A Golfer's Dream: 'Regular guy' Larry Berle conquers Golf Digest's List of America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses
A fellow from middle America decided to go on a quest a decade ago. He completed the quest by playing America’s Top 100 golf courses. He then decided to sit down and write a book about his travels.
In “A Golfer’s Dream: How a Regular Guy Conquered the Golf Digest List of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses,” Larry Berle dedicates 90 percent of the book to an anecdote-and-vignette approach to golf-course review. He doesn’t go into tremendous architectural detail on every course, although he has a penchant for touching on important elements that might be overlooked by the average golfer.
I read and contribute to a forum for architecture called Golf Club Atlas. There are guys and ladies on that forum who know more about worldwide golf course architecture and its architects than I know about my own self. These guys won’t like Larry’s book for two reasons: he doesn’t talk enough about architecture and he absolutely loves Tom Fazio courses.
Fortunately, guys like me and them make up about 1 percent of 1 percent of golfers. Most golfers have never discussed Augusta National as a course, only as the home of The Masters. When they read Larry Berle’s words from Augusta, they feel as if they were there with him. When he gets spasmodic about starting on the par three course, then proceeding to the 18-hole course at Augusta, these golfers (the 99 percent of them) shift in their seats and wait for what comes next. When Larry announces that he spent about $250 in the Augusta National golf shop for souvenirs to bring back to his friends, golfers understand.
Larry adds two appendices to his course memories and reviews. Testimonial letters from his golfing wingmen and various sub-lists related to the course quest complement the episodic narrative structure. In my opinion, the best things about the book are that Larry Berle undertook and completed the grail quest, that he shared it with us, and that he shared it in his own voice, absent of any editorial polish. In that light, I’ll share with you a portion of the email that I sent to him upon completing the book:
I raced through the book (it arrived a few days ago) and really enjoyed your “personal voice.” You made no effort to adopt a narrative tone that differs (I imagine) from who you are. The book reads like a conversation at a bar or a cafe, and I expect that you like it that way.
I’m curious if you had an editor work with you on it. There are a few misspellings and some erroneous facts (Fred Couples got lucky on the 12th, not the 13th at Augusta.) You even misquote yourself at one point: On page 87, when describing the Stanwich Club in CT, you allude to William and David Gordon as “names I had never heard of before or since.” On page 124, when describing Saucon Valley Grace, you admit that it was designed by “William and David Gordon in the 1950s.” If you had affected an air of perfection from the beginning, these boo-boos would stand out; since you are yourself, they simply come across as humorous in a good way (There goes Larry again!)”
I get the sense that Larry Berle will take my observations as they were meant, simple edification. I get the sense that Larry Berle will laugh and say “Wow, I guess I did run into the Gordons again!” I get the sense that if Larry Berle decides to undertake another quest and write another book, I will certainly be the first of many in line to read it.
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