Book Review: “To The Nines” By Anthony Pioppi

“To the Nines” by Anthony Pioppi, is a celebration or review of nine-hole golf courses in America.  I am an admirer of the Sports Media Group, publisher of the title, but am disappointed with their effort and will detail exactly why.

This is a book that cannot decide whether it is about nine-hole golf courses, Anthony Pioppi’s autobiographical tangential research for a course that has long disappeared, or tales of Katherine Hepburn and Howard Hughes.  All make for interesting stories, but have little relevance to the subject at hand and the sequence is hopelessly scattered.  Actually, one of the best chapters relating to nine-hole courses is the one by a contributor, Bob Labbance, in which in about five pages he explores the nine-holers in the state of Maine.

Secondly, other than an attractive dust cover, the quality of the black and white photos printed on cheap paper stock is an embarrassment with the print quality not sufficient enough to convey much about the subject golf courses, certainly not consistent with a price of $24.95.

Thirdly, as a subject matter expert myself, I was surprised and disappointed by the selection of courses, especially those not covered.  Missing was Nevada’s Glenbrook Golf Club that was just a short while ago listed in a major magazine as one of “America’s Top Ten” Nine-Hole Courses and one that Ben Hogan termed “the best 9-holer I ever played.”  There was no mention of the Petaluma Golf & Country Club whose 9-hole course I consider one of the best handful or so in America.  Neither was there much included on the many nine-hole courses throughout the Great Plains regions.  Instead, the author departs from his subject by including 18-hole courses that started as nine-hole ones or the Ocean Links course that closed before even the Great Depression occurred.  Surely there must be enough interesting current nine-hole courses to fill up the relatively scant text that still measures just over 140 pages.

All is not lost, however.  Pioppi is a well-informed and talented enough golf researcher to include engaging chapters on the Dunes Club and the Whitinsville Golf Club, America’s two best nine-hole golf courses.  (Regrettably, again, however, the lack of well-executed photography does not come close to doing the Dunes Club justice.)  While Pioppi’s written descriptions of golf holes in lieu of photos makes for tedious reading, he has done his homework on them.  California readers may also enjoy the passages on the Wawona, Northwood, and Gleneagles golf courses.  The tragedy in this production is that more of today’s nine-hole courses were not covered and adequately illustrated.  A better book on this topic still waits to be written.  In the mean time, I recommend you browse, but pass on this book.

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