Confidential Guide: Cult Classic

The Wall Street Journal's Carrick Mollenkamp considers the cult status that Tom Doak's Confidential Guide to Golf Courses has attained:

In the book, Mr. Doak reviewed the design features of more than 800 courses, from little-known links to some of the world's most famous and exclusive courses. He gave each a ranking of zero to 10 on what he called the Doak Scale. A zero, Mr. Doak wrote, is "a course so contrived and unnatural that it may poison your mind." But a 10 is "nearly perfect.... If you haven't seen all the courses in this category, you don't know how good golf architecture can get."

Mr. Doak never imagined it back then, but the book has become a cult classic -- a haven of bluntness in a sport that is often so clubby that it rarely criticizes itself. Its fame stems in part from the fact that only about 13,000 copies were printed back in the '90s and the book has been out of print for years. Due to the scarcity, available copies of the most recent edition are going for as much as $350.

But while Mr. Doak's strong opinions resonate with golfers, they also have put him in somewhat of an awkward spot: Mr. Doak is now a high-profile part of the establishment he once unabashedly critiqued. And it's that reality that keeps him from reprinting or updating the sought-after book.

"I pulled no punches at all," Mr. Doak says in an interview. "I'm not sure I want to put myself in that position now."