The Confidential Guide to Tom Doak

By Brian HewittApril 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
It has been 11 years now since tiny Sleeping Bear Press published the collected golf course wisdom of a brash, young, aspiring architect named Tom Doak.
The title of the book was 'The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses.' It was slightly smaller in size than most coffee table books. Its initial suggested retail value was $45. And it soon acquired cult status among golf insiders who knew of names like Tillinghast and Colt and Flynn and places like Macrihanish and Huntingdale and Kittansett.
Doak shot straight in his book, pulling no punches. And his comprehensive list of course reviews was a refreshing change in a publishing field characterized by too much frothy prose and obligatory pablum. The content also validated former Golf Magazine editor George Pepers prescient decision to put Doak in charge of that magazines course ratings when Doak was just 23 years old.
To be sure, Doak gave credit where credit was due in his Guide. But he wasnt afraid to say this about Augusta National:
.theres so much interest in the course they feel they have to be downright rude to all those who enquire.
Or this about Quaker Ridge: .a bit of a letdown on the back nine.
Or this about The Olympic Club: .too many nondescript (though testing) two-shotters in the middle of the course for it to rank as highly on my scale as it seems to on everyone elses.
Anyway, in the ensuing decade Doak made a name for himself creating brilliant designs like Pacific Dunes, Cape Kidnappers and Lost Dunes. And his book, now out of print after only 12,000 copies, has skyrocketed in price.
If you are lucky enough to find 'The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses' in a bookstore, buy it immediately even if you dont know Crystal Downs from Crystal Gayle. If you want to procure it through eBay, be prepared to pay more than $1,000 for a signed copy.
I guess I should be flattered at its collector value, Doak informed me in an e-mail. Hard to imagine why it costs as much as it does on eBay. I just wish I had some more of them in the basement. I did not even have a box full when it went out of print.
A source at the Valuable Book Group explains the phenomenon this way: If you are going to be bold, youd better be good. And Doak has proven that he is good..We carry the book when we can, but it is difficult to keep in stock.
Doak says he has retained the copyright and has seriously considered republishing the book in its original form. I dont want to stir up more controversy by rating newer courses'including my own, he adds. But I am sorry that people cant find the book just to read and use it as it was originally intended, as an opinionated travel guide. Im also surprised that no one else has tried to publish a similar book.
What remains is a huge interest among the golf cognoscenti for a 2007 Doak update on Doak circa 1996. Isnt going to happen, he says.
The key is that the original book was written just for a few of my friends. Id love to write a new edition just for those friends where I could be equally blunt, but it would wind up being photocopied as before and it would open the whole can of worms again. Really, the book was partly the observations of a frustrated designer who had plenty of ideas and no place to use them. Today, Ive got plenty of opportunities to design courses on my own, and Id prefer to lead by example.
A noble thought. And an inarguable one.
Its just that so much of todays sports media'written and produced'is designed to effect controversy for the sake of controversy. And so much of it is predictably and transparently artificial and empty as a result. Yes, Doak opened a can of worms. But thanks to his candor, it was well worth watching the worms wriggle onto the printed page and imagine how they made the poohbahs squirm.
When the book was first published I was beholden to no one, Doak recalls. And I wasnt well enough established in the industry that anyone could mistake my criticisms of modern courses as trying to take work away from Jack Nicklaus. Now, though, I have a hard time being so critical because people take it so seriously. And anything I said about my fellow architects would be viewed in a different manner.
So Doak is a member of the fraternity now. Good for him. And good for the future of golf course design. But the price his loyal readers have to pay in lost hopes for bluntness in future course reviews is even steeper right now than the current bids on eBay for his seminal work as an author.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.


Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”