'The Biography of A. Vernon Macan - Just Call Me Mac' by Michael Riste

By: Dr. John Wagner


When I first looked at this book, I had doubts about whether I would like the layout and the photos, especially those of the golf courses. But I thought I ought to read it since the author is a friend of mine (he does not know I reviewed the book).

But I really wanted to try and read it since I have played many of the courses designed by Arthur Vernon Macan in the Pacific Northwest and have enjoyed them.

Once I started the book it became a fascinating read, and each page was a pleasure. Riste writes is as if you're having a conversation with Macan. The book is full of great little stories, anecdotes and wonderful reprints of newspapers stories about Mac, plus many articles that the book's subject wrote.

Macan was talking about penal and strategic design of golf courses 100 years ago, and he was way ahead of his time. One of the things I learned was that he loved to place bunkers - which he called traps since everyone else did at the time - in places that made the good golfer think how to place his drive. He did not put them to penalize the average player because he said those golfers had enough things to deal with.

He also liked to rate each hole in strokes, such as 3.8 or 4.2 for a par-4. This is interesting since it's what's used today.

I think anyone interested in golf architecture should get this book along with golfers who want to see into a mind of a great architect. It is a joy. Take your time and enjoy a wonderful history of Northwest golf courses.

Mac's relationships with his family and Irish homeland are very hard to understand and I don't think anyone ever did. He sent his two children and wife back to Ireland when he was young and never saw or wrote them again. And as an architect, he never made much money.

But he became an influential golf course architect, one who if based in the Northeast U.S. would have been ranked right up there with Donald Ross, Robert Trent Jones, and all the other great designers from golf's Golden Age. In sum, Riste has crafted a great book in a very interesting way that makes for a great read. Get it!

"The Biography of A. Vernon Macan - Just Call Me Mac," by Michael Riste, copyright 2011, Oscar's Press, Vancouver B.C., $30, ISBN 978-0-9869247-0-5. Books are available from the B.C. Golf house Society, 2545 Blanca Street, Vancouver B.C., Canada V6R 4N1, or online at www.bcgolfhouse.com. All proceeds from the sale of this book benefit the nonprofit B.C. Golf House, one of North America's premier golf museums.

Dr. John Wagner has been a Seattle dentist for 37 years. He's been published in several dental journals as well as had several articles appear in the turf magazine for Pacific Northwest golf course superintendents. John has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Washington Business School for several years and as a guest lecturer for several dental societies. Dr. Wagner is the co-designer (with Steve Shea of the Berger Partnership) of a golf course in Japan that cost over $120 million and was built by Wadsworth Golf Construction. He's a Past President of the Washington State Golf Association and a Trustee of the Pacific Coast Golf Association. A 7 handicap, John is currently a member of the USGA Green Section and a Director of the WSGA.


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