Monday, 27 December 2010

1920-1930 - Part 3- The books that shaped the Game

This era brought one of the most important developments in golf course architecture for future architects – the architects began to write books. The insight that this era offered to future architects is stunning. We learn about the basics of design, routing, strategy, philosophy through examples of some of the courses that were mentioned this week. My knowledge of architecture comes as much from these books as it does from all other sources and experiences when combined. This is where most future architects begin – or at least should.

The first to come out was Some Essays on Golf Architecture by Colt and Allison (1920). It was a collection of Colt’s writing and observations offering a series of insights and lessons into the design of golf courses. The book is short but full of many observations and anecdotes that give you concise looks into different facets of building a golf course in that era. The book was followed soon after was Alister Mackenzie’s Golf Architecture which remains a personal favourite. Alister expressed his very strong views on playability and design, but went deeper into the philosophical ideas of design and playing experience. He talked a lot about the psychology of the player and the architects influence over what the player experiences out on the course. He laid out much of his own personal philosophy and prefernces in design which is clearly evident in the body of his work. This was a much deeper looking into the art and science and was the first book to step away from a more how to do approach featured in many other books.

The end of the era brought three more outstanding books. The Links by Robert Hunter (1926) takes the reader with Hunter on his travels through England and Scotland with Hunter pointing out the good and bad on a series of golf courses he visits. Hunter slowly educates the reader about golf architecture, particularly pointing out the failings of penal architecture and the elements of architecture that add the greatest interest. He even sprinkles in a few surprising criticisms of famous courses along the way in order to educate the reader about design. Scotland’s Gift – Golf by CB MacDonald (1928) came soon after giving us MacDonald’s reflections of the game and his masterpiece. While we get excellent insight into how the National Golf Links of America was developed, we also get insight into other areas of golf including the origins of the USGA. This a rich book full of great quotes. The last was The Architectural Side of Golf by Wethered and Simpson (1929). This is perhaps the most thorough analysis of the strategic school of design. The book is very poignant and full of strong opinions particularly from Simpson when it comes to penal architecture. The interesting discussion that ensues about the ideal course is particularly interesting and the accompanying text and illustrations are some of the best.

I can not express how important this part of the Golden Age influenced future architects. It is the single most important decade in shaping most of the latest generation of architects.

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