Sunningdale by Willie Park, later remodelled by Harry Colt
I talked about people like Morris, Strath and Robertson being the initial architects that began to shape golf course architecture, but it was Willie Park Jr. who was really the first golf course architect. With his work at the turn of the century at Sunningdale and Huntercombe he introduced golf to a whole new style of golf courses by cutting courses right out of the heathlands where often trees had to be removed to create holes. The new tree lined fairways had a definition and enclosure that many players found just as appealing as the open links. Willie also went one step further by manipulating grades to create tee sites and green sites, and even altered some grades to create landing areas too, and golf architecture as we know it today was born.
He also began to create greens that had rolling green contours very much akin to the ones found on the links courses and built bunkers that were far more natural looking than pot bunkers. He even placed them in important strategic locations or natural rolls for full effect. The courses featured imaginative routing that maximized the land, but also this new architecture that created great strategies and great beauty. And he was not alone. His peers, Harry Colt, J.F. Abercromby and Herbert Fowler (together with Park were called the Healthland Quartet) embarked on creating some of the greatest courses around London that still stand the test of time today. Without this work as an example, many of the early inland courses that shaped golf in other nations may not have occurred so soon.
Harry Colt is probably the most important architect is history. Colt not only designed a series of outstanding courses around London, but continued to provide the initial outstanding courses for many countries throughout the world. Canada, for example, is blessed by both Toronto Golf Club and Hamilton G&CC which are both two of the finest layouts in the country. Colt’s skill in routing and his knowledge of strategic design created the basis of future golf design embraced in the golden age. Almost every great architect at one point has indicated the debt they owe to Harry Colt and the influence both his work and his writings have had on them. Even the long history of great architects that worked out of his office from Charles Alison to Alister Mackenzie proved he was just as great a teacher to those around him.
Early Colt bunkering
Colt had a secondary influence concerning the way things were done, he introduced the idea of working drawings. Colt was the first to create planting plans, construction details and field instructions. He even ran an office with Alison using correspondence to stay involved from abroad. He was a man way ahead of his time, which included the integrating of housing and golf together. He even went as far as to recommend turf grass selection and other agronomic improvements to ensure his courses made for fine playing conditions. He had all the required skills to achieve excellent golf courses and is the basis for what an architect must know – even today.