The period 1910-1940 is often referred to as the “Golden Age” of golf architecture, because that was when golf moved out of Scotland into England, the United States, and the rest of the world. MacKenzie and the other great architects of this period have been influential on all that came after. Here are the most influential of MacKenzie’s fellow-Golden Agers.
Charles Blair Macdonald (November 14, 1855 – April 21, 1939) was a major figure in early American golf. He built the first 18-hole course in the United States, was a driving force in the founding of the United States Golf Association, won the first U.S. Amateur championship, and later built some of the most influential golf courses in the United States. He is often called the “Father of American Golf Architecture”
Macdonald was born in Canada to naturalized American parents — a Scottish father and Canadian mother — and grew up in Chicago. In 1872 at age 16, he was sent to St Andrews University, and while there he took up playing golf with a vengeance. Tutored by Old Tom Morris, Macdonald soon became proficient enough that he played matches on the Old Course at St Andrews. Macdonald returned to Chicago in 1874 and became a successful stockbroker, but rarely played golf for the next 17 years.
In 1900, Macdonald left Chicago to live in New York. By virtue of his experiences at St. Andrews and later trips to Great Britain, he was determined to build the most noteworthy course outside the British Isles. In 1908, he organized a group of 70 founders to contribute $1,000 each, and the National Golf Links of America opened for play in 1909. Many of the holes were his versions of famous holes from British courses, a pattern he would repeat on later courses.
In 1928, Macdonald published his book Scotland’s Gift: Golf, which covers the spread of golf in the United States from its beginnings in the early 1890s to 1927. It devotes several chapters to four of his courses, and gives his design philosophy.
Other courses of note that McDonald had his hands on:
Old White Course at The Greenbrier
Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda
Lido Golf Club
James Braid (6 February 1870 – 27 November 1950) was a Scottish professional golfer. He won the Open Championship five times. He also was a renowned golf course architect.
Braid was born in Fife, Scotland and played golf from an early age, working as a clubmaker before turning professional in 1896. In 1912, Braid scaled back his tournament golf, and became a club professional. He developed a very successful career in golf course design, and is sometimes regarded as the “inventor” of the dogleg, although holes of similar design had been known for centuries (for example, the Road Hole at the the Old Course at St. Andrews. Among his designs:
Gleneagles “King’s Course” and the “Queen’s Course”
Carnoustie Golf Links (1926 remodel)
H.S. Colt (4 August 1869 – 21 November 1951) was a golf course architect born in Highgate, England. He worked predominantly with Charles Alison, John Morrison, and Alister MacKenzie, in 1928 forming Colt, Alison & Morrison Ltd. He participated in the design of over 300 golf courses (115 on his own) in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. While it is often joked that “the sun never sets” on a course designed by architect Robert Trent Jones, this is actually true for the works of Colt and his collaborators.
Colt took a law degree at Clare College, Cambridge, and captained the Cambridge University Golf Club in 1890. In 1897 he became a Founder Member of the Royal & Ancient Rules of Golf Committee. Some courses he is known for include:
Sunningdale (Old and New courses)
East & West Courses at Wentworth Club
He performed extensive redesigns of Muirfield and the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake.
A.W. Tillinghast (1874 – May 19, 1942) Tillinghast was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tillinghast was one of the most prolific architects in the history of golf; he worked on no fewer than 265 different courses.
Tillinghast-designed courses have hosted multiple professional golf major championships—the 1927 and 1949 PGA Championships, contested at Cedar Crest Park, and Hermitage Country Club, respectively; the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2009, contested at Bethpage State Park; the 2005 PGA Championship, contested at Baltusrol Golf Club, which has also been the host of seven U.S. Opens; the 2006 U.S. Open, contested at Winged Foot Golf Club; and many others. He also designed the course at the Ridgewood Country Club, used for the 1935 Ryder Cup and Scarboro Golf and Country Club in Toronto, host of the Canadian Open for four occasions. Other courses designed by Tillinghast include:
Winged Foot Golf Club (East & West), Mamaroneck, NY
Briar Hall G&CC (now Trump National GC) in Briarcliff Manor, NY
Brook Hollow Golf Club, Dallas, TX
The Wissahickon Course at the Philadelphia Cricket Club is dedicated to Tillinghast, who designed the course in 1920.
Donald Ross (November 23, 1872 – April 26, 1948) was born in Dornoch, Scotland, but became a citizen of and spent most of his adult life in the United States. He was involved in designing or redesigning around 400 courses from 1900–1948, laying the foundation for America’s golf industry.
Ross served an apprenticeship with Old Tom Morris in St Andrews before investing his life savings in a trip to the U.S. in 1899. In 1900 he was appointed as the golf professional at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, where he began his course design career and eventually designed four courses. He had a successful playing career, winning three North and South Opens (1903, 1905, 1906) and finishing fifth in the 1903 U.S. Open and eighth in the 1910 British Open. As his fame grew, he began to teach and play less and to focus on golf course design. At its height, Donald J. Ross and Associates, as his practice was known, oversaw the work of thousands of people.
His most widely known trademark is the crowned or “turtleback” green, most famously seen on Pinehurst No. 2.
