Lore of the Links

updated 09/21/1992 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1992 01:00AM

THE LAST TIME AMERICA FOCUSED ON A Little red book, it was the Quotations from Chairman Mao, 25 years ago. Now another Little Red Book is in the news—and on bestseller lists—but this time it's about...golf?!? Yes, golf. If the new book were to mention a Long March, it might be a par 5 at Baltusrol.

This Little Red Book contains the accumulated greensward wisdom of retired golf pro Harvey Penick, 87. Unlike Mao's, his teachings aren't revolutionary. "What makes my book special is...that what it says about playing golf has stood the test of time," says Penick. Like the Chairman, he speaks in aphorism:

"If you have a bad grip, you don't want a good swing."

"Play a round of golf with someone and you know them more intimately than you might from years of dinner parties."

"The real secret of golf—get your ball into the hole in a minimum number of strokes."

Until recently, Penick kept his pointers—collected during nearly 50 years as a pro at the Austin Country Club and 33 years as coach at the University of Texas—in a spiral notebook he toted from tee to tee. Last year, after recovering from a back injury and a perforated ulcer, he asked his friend Bud Shrake, a novelist and sportswriter, to help turn the jottings into a book. "Any time you can spend with Harvey is a bonus," says Shrake. "So when he called, I went." So far, the Little Red Book has sold 200,000 copies—and counting.

Retired since 1973, Penick still gives occasional lessons to the likes of Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw. And even a lucky duffer or two. "Now about your golf game," he recently wrote, in response to a fan letter from George Bush. "May I suggest that you are overanalyzing your swing?

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