There is a ``line of instinct'' on any hole, the late golf
architect Alister MacKenzie informs us in a just-published book --
an obvious route from tee to green. ``If we wish to make a hole
interesting,'' he goes on, ``we must break up that line and create
the line of charm.''
What's true of golf holes can also be true of books. Had it
followed the line of instinct, MacKenzie's treatise, The Spirit of
St. Andrews (Sleeping Bear Press, $24.95), would have appeared in
1934, shortly after he completed it. Instead, this last literary
work by the famed designer of Augusta National, Cypress Point and
Australia's Royal Melbourne followed the line of charm for six
decades, emerging finally from the bottom drawer of an old desk
belonging to a Boulder, Colo., insurance agent.
``I stumbled upon it,'' says Raymund Haddock, step-grandson of
the childless MacKenzie, who died in 1934 at the age of 63.
Haddock discovered the carbon typescript in a desk he inherited
from his father, who was MacKenzie's stepson and secretary, and
who had an office at the MacKenzie- designed Pasatiempo Golf
Club in Santa Cruz, Calif. (MacKenzie, a Scotsman, lived in
retirement at the edge of Pasatiempo's 6th fairway.)
Says Haddock, ``I came across a package of pages which I had
understood to be notes for a book on camouflage that MacKenzie had
been working on when he died.'' Instead, the package contained
seven chapters of the great man declaiming on golf courses and
golf -- some of it echoing his classic 1920 volume, Golf
Architecture, his only other book, but much of it fresh, including
a delirious final chapter in which the former British Army surgeon
and Boer War veteran rails against ``Bolshevism'' and prescribes
golf as the tonic for world peace.
The ``spirit'' of MacKenzie's title is a set of 13 design
principles he derived from close study of the Old Course at St.
Andrews, Scotland -- ``the only golf course on real links land
that has not been defaced by the hand of man.'' For MacKenzie, the
subtlety and infinite variety of the Old Course's windswept humps
and hollows surpassed even his own contrivances. ``A first-class
architect,'' he writes, ``attempts to give the impression that
everything has been done by nature and nothing by himself.''
No one who has read Golf Architecture will by surprised by these
musings. What delights is the lost manuscript's trove of anecdotes
and caustic advocacy. One minute MacKenzie is telling a story of
the ``three Scottish golfers and the Presbyterian minister''
variety; the next, he's enthralling us with a corker about Walter
Hagen at the Road Hole or details of his Augusta National
collaboration with Bobby Jones (who wrote a brief foreword for the
book, also unpublished until now). MacKenzie even confesses that
his incomparable 16th at Cypress Point, with its heroic carry over
rocks and pounding surf, would never have been built if a woman --
club founder Marion Hollins -- hadn't teed up and proved she could
drive across the chasm. (``Being a Scotsman,'' he writes in a
separate passage, ``I am naturally opposed to water in its
At his best MacKenzie is a writer of style and grace; at his less
eloquent, he is a landscape engineer, droning agronomical and
construction details for an audience of greenskeepers and
contractors. The technical passages have been edited out of this
trade edition but are retained in a $250 leatherbound collector's
volume due out in April.
Fortunately, there's no editing MacKenzie's bite. ``It's very
clear when he lost a job and who he lost it to,'' says publisher
Brian A. Lewis, ``because he shreds them in the book.'' One
California architect is dismissed as an ``approach and putt''
designer ``who had written a book on golf . . . which I can hardly
believe.'' According to Lewis, the unnamed wretch is George C.
Thomas Jr., co-designer of L.A.'s Riviera and Bel-Air Country
Clubs, both considered classics.
It is these spirited asides that give The Spirit of St. Andrews
much of its verve and make it readable for golfers who would
imagine that Tooting Bec and Westward Ho are names invented by
P.G. Wodehouse, not British clubs whose courses MacKenzie
designed. Long in hibernation, this first-ever volume from
Sleeping Bear Press is sure to find its way to the shelves of
serious golf collectors.