'Sports Illlustrated's The Golf Book'

Kevin Cook, editor; foreword by Roy Blount Jr.

Sports Illustrated Books/Time Inc., New York

296 pages

$29.95 hardcover

The golf crew at SI gleaned a wealth of photos and artifacts from the game's past and present, and some of the stuff from the magazine's archives is delightful: displays of golf balls dating from 1840 to the present, as well as similar looks at the evolution of clubs, shoes and even tees; a wealth of photos dating to Old Tom Morris, Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan; a review of the golf-playing U.S. Presidents, movie stars and more.

But unlike most "picture books," there's real writing in this one. Gleaning stories from the magazine's history, you can read abridged reports by the legendary Grantland Rice and Herbert Warren Wind from the 1950s, all the way to current insights by Rick Reilly, Gary Smith and Dan Jenkins.

All the game's biggest names - Nelson, Palmer, Nicklaus, Woods - are covered; all the major events (and a few fascinatingly minor ones) are as well. And there are some items only golfers will love, such as writer John Garrity's thoughts on the joy of the driving range. All in all, SI has produced a great gift for the coming holidays.

My standard policy is to skim coffee-table books, but I read this one cover-to-cover. I suspect others will, too.

Rating (1-5 stars): 5 stars

- Bob Gillespie