Doak to deliver new courses guide
12 July 2012
A new version of Tom Doak's infamous golf courses guide is on its way, as Scott Warren reports.
American golf architect and author Tom Doak is hard at work on a new edition of his controversial The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses 15 years after the previous edition was published.
Announcing the update on the golfclubatlas.com message board, and referring to the four-figure sums the book has fetched as a collectible, Doak said: "There will be a new edition ... which will include far more, and won't cost nearly as much. The target date for that is the [northern] summer of 2014, but of course it could take longer if I get tied up by my day job.
"A book such as the Guide can never be much more than a snapshot in time and I have no desire to try to visit 100 or more courses every year on the pretence that I'm trying to keep the book more up to date. However, I've developed an idea of how to do a new edition of the book that maintains its high standard and covers as much ground as possible, and that's where I'm headed."
As well as his reflections on the courses designed by his firm Renaissance Golf Design, Doak's take on the work of his contemporaries Bill Coore, Gil Hanse, occasional collaborator Mike Clayton, Kyle Phillips and David Kidd, will be of the greatest interest when the book is released.
His brutal honesty earned him the ire of some fellow designers early in his career, but he said he was not concerned about the same occurring again.
Initial editions of the Guide described Jack Nicklaus' PGA West course as having some of the 'worst-looking mounds' in golf (Doak and Nicklaus have since combined to design Sebonack on Long Island in New York) and declared Cypress Point's eighteenth was one of the worst finishing holes he'd seen.
Of Seaton Carew in north-east England, Doak lamented in previous editions: "I was too chilled by the setting to even walk the course," before adding that the nearby cooling towers were "too reminiscent of Three Mile Island for there to be any joy in golf here."
He continued: "I've decided that since my reputation will always be tied up with the book, for better and for worse the least I could do is to make it more available so that people will make their judgments based on their own reading rather than on hearsay.
"I've also realised that I miss writing and I miss seeing other people's courses, and I need to get back to both hobbies. In the end, it's my baby... and I wouldn't do anything to ruin it. I will not be surprised if it's controversial."
But 15 years older and wiser, Doak said in some cases he might now bite his tongue. "I will reserve the right not to comment on any particular course, having learned how controversial it is to give a course a rating of zero," he said. "Nearly all of the interviews I've done about the book spent more time asking about the zeros than the tens."
Doak conceived the first edition of the book -- which he handed out to friends -- and updated versions before he found success as the mastermind behind Pacific Dunes, Ballyneal, Barnbougle Dunes, Cape Kidnappers and most recently, Old Macdonald. He said he would definitely be including his own work in the updated book.<
"Rating one's own courses is pretty difficult and one of the reasons I've hesitated to update my book," he said. "I won't give away anything for now about how I am going to handle that, but I think I've got a solution that won't be seen as a cop-out.
"Rest assured that I do not plan to write and self-publish a book about all the great courses I have ever seen, only to leave all of my own work out of the book."
Scott Warren is a golf journalist based in Sydney.