If you are looking for the starting point of understanding golf course architecture, there is almost no better place than Grounds for Golf. The perfect starting point for a novice armchair architect would be Grounds for Golf followed by Tom Doak's The Anatomy of a Golf Course.
Geoff Shackelford provides the narrative, and Gil Hanse provides detailed illustrations that are superb on a technical front. Anecdotes and witty quotes keep the read entertaining. Written for the layperson, the tone is encouraging rather than condescending or high brow.
Listen as this book was discussed on the iseekgolf.com podcast.