Monday, 27 December 2010

1910-1920 – Part 2 – Three Great Architects

17th at Pinehurst #2

There were many architects active through this period doing great work, but three emerged to create some of the greatest courses in American Golf.

Donald Ross began his design career before almost immediately upon arrival from Scotland, but it was his move to becoming a full time golf course architect early in this decade that began arguably the most storied career in American golf architecture. Ross emigrated from Dornock, where he was head professional, and brought with him many of the ideas of that great links. He began with Oakley in Boston, and would use that city as his base for much of his career making a massive impact on New England golf, but it was his long association with Pinehurst that would have the most dramatic impact on his design career. Ross began slowly renovating and laying out courses around Boston, but it was through the work he did at Pinehurst and the connections he made that he quickly began to design courses at a massive rate right through to his death. What Ross brought to design was an outstanding understanding of strategy. He used fewer bunkers in more prominent positions to influence play. He brought to golf architecture a greater emphasis on green contour and short grass around greens as another way to defend par – influencing the thoughts of future American designers. Ross was more subtle than most, yet his courses stood up as equally well as more flamboyant projects of the time. He taught us that architecture could be restrained, straight-forward and honest and still be outstanding.

The 18th at Winged Foot

The enduring image of Tillinghast is that of the impeccably dressed architect poring over the plans for a golf course. Tillinghast was the first designer who consciously set out to create golf holes that were visually attractive. He helped transform golf course architecture from its roots in nature to a greater art form. He drew on the principles of landscape design, engineering and art to transform an average green location into a spectacular site entirely created by Tillinghast’s imagination. To Tillinghast’s credit he was able to consistently change the character of the courses he created from project to project. The bunker and green complexes at Winged Foot and Baltusrol are not at all alike. Yet both are joys to look at and play despite their obvious differences. Variety was the name of his game; he seldom presented the same look into a green on the same course twice. He also led a larger than life lifestyle and his architecture was just as bold, brash and full of confidence as he was.

The 6th at The Creek Club

The final architect is Seth Raynor. Raynor was originally hired to survey out the holes at the National Golf Links for MacDonald, but was eventually retained to oversee construction. Raynor was soon expressing his creativity and ability to visualize MacDonald’s instructions to create the holes at the National Golf Links. Raynor was eventually convinced by MacDonald to strike out on his own in 1914 and then helped send him a string of high profile clients though his business connections. Raynor largely followed MacDonald’s approach and adapted the same hole concepts. Raynor has been criticized occasionally for working to a template, but once you review the routings and the clever variety of his adaptations you soon realize this man had series talent and lots of personal imagination that made these variations work so well. Raynor experimented with combining concepts and even tried a few new ones himself. It’s not until you list the courses he built until you realize how truly great he was.

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