Review

The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America, and the Story of Golf

by Mark Frost



With the publication of THE GRAND SLAM: Bobby Jones, America, and
the Story of Golf, author Mark Frost has firmly established his
credentials as a golf historian of great acumen and a writer of
outstanding ability. In 2002, Frost detailed the beginning of
modern golf in America in a critically acclaimed book, THE GREATEST
GAME EVER PLAYED, the saga of then unknown American amateur Francis
Ouimet and his victory over the golfing giants of Great Britain in
the 1913 U.S. Open. That historical epic was a national bestseller,
won the Book of the Year Award from the United States Golf
Association, and was selected by Travel and Leisure magazine
as one of the top 25 golf books ever. THE GRAND SLAM is a seamless
extension of the Ouimet saga into the next significant era of
sports history with an exhaustive portrait of golf immortal Bobby
Jones, his domination of the game of golf in the Roaring Twenties,
and the interaction of golf and American life in that era.

Ouimet defeated golfing giants Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in his Open
upset. After the tournament was completed, Vardon and Ray began a
tour of the United States before returning to their homeland. One
of their stops took them to the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta,
Georgia. Eleven-year-old Bobby Jones was a spectator at that match.
Several weeks later, young Jones accomplished his first milestone
in his golfing career when he posted a score of 80. Three years
later, at the age of fourteen, Jones became the youngest player
ever to qualify for and play in a U.S. Amateur Championship. For
the next seven years he struggled to overcome self-imposed feelings
of inferiority and a violent temper before finally winning his
first U.S. Open Championship in 1923. Until his retirement in 1930,
Jones dominated the game of golf, winning thirteen of golf’s
major championships of that era: the U.S. Open, the British Open,
and the Amateur Championships.

In 1930, Jones accomplished the grand slam of golf, winning the
four Open and Amateur championships held that year. The feat has
never been matched. Frost’s saga of those four tournaments is
the culmination of THE GRAND SLAM, covering the final one-third of
the narrative. Long before the account of the 1930 championships,
Frost paints an elaborate portrait of Jones, golf, and the history
of post World War One America and Europe.

Viewing the life of Bobby Jones through the lens of the
contemporary sporting world dominated by money, money and more
money, it is difficult to imagine the truly amateur career
accomplishments of Jones. In addition to dominating the game of
golf, Jones found time to graduate from Georgia Tech, undertake
graduate studies at Harvard University and attend law school,
passing the Georgia Bar Exam after only three semesters, an
extremely difficult feat. During Jones’s lifetime, the rules
regarding amateur golf were exacting. Unlike modern amateur
athletes, Jones could not train year round. He had to maintain
full-time employment in order to support his wife and children.
Under those circumstances, Jones’s golf accomplishments are
even more remarkable to contemplate.

If THE GRAND SLAM was merely the story of Bobby Jones, it would be
a worthy book. But it is far more. In addition to the life of
Jones, we learn of avid presidential golfers Woodrow Wilson and
Warren Harding. While in the White House, the widower Wilson
remarried. The President and his new wife honeymooned at a golf
course. Jones’s life is also set against the backdrop of the
Jazz Age, the Great Depression, and the literary era represented by
authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald. In addition to Jones, sports
heroes including Red Grange, Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey dominated
the ’20s. All of these legends contributed to a golden age of
sports skillfully chronicled by Mark Frost.

The 1920s also saw the rise of professional golfers, including the
legendary Walter Hagen, whose career intertwined and benefited from
the attention paid to Jones. Beyond their confrontations in
multiple U.S. and British Opens, Hagen and Jones had occasional
highly publicized and well-attended exhibition battles. The two men
were polar opposites in their approach to golf and life. Hagen was
flamboyant and self-assured, while Jones was nervous and often
wracked with self-doubt. In addition, Jones spent a substantial
portion of his career battling a temper that he found difficult to
control. Only as he matured both physically and emotionally did he
reach his true potential.

The career of Bobby Jones and the 1930 grand slam year has been the
subject of many books. THE GRAND SLAM goes far beyond the narrative
of the golfing life of Bobby Jones. Mark Frost’s two books
effectively serve as volumes one and two of what could be a
magnificent history of American golf. Avid golf historians can only
await the next installment in the saga from a splendid golf
writer.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 22, 2011

The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America, and the Story of Golf
by Mark Frost

  • Publication Date: November 3, 2004
  • Genres: Nonfiction, Sports
  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • ISBN-10: 1401301088
  • ISBN-13: 9781401301088