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Are These Your Favourite Golf Course Designers

By: | Wed 20 Dec 2023

Considering there are over 35,000 golf courses throughout the world, what enables the very best to stand out from the rest? They could be positioned in an envious location or the routing of the layout has been carved so perfectly that it remains with you forever.

What we tend to overlook is the course’s architect - the person responsible for bringing their innovative vision to the masses. Throughout history there have been notable designers who are attached to highly revered and historic golf courses. Below, we look at the character of some of the most famed, and the legacy that they left with their work.

Pete Dye

Pete Dye was always drawn to the sport of golf and was quite the amateur player during his younger years. He featured in more than five US Amateurs, captained his college golf team and even qualified for the US Open in 1957. Although he never pursued a professional career, his desire to work in the sport of golf ultimately resulted in a study trip that saw him compete in The Amateur played at the Old Course in St Andrews.

The design of Harbour Town - in collaboration with Jack Nicklaus - skyrocketed Dye’s reputation, and The Players Championship has also become the flagship event on the PGA Tour, which is played at TPC Sawgrass. Throughout the following years, Dye became a great ally to the PGA Tour, having designed many of the courses that the players enjoy on an annual basis.

Notable Courses:

Tom Fazio

Tom Fazio is a highly successful golf course designer whose catalogue boasts an enviable portfolio of outstanding venues. Although a highly established name in the architecture world, when Adare Manor hosts the Ryder Cup in 2027, his legacy will grow even further. When Fazio was new to the industry, he was told about classic designs and emulating some of the most famous holes in Scotland, to which he replied: “Why would you want to do something that’s already been done?”

Whilst he acknowledged their historic meaning, he wanted to create a legacy of his own and leave his mark on the golf world. His first big project was Jack Rabbit, which was finalised in 1964. Throughout his career, he would complete many projects that have contributed positively to the development of golf. In 2027, he will have his time in the limelight as Europe and America go to battle once more for the iconic Ryder Cup.

Notable Courses:

Harry Colt

After losing his father at the age of two, Harry Colt would go on to become a remarkable golfer who was in possession of a plus handicap. Opting to study law at Clare College in Cambridge, it wasn’t long before he joined the committee for the Cambridge University Golf Club - where he would become the first ever captain in 1889. As his influence in golf grew quickly, he was appointed as secretary for Sunningdale Golf Club.

Throughout those years, his reputation would expand as an architect before he could no longer commit to his role at Sunningdale. During his expansive career, Colt was responsible for layouts such as Royal Portrush, Muirfield and Swinley Forest. The Englishman was also tasked with redesigning iconic venues such as Royal Lytham & St Annes, in addition to Burnham & Berrow - where Final Qualifying for The Open Championship continues to take place.

Notable Courses:

Alister MacKenzie

Alister MacKenzie

Alister MacKenzie was a highly educated person whose love for the sport of golf could not be contained. After fighting in the Boer War, the Englishman of proud Scottish heritage returned home after 12 months of conflict and became a founding member of Alwoodley in 1907, where he set out the club’s golf course. MacKenzie won a competition to design a par-4 through Country Life magazine, which aided his early adventures in the industry.

He meticulously followed a 13-step design principle that he upheld wherever possible. Of course, some terrains would make that impossible, but he continued to adhere to his philosophy wherever he could. Another interesting fact about MacKenzie was how he angled putting greens away from the centre line of approach, meaning positioning off the tee would be crucial for golfers who were looking to access pins in certain locations. Augusta National is a testament to that design idea, as dialled accuracy with the driver is crucial for success.

Notable Courses:

  • Augusta National
  • Cypress Point
  • Royal Melbourne Golf Club (West Course)
  • Kingston Heath

James Braid

James Braid is one of the most prestigious names in golf, having carved a successful living through both playing and designing golf courses. The Scotsman always held an interest in golf and after working for two years as a joiner, he made enough money to pay his joining fee and membership subscription to Earlsferry Thistle, the club attached to Elie Golf Club. During only his second medal, he won the tournament whilst the course was laid out as 11 holes.

Braid’s cousin was working in London as a clubmaker when a position opened up, which enabled Braid to leave his homeland and travel down to the capital of England. During his time away from work, he could compete in many tournaments before capturing his first Open Championship in 1901. In total, Braid would record five Open victories and spent 46 years working at Walton Heath. During his career as a designer, Braid was responsible for more than 100 designs, extended 50 layouts and reconstructed more than 200 golf courses.

Notable Courses:

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