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Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006
Encyclopedia of Golf

Derek Lawrenson
Carlton Books, 648 pages

This massive, unabashedly subjective and unfailingly entertaining overview of the great game should occupy a prominent place on every avid golfer's bookshelf.

Lawrenson, the golf correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph in England and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Golf Monthly magazines, covers everything from lists of the world's major championships to biographies of the game's greatest players, complete statistical records and his personal picks for the top 100 courses in the world.

It's his selection of best course that is the most intriguing part of this book. Given the fact that the planet is decorated with thousands of new golf courses every year, Lawrenson makes no bones about the fact that his list of the top 100 is highly subjective and will probably be controversial.

"So bear that in mind," he writes, " when looking through this list and thinking: Ha, how can anyone be daft enough to rate the King's Course at Gleneagles as low as 92nd? In fact, the answer is simple: I think the place is overrated. Great views -- shame about the golf course."

Lawrenson bases his best-course list on 16 years of covering golf around the world and playing "not just the courses that are always so highly rated but also some hidden gems and some virtually unknown diamonds as well." In fact, he probably also achieved lasting fame by winning a Lamborghini as a hole-in-one prize during a day out with the England football team in 1998.

Whatever else his biases may be, it's quickly apparent that he leans toward favouring both links golf and traditional courses: None of his top 10 was built after the Second World War, and no fewer than seven come with sea views.

Banff Springs and Royal Montreal make his list, but his No. 1 pick is California's Pebble Beach along the steep and rocky shores of Carmel Bay:

"Give most golfers a choice of one place they would dearly love to visit once, and the majority would plump for St. Andrew, and so they should, for no place gives so much of itself to the grand old game; but equally, not one of its seven courses possesses a stretch of holes that remotely compares to those that run alongside the ocean at Pebble Beach, where a player can come close to an ethereal experience."


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