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Book review: Planet Golf is your passport to the world's finest golf courses

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Ria Bintan in Indonesia
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Ria Bintan in Indonesia: one of 130 courses featured in the new book Planet Golf. (Courtesy: David Scaletti)

Golf travel buffs are going to love "Planet Golf: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses Outside the United States of America." This glossy, giant-sized coffee table book features dazzling photos and information from more than 130 of the finest courses around the world.

About half of the globe's golf courses are outside the United States, and "Planet Golf" has grouped the best of them together to offer a "Who's Who" of world class golf courses.

Every region of the world is highlighted here, except the U.S. - that's slated for the follow-up book which author Darius Oliver is currently in the U.S. compiling.

The book is going to liven up any living room with two or more golfers in it. Golf travelers are going to reminisce when coming across the pages of courses they've experienced, and salivate at the ones they've yet to see.

The book fittingly starts with a collection of courses in Scotland, beginning at the Old Course in St. Andrews, then moves on to the rest of the British Isles, before scattering across the world from Japan to Mexico.

The foreword is from Greg Norman, who has toured not only the globe as a player, but as a designer as well. His new design in Ireland, Doonbeg, is a worthy stage for the book's cover shot.

"As a disciple of the design ideologies of golf's earliest course architects," wrote Norman in the foreword. "I am continually inspired in my own design work by the wonderful old Mackenzie courses in my homeland, Australia, and the ancient links of Britain and Ireland."

Oliver's course write-ups are more design-oriented than story-telling based, quoting architects like Pete Dye, Alister Mackenzie and Tom Doak. This isn't the kind of book where you'll hear old caddie legends or stories from British Opens or the follies of the greats. This is centered around the courses themselves.

"Courses we're familiar with like Carnoustie, St. Andrews, Royal Melbourne," Oliver said on the TravelGolf.com This Week podcast. "They're great courses not because they're played by Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus. They're great because they have great holes, great design in a great location."

The text is informative, not overly gushing about any of the clubs like some other glossy hardcover golf books that can be borderline poetry. Oliver isn't hesitant to point out a few shortcomings. Even the world's best golf courses aren't perfect. I was pleased to see he not only mentioned the prime, coastal holes of Praia D'El Rey in Portugal, but also its collection of holes that are impeded with housing and construction. Oliver acknowledges the less-than-stellar finish of Royal Portrush and Royal Porthcawl in Wales' need to beef up its par-5s.

It's the photography by David Scaletti that really brings "Planet Golf" to life.

For someone who's traveled a lot, it lets you turn the page only to discover a photo of a hole you played, and memories instantly come pouring back into your mind as to how you played it. Looking at the view from the top of the ninth fairway at Royal County Down made me wonder what I need to do to get back and play that hole as soon as I can. Looking at Pennard Golf Club's seventh hole, I was reminded of its stunning cliff-top views and shaggy grasses.

Then there are the many more pictures you've never played before, maybe Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, or Nirwana Bali Golf Club in Indonesia and its ominous par-3 7th hole along the crashing beaches.

With the U.S. courses out of the way, Canada really shines in this North America section of the book, showcasing a dozen courses including Banff Springs' and it's most famous hole, "Devil's Cauldron," which is a steep downhill par-3 alongside a mountain.

Of course, some worthy courses aren't going to make the pages. I would have liked to see Central Europe better represented. The incredibly picturesque and unique Golf Resort Karlstejn in the Czech Republic, in the shadows of the 14th century castle. But Oliver visited abut 600 courses in 41 countries around the world, and this compilation will certainly have you discussing with buddies as to where your next golf trip will be before you've read the last pages.

"Planet Golf" is available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com and most major retailers.

Planet Golf

By Darius Oliver
Photography by David Scaletti
Price: $60
More info: www.abramsbooks.com

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Banff Springs in Canada
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Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.

 
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