‘The Greatest Course That Never Was’ by J. Michael Veron

By: Bob Spiwak

This is a sequel to Veron’s earlier, “The Greatest Player Who Never Lived.” So far, this is my favorite golf novel. It re-introduces Charley Hunter, now a lawyer with the Atlanta firm of Butler and Yates, Bobby Jones’ old law firm, where Hunter was interning when he “discovered” the Greatest Player . . .

Hunter gets a cryptic note scrawled by an anonymous person attached to an obituary. The note reads, “It’s time.” He is intrigued, but forgets it until another note comes similarly enigmatic. More notes come over time, and finally Hunter learns the name of the writer as each note becomes more intense. The name is Moonlight, and over a bit more time Hunter learns he was a caddie at Augusta National.

Playing detective, as he did in the earlier book, Hunter eventually meets with the writer where he learns, according to Moonlight, that Jones had built a private course just for him and his golfing buddies at some faraway place: away from crowds, press, and curious others. It is so remote that nobody had heard of it, and those who have played or caddied there are sworn to secrecy – the same secrecy that even today pervades Augusta National Golf Club.

The trail leads to the West Coast and a well-guarded but empty venue that surpasses Cypress Point in beauty and challenge. It has been Moonlight’s aim from the get-go to have Hunter bring this to the attention of the golfing world, through the USGA as he did with Beau Stedman, the greatest golfer who never lived.

Along with the mystery involved, what makes this book so appealing is the biographic portraits of Jones, Cliff Roberts, Sam Snead, Hogan and many other marquee names in the world of golf.

The author knows his golf history, and the book does an excellent job of humanizing its characters. Veron is a lawyer, USGA committee member and rules official. The lawyer in him emerges in a conclusive legal battle, just as in “The Greatest Player Who Never Lived.”

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.

“The Greatest Course That Never Was” by J. Michael Veron, Broadway Books, $12.95 (soft cover), 380 pages, ISBN 0-7679-0717-5