Irish Golf Book Reviews

By: Bob Spiwak

"Pocket Guide to Golf Courses: Ireland" by Greg Turner

If this is to be a pocket guide, you'll need deep pockets in your Sansabelts, or else a special pocket in the golf bag. This is a sensational 4 x 7 guide to golf courses in the Auld Sod, hardbound and heavy with 240 high-quality pages. Each page has drop-dead photos of the place in question, and some of those venues occupy several pages.

I bought this little gem after casually telling my wife that if I ever hear I have some terminal condition, I want to golf in Ireland before traveling to the "Great Bunker in the Sky." This book has become my travel agent.

This appears to be an honest publication in that I could find no "flack" pieces in it. Quite the contrary. On page 14, in a section entitled "Course Design in Ireland Today," is the statement . . . "We have to admit to disappointment at the levels of design in the numerous courses built . . . from the time of Waterville . . . a move away from something particularly Irish towards something more internationally generic." Examples include the K Club (Remember the Ryder Cup of '06?) and Druids Glen. To author Greg Turner, REAL Irish golf is true links golf, not what he calls "Dunes Golf," which is what he sees being built today. Not all, mind you. He singles out Greg Norman's Doonbeg (see our Book Review for "Doonbeg Ghosts") and the restoration of Hawtree.

Courses are rated using the Beckenham Rating System. Without additional explanation, these are designated as to their quality by trophy icons; the more cups the better the course. For any course listed you get the architect's name(s), an address, telephone number, email, website and driving directions from the nearest airport. The fees are illustrated by the Euro symbol; more euro symbols mean more expense. Other icons designate things like reservations, dining facilities, rental clubs on site and the one I like best, "Easy to lose balls - bring plenty." And of course, a simple scorecard showing every hole on each course.

The book sells for 14.99 pounds, which with mailing comes to about $30. You and the rest of the world can have your banker figure out not only the cost of the book, but the cost of playing the courses as well.

The rating system was devised by Beckenham, the publisher, which also has published guides for Spain and Portugal. If for no other reason, the Ireland book makes a great wish-book. If the other two are of the same quality, one could tour the golf world from a recliner, bed or pottie with an easy-to-hold, delightful-to-read volume.

"The Pocket Guide to Golf Courses-Ireland," by Greg Turner, 2006, Beckenham Publishing Ltd., Manchester, UK, ISBN 0-9548040-1-5.

"Golf Digest's Golf Weekends"

Hard on the heels of reviewing the Ireland golf guide, this publication has a price of 14.99 pounds in the UK, the same as the Irish treasure. Aside from being guides on where to play, the similarity between the two books ends there.

It could be I am being unfair, for the Golf Digest (Fodor's) book is just a shade larger than Ireland's but its pages are pulp, not slick. Photos, what few there are, are black and white, not color, and information is far scarcer. This is Bentley vs. Hyundai: they'll both get you where you're going but in what manner?

The Golf Digest book is aimed, I think, at the traveling executive. It is subtitled, "The Best Places to Play and Stay Near the Nation's Biggest Cities." Obviously, we are talking about an American market for the book. What is offered are thumbnail sketches of various courses around Ireland's metro areas. Granted, here in Washington State, the area of coverage ranges from Seattle to Spokane, 300 miles or so. But though there are few cities of consequence other than those two, there are courses between that are covered. The usual stuff - fees, food, fun, lodging, slope, rating and more - are contained in brief paragraphs.

Save your money for a glove or a dozen balls from Wal-Mart, and if you are venturing to a large city where you wish to golf, use the internet. Almost every state has its own guide you can procure. In Washington, Jeff Shelley's "Golf Courses of the Pacific Northwest" is the premiere guide and I am certain it is matched in other golf-heavy states.

Golf Digest's Golf Weekends, 2004 Fodor LLC and Golf Digest Companies, ISBN 1-4000-1368-2.

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Now a contributing editor for Cybergolf, Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob's most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultraprivate Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.