First things first, I really wanted to like 'How to Play the World's Most Exclusive Golf Clubs'. The author, John Sabino, has the website which I have read more than ever when planning my dream golf trip.
http://top100golf.blogspot.co.uk/ is a fantastic resource for anyone trying to make an assault on the greatest golf courses on the world. It gives you a little history, plenty of information on the courses and, more often than not, you are left with a real impression of what the place is like - sometimes you can almost smell the locker rooms through the descriptions given!
The build up to my recent trip to Morfontaine (write-up to come before the end of the year I promise!) was heightened by his description, not just of the course, but of Sabino's efforts get there. He set himself the challenge of playing the top 100 courses in the world. For a European reader this may not seem an impossible task but access to courses in the US and further afield is far, far harder than on these shores. According to an appendix to the book, only 30 players have ever managed the feat - and not a British player amongst them!
So, if I'm honest, it was with a little trepidation that I approached this book. I already have a couple of self-published tomes for people trying to play lots of golf courses, which have left me a little cold. I am delighted to say though, that this book is a delight and a joy to read - one that will stay on my bookshelf for many years.
The reason is that Sabino doesn't just rehash the content on his site. Sure, there are some anecdotes which feature on his blog (which you may only notice if you have read every entry several times like I have!). But the great thing about this book is that Sabino doesn't major on the actual on-course experience but rather how he managed to get a game there in the first place. Yes, there is some flavour of the experience itself, but this is often additional to what you can read on his site.
The beauty of this book is that it gives practical tips on how to play these great courses. It is clear that the author is a wonderful networker, and many of his conquests can be put down to that. He also acknowledges that he is helped by being a banker and that he set up a blog which became one of the highest ranked in the golfing world. These are not traits that many would find possible achieve, even if they wanted to!
It may be impossible for us mere mortals to replicate his success but he does provide many tips which anyone can use - hell he just phoned up one exclusive course and asked!!
His story is a quite amazing one. The one course which had eluded him was Augusta. What better way to end the journey than by playing 18 holes with a former Masters champion on the Sunday before the Masters, shooting the breeze with Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo on the tee. If this was made up, it would be deemed too incredible for inclusion.
This book is not a self-published vanity job. It is produced to a very high standard by a reputable publisher and has been well edited. At the end of the book Sabino lists how he got on to every one of the top 100 courses in the world as well as some 'top lists'. These are fascinating. Which clubhouses are the best? Which lunches? Which caddies? All a source of much debate but this book just fuels the fire.
The book whetted my appetite considerably and I hope I'm lucky enough to enjoy some of these great experiences over the years. If you want to take on the challenge yourself and join this exclusive group of golfing die-hards then my ultimate list of the world's top 100 courses is here. This book will help you have a go!