Sunday golf book review

"Planet Golf USA: The Definitive Reference to Great Golf Courses in America"

Darius Oliver (foreword by Ben Crenshaw)

Abrams Book, New York

368 pages

$60 hardcover

Another coffee table with a heavy dose of stunning photographs - haven't I been down this fairway before?

Must be that time of year; fall is here, winter can't be far behind, and so publishers push lip-smacking visuals, pitching them to soon-to-be-snowbound golfers in the Northeast and Midwest. Nothing wrong with any of that, but when you're wishing for something to stimulate the mind as well as the eyes, you hope for more.

Well, this might be it. Yes, there are the expected "breathtaking images" (that from the accompanying p.r. sheet), but Oliver has done some homework here. He produced reviews of every Top 100 course in the U.S. - and visited 99 of them (the lone holdout? Augusta National).

The author delves into the history and architecture of each course and does a commendable job. He offers his own ratings system ranking courses by difficulty, beauty and "best." Suffice to say, there are some surprises.

Also included is commentary from a list of big-name architects, among them Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Tom Doak, Jack Nicklaus and rising star David McLay Kidd. No, there's no snow on the ground yet, but come a rainy day, you can whet your appetite for ... well, a bunch of courses you might never get to play.

That being the case, Oliver's reviews are almost as good as being there.


- Bob Gillespie