Ross was a founding member and first president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, which was formed at Pinehurst in 1947. Ross’s most famous designs include:
Pinehurst No. 2
Aronimink Golf Club
Seminole Golf Club
Seth Raynor (1874–1926) is acclaimed as the architect of many of America’s greatest golf courses. He was born on May 7, 1874 in Manorville, Long Island, New York and attended Princeton University, studying civil engineering before leaving in 1898 without a degree. For the first years of his working life, he engineered drains, roads and waterworks. In 1908, Raynor was hired by the legendary Charles Blair Macdonald – known as the “father of American golf course design” — to survey the property that would become The National Golf Links of America. Macdonald was so impressed with Raynor’s engineering knowledge that he hired him to supervise construction of the course, and Raynor would go on to build all the remaining courses designed by Macdonald.
He then became interested in golf course design and the building of golf courses – an interesting leap, because by all accounts he did not personally play golf at first. He designed his first course in 1914, when he was 38. He designed and remodeled more than 50 courses of his own, all in the Macdonald style of superimposing versions of famous British golf holes onto a variety of landscapes. His courses included Fishers Island in New York, Fox Chapel in Pittsburgh, Camargo in Cincinnati, Shoreacres and a revised Chicago Golf Club in Chicago, Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Monterey Peninsula in California and Yeamans Hall in Charleston, S.C.
Raynor died at age 51, before he could commence work he had been commissioned for at Cypress Point in California. That opened the door for Alister MacKenzie.
George Thomas, (born 1873, died 1932) a transplant to California from Philadelphia, Thomas designed such landmark courses as Riviera Country Club, the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club. He collaborated extensively with William Bell.
Thomas was an advocate of wide fairways and thought a course should provide options for golfers to shape their shots. He also believed that hazards were critical but shouldn’t “unduly penalize or make it hard to recover.” Above all else, Thomas thought a golf course should blend into its natural surroundings and provide diversity. Other George Thomas courses:
La Cumbre Country Club
Ojai Valley Inn
Palos Verdes Golf Club
Saticoy Golf Course
Stanford University Golf Course
Stanley Thompson (September 18, 1893 – January 4, 1953) was a Canadian golf course architect. Born in Toronto, he graduated from Malvern Collegiate Institute and attended the Ontario Agricultural College for one year. He served with the Canadian military in Europe during World War I; after the war ended, he visited many of the top courses in the British Isles. When he returned to Canada after the war he became a full-time golf course architect, going into business himself by 1923. In the 1920s there was a rapid expansion of golf and new courses were needed to accommodate the millions of new players, so Thompson and his peers were kept very busy.
He designed courses from 1912-1952, mostly in Canada, with a philosophy of preserving the natural lay and flow of the land. He got his start with George Cumming, longtime professional at the Toronto Golf Club, who had designed several Canadian courses around the turn of the 20th century. Thompson’s many world-famous courses include:
Banff Springs Hotel Golf Course in Banff, Alberta,
Jasper Park Golf Course in Jasper, Alberta,
The scenic Fundy National Park Course in New Brunswick,
Highlands Links in Ingonish, Nova Scotia,
Capilano Golf and Country Club in West Vancouver, British Columbia,
Edmonton Country Club,
Royal Mayfair Golf Club in Edmonton, Alberta,
Niakwa Country Club in Winnipeg, Manitoba,
St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto.
In 1948, Thompson was a co-founder, with Donald Ross, of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, and helped to train many top golf course architects, including Robert Trent Jones; Thompson and Jones were partners for several years in the 1930s.
William Stephen Flynn (December 25, 1890 – January 24, 1944) was a prominent golf course architect during the early part of the 20th century.
Flynn was born in Milton, Massachusetts. He graduated from Milton High School, where he had played inter-scholastic golf and competed against his friend Francis Ouimet. He laid out his first course at Heartwellville, Vermont, in 1909 and was then hired to assist Hugh Wilson with completion of the East Course at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
He worked as the construction supervisor at Merion and remained on as superintendent for a short time helping establish the course. Flynn would continue his involvement with Merion for 25 years perfecting the course. He and Wilson had hoped to form a design partnership, but Wilson’s failing health prevent it. Instead, Flynn partnered with Howard Toomey just after World War I with Flynn the designer and Toomey handling the engineering side of the work. They started their own golf architectural firm Toomey & Flynn. William Gordon, Robert Lawrence and Dick Wilson all started out as assistants with the firm of Toomey and Flynn and all later became prominent designers in their own right.
Flynn was particularly active around Philadelphia producing numerous highly rated courses which compete with each other for attention including Philadelphia Country Club, Concord Country Club, Bala Golf Club, and McCall Golf and Country Club. Although his body of work is found around Philadelphia, his most recognizable work is outside the area at places like Cherry Hills in Denver, The Cascades in Virginia, The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, and in 1927 Flynn added the Primrose nine at The Country Club. Three holes from the Primrose are used on the course’s Composite Course for the U.S. Open, but much of Flynn’s renovation work at The Country Club goes unnoticed.
The climax of Flynn’s career would be Shinnecock Hills Golf Club where he had his finest site and certainly produced his greatest work. Shinnecock is praised for its beautiful routing and Flynn’s use of the natural terrain. Flynn died at the age of 53 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.