At long last, an afternoon in Pinehurst with Tom Doak's controversial Confidential Guide to Golf Courses
Last week when I was debating whether to tee it up in windy, sub 40 degree temps at Pinehurst, I took a stroll around the village and wandered into the Tufts Archives, home to a collection of both Pinehurst historical photos and memorabilia, and also general golf literature as well.
Much to my delight, I finally came across a copy of Tom Doak’s controversial “Confidential Guide to Golf Courses.”
Like many golf course architecture buffs who have played courses of many styles all over the world, I’d love to have a copy. But the book is out of print, partially because northern Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Press went under. But it’s about as anti-PR, pro-bridge-burning of a book as you could have in the golf business.
Looking back on some of the lines, it’s safe to say Doak would probably want to embark on his own “softening” project with it.
It’s made for a must-have collectors item. This Ebay search has copies starting at $450. On Amazon.com, you can purchase used copies starting at $295.
But if you can’t pony up the cash for it online, stop by the Tufts Archives at Pinehurst. You can’t check it out, but you can spend a rainy day thumbing through it and transcribing your favorite parts (much like I did last week).
I didn’t have long with the book, but it was an enlightening read, albeit inflammatory and conflicting in plenty of spots. He virtually pans the entire state of Florida’s golf scene with the line “I’ll take Seminole, you can have the other 999.” But then goes on to rate several Sunshine State courses highly, including World Woods’ Pine Barrens course.
He is also rather critical of Jack Nicklaus golf design: “I think he was almost singlehandidly responsible for the inflation of golf course construction and budgets during the 1980s.” I wonder if that was brought up during the construction of their collaboration at Sebonack Golf Club in New York.
I would also bet Doak never takes Myrtle Beach golf vacations much. He calls the Grand Strand a “design wasteland” and admits Heather Glen’s marketing strategy, which likens the course to Scotland “makes him want to puke.” Aside from these disses, he rates Dunes Golf & Beach Club highly, and it was insightful to read about his falling out with Legends owner Danny Young during the construction of the Parkland, intended to be an Alister Mackenzie tribute course.
I was also dumbfounded that Doak, who has earned reputation as a “minimalist” architect, would strongly praise Tom Fazio’s Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, among the game’s most artificial, expensive courses on earth.
Doak does speak very highly of Pinehurst No. 2, giving it a perfect 10: “The unbelievable part about Pinehurst No. 2 is that a lot of people think the course is dull, because its so wide open of the tee and because there’s no obviously penal rough around the greens. They don’t understand that unless they drive the ball well, and to the right spot in the fairway, they’re going to leave themselves a lot of very tricky chips and pitches as a product of their misplays to the green.”
Interestingly enough, that very topic of fairway forgiveness will be the subject of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s renovation project that will occur in the coming years prior to the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open. Initial buzz indicates the fairways will be widened in order to bring more strategic options into play.
“The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses” was published in 1996, when Pacific Dunes was just a twinkle in Doak’s eye, and it’s intelligent and blunt nature is a reason why golfers adore many of Doak’s philosophies. Even today, he’s a much more candid and honest interview than the majority of architects who stick to a script, and there’s always a shortage of that in the golf biz.
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