Aug 30, 1870
Yorkshire, England
Jan 06, 1934


American leaders of finance and industry with golf pros. Seated (left to right): Rex Cole, Pres. of Refrigerator Corp.; M.H. Aylesworth, Pres. of NBC; Bobby Jones; Kent Cooper, Gen Manager of AP; W.A. Jones, Chair of Exec. Comm. of Doherty & Co. Standing (left to right): Richard C. Patterson, Jr., NYC Comm. of Corrections; John W. Harris of Hegeman-Harris Co.; Alister MacKenzie; Grantland (?), sports writer; Alfred S. Bourne, Singer Sewing magnate; Fielding Wallace; and Clifford Roberts.
Alister MacKenzie (1870-1934) is considered one of golf's finest architects. His course designs span four continents. His interest in course design began, oddly enough, during the Boer War (1899-1902). Working as a surgeon with the Somerset Regiment in South Africa, he became interested in camouflage, which the Boers had used effectively.

He then worked as a camoufleur in World War I and said in a lecture, "The brilliant successes of the Boers were due to great extent to their making the best use of natural cover and the construction of artificial cover indistinguishable from nature."

Sound a little like golf course design?

After the war, MacKenzie -- who belonged to several golf clubs near Leeds in England -- began to take an interest in golf course design. His 1920 book Golf Architecture, where he outlined his 13-principles philosophy, is considered a seminal work on golf design. In March 1924, he produced a map of St. Andrews which is still well known and highly regarded.

Aerial view of the Augusta National Golf Club course, Augusta, Georgia, January 10, 1933.
But his most decorated work came after he moved to the United States in the late 1920s. You might have heard of a few courses he designed: Augusta National (in conjunction with Bobby Jones), Cypress Point, and Royal Melbourne in Australia.

MacKenzie called Augusta National the "World's Wonder Inland Golf Course." Sadly, he didn't live long enough to see the first Masters in 1934. He died a few months before the tournament.

In addition to partnering with him at Augusta National, Bobby Jones wrote the foreword for MacKenzie's The Spirit of St. Andrews, another treatise on golf course architecture whose 1933 manuscript was finally compiled in book form in 1995.

A golfer tees off during the Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Cypress Point Country Club in Monterey, California.
MacKenzie's designs are brilliant in both their simplicity and difficulty. He favored wide fairways with little rough but put a premium on shot placement, thanks to often treacherous bunkering. Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif., is quite short by modern standards at 6,500 yards from the tips, but it presents a timeless challenge with well-placed bunkers and undulating greens.

A view of the 3rd hole at Pasatiempo Golf Club

A statue and plaque along the sixth fairway at Pasatiempo shows golfers the former home of Alister MacKenzie, the famed architect of Pasatiempo, Augusta National and Cypress Point.
When you play a MacKenzie course, take note of the way the bunkering comes into and recedes from view. Looking from tee to green, the playing field can seem covered by sand. Look back from green to tee, however, and you'll often notice the bunkers are no longer visible.

Be aware that you'll be called upon to use their imagination on greenside shots. This reflects a philosophy MacKenzie embraced when after seeing an American player -- Walter Hagen, as it turned out -- chip on the 17th green on the Old Course at St. Andrews. It is not a coincidence that one of the sport's greatest shot-makers -- Seve Ballesteros -- is the only player to win championships at Augusta National, Royal Melbourne and St. Andrews.
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