This book is one of the most complete looks at top golf holes around the world that most golfers can hope to have. Since most of us cannot be scratch golfers, play on the pro tour, or get access to the world's most exclusive clubs, one of the top joys of being a golfer is playing on any great hole. The next best thing is to imagine or to remember playing such a hole. For 100 of 500 top holes, this book will help provide this indirect enjoyment by putting you visually on either the tee and the green of many outstanding holes with a decent-sized color photograph. For 18 of 500 top holes, you are able to do both.
If you live in the parts of the world where golf is not available all year around, this book can also keep the spark alive (when you are not watching the Golf Channel).
The book contains four main sections. The first looks at 18 great holes (par 72). In this section, you see the view from the tee and from the green, plus enjoy a drawing of the hole's topography and layout. An excellent essay describes the hole to flesh out the photographs.
The second section examines 100 holes (25 par 3s, 50 par 4s, and 25 par 5s). Each hole contains a one page photograph and a one page essay. I was disappointed that some of the holes did not have the best photographic angle available. I suspect that the editors relied on whatever photograph worked best in this layout, rather than the photograph that best represented the hole. I graded the book down one star for this weakness.
The third section is like a catalog, for it contains four holes per page with a tiny picture and a brief paragraph. I'm not sure what else could have been done, but perhaps it would have been better to feature fewer holes and done more with each one.
The fourth section was my favorite, because it had lots of "bests" lists. These included the most difficult, heroic, penal, longest, mountain, water, hard to putt, and scenic. I especially liked the ranking of best holes by designer, those holes that are easiest to play on for the average person, and the ones that are hardest to get on to play.
The editors have a pretty reasonable view of what they have accomplished here.
"Is our World's Greatest list definitive? We doubt it."
"Is it controversial? We hope so."
"Is it defensible? You bet it is. Have a look."
Anyone who sees the book will have quibbles. The jacket cover has the 7th hole at Pebble Beach on it. Now that is a very scenic hole (and is the signature of Pebble Beach). The hole is very tough in a high wind. But on a calm day, it is one of the easiest holes in the world. I certainly wouldn't have put it on the jacket cover. The 18th at Pebble Beach would have been a better choice if you wanted to do one hole from that course.
The process used was pretty exhaustive, but hardly definitive. For the United States, readers of Golf Magazine and its web site could make nominations. Editors of top publications around the world proposed the other holes. In the end 40 countries and territories are represented. The U.S. does seem overrepresented though. A lot of the holes are in here just because they are long. That's not so defensible these days when long hitters can conquer almost any hole in 2 shots to the green. The final choices were made at Carnoustie in 1999 during the British Open by the Golf Magazine editors, the 11 non-U.S. publication editors who had made the nominations, plus a representative each from St. Andrews and the U.S.G.A. Naturally, you have St. Andrews overrepresented in the book.
I found that the list seemed overweighted toward the well-known holes (such as the 7th at Pebble Beach and the 17th at the Old Course in St. Andrews), but that makes it more interesting to the people who want to know more about those holes. Although the book has some material about famous moments on the holes, it would have been improved by doing much more of this. When I have played any of the holes in the book, it is the stories about competitive experiences by great golfers that have enriched the pleasure for me the most.
On the other hand, Cypress Point is a course I am unlikely to ever play and the book has several holes from that club. I was very happy to see them beautifully laid out and described. I had the same reaction to many non-U.S. courses that I did not know about before.
If you have the chance to travel, I think the best use of this book is to help you organize some golf vacations where you can access the courses. I have had it in my mind to play Pinehurst #2 for many years, and seeing the great holes from that classic Donald Ross course reminded me to do something about that desire.
However you decide to enjoy this book, I am sure that it will expand your joy in the game . . . even if only as a spectator on a televised tournament.
I suggest that you make a promise to yourself to play at least one of the holes though. That will make your journey through its pages much more fun!
Have a great experience with these great holes! As the editors point out, "In the end, we don't play the great holes -- they play us." "They thrill, frighten, embolden, confound, contort, support, and cajole us."
Go for the pin!