THERE'S A reason that the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship return to golf's grande dames again and again, to courses built in the early part of the last century: The architects built better courses then. That era, circa 1900 to 1938, with a special emphasis on the Roaring '20s, was the Golden Age of American golf course architecture. In that period Alister Mackenzie built Augusta National, William Flynn built the modern Shinnecock Hills, George Crump designed Pine Valley, Hugh Wilson designed Merion, Perry Maxwell designed Southern Hills. We could go on; the list is long. The courses were built where there was money, rolling terrain and visionaries: outside Boston and in the ocean counties of Rhode Island; in the suburbs of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Denver; at the resorts of Pebble Beach and Pinehurst; and hard by grand hotels like the Greenbrier and the Homestead.
This is an article from the Sept. 8, 2005 issue
Outside New York City the work of four old masters continues to decorate the golf landscape. There's A.W. Tillinghast--who designed this year's PGA host, the Lower course at Baltusrol, in Springfield, N.J.--the thrifty Donald Ross, the autocratic Charles Blair Macdonald and the pragmatic Seth Raynor. Each man had a distinctive style, and Tom Doak, a modern architect who emulates these design forebears, has made a close study of them. Looking at courses in the vicinity of Baltusrol, SI asked Doak to cite examples that demonstrate each man's design philosophy.
Eighty years after the Golden Age, the best work of four masters has survived
[CHARLES BLAIR MACDONALD]
MOST FAMOUS COURSE: National Golf Links of America, Southampton, N.Y.
ALSO FAMOUS FOR ... Writing his nephew Peter Grace out of his will after Grace drove the green on the short par-4 1st hole at the National.
QUINTESSENTIAL EXAMPLE OF DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: The nasty 10-foot-deep greenside bunker on the 392-yard, par-4 13th hole at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club, in Scarborough, N.Y.
DOAK EXPLAINS: "Macdonald believed that bunkers should be real hazards, as they are in Scotland. Maybe you can get out in one, maybe you can't. Maybe you have to go out backward. You definitely have to allow for the bunkers whether you're playing a tee shot, a layup or an approach. It gets you thinking."
MOST FAMOUS COURSE: Mid Ocean Club, Hamilton, Bermuda
ALSO FAMOUS FOR ... Barely playing the game. Raynor was an engineer who came to golf as Macdonald's surveyor.
QUINTESSENTIAL EXAMPLE OF DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: The demanding 209-yard, par-3 11th hole at Knollwood Country Club in Elmsford, N.Y.
DOAK EXPLAINS: "Raynor believed every course should have one scary-hard par-3, which demands that you hit a long iron or a fairway wood straight and far."
MOST FAMOUS COURSE: Pinehurst (No. 2)
ALSO FAMOUS FOR ... Learning the golf profession from fellow Scot Old Tom Morris, the longtime patriarch of the Old Course in St. Andrews.
QUINTESSENTIAL EXAMPLE OF DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: The close proximity of the 11th tee to the 10th green at the Plainfield Country Club in Plainfield, N.J.
DOAK EXPLAINS: "Ross's courses are always beautifully routed. His tees are often very close to the preceding green, as they are on Scottish courses. This improves pace of play and gives you the sensation not that you're playing 18 individual holes but that all 18 holes hang together as one."
MOST FAMOUS COURSE: Winged Foot (West), Mamaroneck, N.Y.
ALSO FAMOUS FOR ... Inventing the term birdie.
QUINTESSENTIAL EXAMPLE OF DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: The wildly curvaceous green with multiple mounds and valleys at the par-4, 378-yard 5th hole at Somerset Hills Country Club, in Bernardsville, N.J.
DOAK EXPLAINS: "Tillinghast loved big humps and hollows on his greens. They make putting more interesting and fun, and they make you think about your approach shot--a lot."