The book, A Matter of Course, is encyclopaedic in its composition and style. It doesn’t read as easily as some others but what it lacks in readability – it makes up for in well documented research. The tenacity needed to take on the project and piece together the foundational material is exemplary and without compare. The authors have done a magnificent job in detailing the chronicles of his life and as such, the book is without parallel.
Read It For The Golf Architecture
The bulk of the book focuses on his golf course architecture from pages 54 to 185. These 8 chapters focus on his start at Walton Heath, his solo projects prior to 1913, his partnership with Tom Simpson then JF Abercromby and AC Croome. His American design escapades are well documented and fill in all of the gaps between Eastward Ho! and the 18th at Pebble Beach.
Herbert Fowler – As Human Being
His family and societal connections are well presented and lend the backdrop to understanding the man. You also sense an admiration for a top tier cricketer and billiards player and administrator. There is however a flavour of disapproval of his ineptness regarding business, speculative investments, apparent greed and disdain and lack of respect of those who lent him a helping hand along the way.
A Matter of Course In A Nutshell
Most biographies of golf course architects are patchy at best, with the exception of Tom Doak’s titled The Life and Work of Dr. Alister MacKenzie. It is not as easy to read this book. I found it quite a struggle but as a reference, this is a seminal work. It would be hard to fathom the need of another edition at any point in the future.
If you’re wondering what Tom Doak has to say on the subject, he wrote on Golf Club Atlas: “I’ve not had time to read it cover to cover yet, but the book is very impressive. It might be the best biography of an architect I have seen. Highly recommended for anyone interested in golf design.”
A Matter of Course In Summary
The information I was primarily concerned with was his golf course architecture portfolio. It isn’t always easy to follow Herbert Fowler’s chronological progress as much supplementary information is provided for each of the golf courses he worked on. It does seem at times the forest is being lost for the trees.
When you finish the book you feel like you know not just what the man accomplished but feel you know him as a person – warts and all. In that sense, I don’t think you can ask any more of a biography.
A Matter of Course is a stellar example of what a biography should be. If I could find fault, I would simply ask it to be more of a page turner. All in all, it is a splendid read, an airtight reference work, and a perfect model for any contemplating undertaking a similar task.
Buy It Now
The book was printed on a not for profit basis. The original print run was limited to 500 copies of which more than 400 sold immediately. Email Philip Truett directly to obtain your copy.