Born
Feb 10, 1862
In
Maldon, Victoria, Australia
Died
Aug 31, 1927
Few people had wider-ranging impacteffects on early American golf history than "The Grand Old Man," Walter Travis.
Walter Travis is a crucial figure to the history of golf in America. In the context of the many aspects of the game, he was a true polymath, influencing the arc of not just architecture, but the evolution of its competitive side, its rules and its rich written tradition.

Ultimately known as the “Grand Old Man” of the early 20th-century golf scene, Travis didn’t even pick up a club until 1896 and he was in his mid-30s, a decade after he had moved to the United States from his native Australia. But he made up for lost time, becoming one of the world’s great amateur players practically overnight. Barely two years into golf, Travis was a semifinalist in the 1898 U.S. Amateur, a tournament he would win in 1900, 1901 and 1903.

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Travis was not a son of high society. His thoroughly middle-class roots - the son of a miner in Australia, he initially worked for a hardware and iron merchant - made him something of an outsider among the aristocracy that dominated the early amateur game. Nevertheless, his game earned him the respect of his peers and the admiration of golf fans.

His first foray into golf course architecture was in 1897, when he assisted architect Tom Bendelow in building a course in Flushing, Queens. But his best-known early work came in 1899 and 1900 at Ekwanok Country Club in Manchester, Vt., which he laid out with veteran Scottish architect John Duncan Dunn.
Walter Travis: selected golf course designs
Manchester, Vermont
Private
0.0
0
Garden City, New York
Private
5.0
1
Kennebunkport, Maine
Private
4.8333
6
St Simons Island, Georgia
Resort
4.5117647059
9
Troy, New York
Private
5.0
1
Greenwich, Connecticut
Private
0.0
0
Deal, New Jersey
Private
5.0
2
Ridgeway, Ontario
Private
5.0
1
Jekyll Island, Georgia
Resort
3.2019166667
54
At Ekwanok and dozens of other courses, Travis put into practice several ideas that would drastically change - and improve - the quality of American golf course architecture. Pre-1900 courses tended to be rudimentary in nature, full of straightaway holes, flat greens and one-dimensional cross-bunkering that Travis found inferior to the more varied hazards of the great links of the United Kingdom. Therefore, he favored more staggered and flanking bunkering schemes, as well as bold green contours that made putting more of a valuable skill for any golfer.

Among Travis’ many writings, perhaps his most influential piece was “Hazards,” an eight-page treatise published in 1902 in the USGA publication Golf. “Travis argued that interesting and thoughtfully placed bunkers placed generally along the sides but also towards the desired line of play brought interest, intrigue, challenge, and a sense of adventure to a round of golf,” writes golf historian Michael Cirba, in a three-part profile on Travis.
"It is high time we awoke to a proper and appreciative realization of what real golf is - and constructed our courses accordingly.”
Walter Travis
Though it was originally laid out by friend Devereux Emmet, his home course of Garden City Golf Club would serve as a canvas for Travis’ philosophy of architecture throughout the peak of his career. He tinkered with the course significantly over the years, reconfiguring and adding bunkers and giving the putting surfaces the character for which they are still known today. On the par three 12th, a recent renovation by Tom Doak and his Renaissance Golf Design firm restored two huge mounds to the sides of the putting surface. Garden City was to Travis what Pinehurst No. 2 was to Donald Ross.

Few golfers are aware that Travis actually had some influence at Pinehurst as well. In 1906, he conferred with the great Scot about the potential benefits of toughening up the No. 2 course, proposing some bunkering that was eventually adopted to make it more fearsome. This added teeth helped establish it as one of America’s great destination courses, then and now. No. 2. is a Ross course through and through, but nevertheless, Travis was behind the scenes at a key point in its history.
A misty morning day view of a hole at Cape Arundel Golf Club.

Travis was involved in two key equipment evolutions in the early American game. He won his first U.S. Amateur with the new “Haskell” golf ball, which replaced gutta percha balls around the turn of the century. And in 1904, Travis won his lone British Amateur title with the new mallet-headed “Schenectady” putter, which would later be outlawed by the R&A, causing a schism between it and the USGA, and a permanent rift between Travis and friend and fellow influential architect C.B. Macdonald.

Today, it is Travis’ courses that represent the clearest link between centuries of American golf. Many of his designs are private, but the semi-private Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunkport, Maine, is a well-preserved example of his work that is open to non-members. And at Sea Island Golf Club in Georgia, Davis Love III’s design team redesigned the Plantation Course in 2019 in part to pay tribute to Travis’ style.

It might be said that Walter Travis’ prime playing and designing days didn’t so much coincide with the birth of great American golf course architecture as encourage it. Though born overseas, he lived the American Dream as well as any golfer of his time.
While not a strict restoration, Sea Island's Plantation Course represents a nod to Walter Travis' work by Davis Love III. Here are some Travis-style "chocolate drop" mounds along the par-5 4th hole.

Review Statistics

Average Rating

4.8
Average Rating
4.8
594 Reviews (594)
Total 594 Reviews
43 Featured Reviews

Rating Breakdown

43 Reviews
4-5 stars
23
3-4 stars
3
2-3 stars
0
1-2 stars
0
Unrated
17
Avg. Course Layout
4.5
Avg. Off-Course Amenities
4.4
Avg. Value for the Money
4.3
Avg. Pace of Play
4.6
Avg. Friendliness
4.6
Avg. Course Conditions
4.5

Walter Travis Designed Courses Map

Walter Travis Designed Courses

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