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"A Golfer's Dream" was a noble quest, but makes for nightmarish reading

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
A Golfer's Dream by Larry Berle
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There is much to be admired about Larry Berle's book, "A Golfer's Dream."

Unfortunately, not much of it is actually in the book.

Berle went on a quest to play the Top 100 golf courses in the U.S. as listed in Golf Digest. He thought initially it would take him a couple of years. In the end, it took a decade.

It is a testament to his extraordinary perseverance that he stuck it out that long. He had to come up with some creative ways to get on exclusive golf courses that "regular" guys usually have no chance at. Like Augusta National, where he nurtured a "friendship" with a member for two years.

Some of that makes for interesting reading.

The problem is, Berle is no writer. For one thing, someone should pry loose the exclamation point key from his keyboard, stomp on it, then burn it. Some examples:

"Simply breathtaking!"

"What a magnificent trip this was!"

"What a day it turned out to be!"

Or simply: "Wow!"

In the last chapter, this is his thoughtful conclusion after 10 years: "I did it! What an accomplishment!"

There are dozens - probably hundreds - of these, making you feel like you're reading an adolescent's account. The subject matter is there, but, wow, if ever there was a need for a ghostwriter!

Berle organized the book into chapters of the golf courses he played, with titles like "Forest Gump-tion" and "Pennsylvania Pride and Prejudice." Berle gives a little course history, or maybe an anecdote or two, and quotes from people about these "much-storied" layouts.

There are some fairly good descriptions, and he doesn't back down from offering a degree of criticism. Here's Berle on Los Angeles Country Club: "Even though LACC wouldn't take Groucho [Marx] if he were alive today, I doubt that he would be interested in joining the club anyway."

But readers can get those kinds of barbs from many different sources. What should be interesting about this book is how a "regular guy" got on some of these golf courses.

And at first, it makes for some interesting tales, like the way he poses as a prospective homebuyer to play courses in exclusive residential communities, pretending to be interested in expensive homes he admits he could never afford.

But after a few chapters you tire of hearing about all the social networking that enables him to play - a friend of a friend, a business associate, a chance encounter. In the appendix, under "Things I learned along the way," he allows that "My considerable networking skills were sharpened in this quest."

Berle also comes across too often as being - there is no polite way to say this - a little over earnest and over friendly in being what he calls "America's Best Guest." In other words, fake.

"I wore my 'America's Guest' hat tall and proud since I knew these people would be good business connections..." he writes.

And man, could he have used an editor! It should be a sin for a golf writer to mention "Sam Sneed." Also, is it "caddy" or "caddie?" Pick one and stick with it.

A book like this should use a conversational tone, and Berle does that. It's easy reading. But, at times, it's a little too conversational, as when he uses phrases like "very cool," or "how great is that?" or even "I was trembling with excitement."

Too many chapters end with sentences like, "We watched the sunset over Long Island and went to dinner."

Berle was involved in concert promotions at the time he wrote the book, and I have to say there's a little too much information on Yanni here.

Back to that appendix, under "Things I learned along the way."

"Golf is a metaphor for life."

"Never forget a name."

Maybe this book should be hawked to golf-loving junior executives at a business seminar, but not for golfers looking for insight on the country's best golf courses and how to play them.

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • A Golfers Dream

    RonMon wrote on: Oct 12, 2008

    Well, Shakeaspeare, it looks like you and I don't exactly see eye to eye. Have you ever read Tom Doak's A Confidential Guide To Golf Courses? It comes across in a similarly transparent way. I agree that an editor might have helped but...aw hell, read my blog entry.
    Mon of the Ron


      • RE: A Golfers Dream

        Tim McDonald wrote on: Oct 29, 2008

        You could use the same editor Berle didn't.
        Look up the spelling of Shakespeare.