- Sep 30, 1870
- Normanton, England
- Feb 6, 1934
Alister MacKenzie (1870-1934) is considered one of golf's finest architects. His course designs span four continents. His interest in course design began, oddly enough, during the Boer War (1899-1902). Working as a surgeon with the Somerset Regiment in South Africa, he became interested in camouflage, which the Boers had used effectively.
He then worked as a camoufleur in World War I and said in a lecture, "The brilliant successes of the Boers were due to great extent to their making the best use of natural cover and the construction of artificial cover indistinguishable from nature."
Sound a little like golf course design?
After the war, MacKenzie -- who belonged to several golf clubs near Leeds in England -- began to take an interest in golf course design. His 1920 book Golf Architecture, where he outlined his 13-principles philosophy, is considered a seminal work on golf design. In March 1924, he produced a map of St. Andrews which is still well known and highly regarded.
MacKenzie called Augusta National the "World's Wonder Inland Golf Course." Sadly, he didn't live long enough to see the first Masters in 1934. He died a few months before the tournament.
In addition to partnering with him at Augusta National, Bobby Jones wrote the foreword for MacKenzie's The Spirit of St. Andrews, another treatise on golf course architecture whose 1933 manuscript was finally compiled in book form in 1995.
When you play a MacKenzie course, take note of the way the bunkering comes into and recedes from view. Looking from tee to green, the playing field can seem covered by sand. Look back from green to tee, however, and you'll often notice the bunkers are no longer visible.
Be aware that you'll be called upon to use their imagination on greenside shots. This reflects a philosophy MacKenzie embraced when after seeing an American player -- Walter Hagen, as it turned out -- chip on the 17th green on the Old Course at St. Andrews. It is not a coincidence that one of the sport's greatest shot-makers -- Seve Ballesteros -- is the only player to win championships at Augusta National, Royal Melbourne and St. Andrews.
Ginella: Classic design traits of Alister MacKenzie
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