyagers, and the tense uncertainty about how it would turn out. The moon landing is old mental furniture for everyone of Baby Boom age and older….I finished Hansen’s Apollo story with a wholly fresh sense of awe at the magnitude of NASA’s achievement…. a compelling and nuanced portrait of the astronaut…. to understand Armstrong on his own terms is to see a large truth of our time.”—James Tobin, Chicago Tribune “A riveting chronicle…. [T]he book is a work of a true scholar…. The dramatic description of the actual landing … actually makes one’s heart pound, and one feels like going through it again and again….A must book not only for space buffs but for the general reader as well.”—Srinivas Laxman, The Times of India “[A] taut, well-told tale of our nation's race to the moon and the man who took the first step.”—Doug Allyn, The Flint Journal “A great read.”—The Kansas City Star, Noteworthy Book of 2005 Praise for First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong "Even if you think you know everything about Neil Armstrong and America’s historic mission to be the first to land men on the Moon, this remarkable book by Dr. James Hansen contributes a host of fascinating new insights into not only the character of Apollo 11’s enigmatic commander but also into the nature of the spacefaring enterprise itself. It is a book for all time." —Walter Cronkite”