There are many reasons to get outside and enjoy nature. Golf is one; so are national parks.

There are many reasons to get outside and enjoy nature. Golf is one; so are national parks.

GolfClubAtlas.com is presented to promote frank commentary on golf course architecture. Within this commercial-free site, the subject of golf course architecture is discussed in several different sections, including:

  • Course profiles that highlight the finer virtues of golf architecture found in over 170 courses world-wide.
  • monthly Feature Interviews with a well known golf figure with past interviews archived for your perusal as well.
  • a Discussion Group limited to 1,200 people from around the world. If interested in participating, please contact us.
  • an ‘In My Opinion’ section, where you may submit a detailed essay relating to golf course architecture. Numerous course profiles are also found within this section, frequently from people espousing the virtues of their home course and why it is enjoyable to play on a day to day basis.
  • an ‘Art & Architecture‘ section featuring paintings and photographs that best capture some of the world’s best golf holes. Artists included are Mike Miller, David Scaletti and Josh Smith. New paintings and photographs are added on a quarterly basis.
    Many courses are featured that are lesser known and that don’t overtly promote themselves, but are inspiring places to play. Courses that have been written to death (Augusta National, Pebble Beach, etc.) are included for sake of completeness only, but are the shortest profiles. The courses included are ones from which the author believes there is much to be learned. Many of the courses are not ‘championship’ courses (whatever that means) or necessarily the best conditioned courses, but they share a single important characteristic: they are inspiring to play, be it by yourself, with your dog, family or friends. Enjoyment is the primary theme of these descriptions, but when taken together, these course profiles hopefully trace the history and improvements/setbacks in golf course architecture. In general, the courses fall into one of four distinct architectural periods.

1. Pre-1899: The architectural skill employed in these courses is minimal and yet the lesson learned is invaluable: nature provides the most enduring challenge. The architects of this day spent only one or two days on site to stake out the tees and greens. They had few decisions to make: they didn’t have the ability to move much land. These courses have been largely modified over the past century to adjust to equipment changes.
2. 1900-1937: For the first time, architects started to move and shape land to create hazards and add strategic interest. Such work started with the heathland courses outside of London and men like Charles Blair Macdonald brought it to America, where he coined the term ‘golf architect’ around 1910. Tom Simpson called the Roaring Twenties the ‘Golden Age’ of course design, and he was right.
3. 1949-1985: The dark ages of course design and few courses are profiled from this period. The vast majority of the courses built during the Trent Jones era were based on length, contain little variety and offer few options. Pete Dye led the charge out of this bleak period of bland courses after his trip to Scotland in the 1960s.
4. Present: With every imaginable tool available to shape land, modern architects have numerous options that their fore-fathers never did. In the mid 1980s, architects manufactured courses with immense visual impact but often times lacking in strategy or charm. In addition, such penal courses proved to be expensive to maintain over time. As the new century began, architects appreciated once again how to maximize the subtleties in the existing land while tempering how much dirt they moved. In addition, the most successful courses tended to be among the less expensive to build as they were being built on natural sandy, albeit remote,sites. In this manner, golf architecture has come full circle from a century ago.

Geographically, the courses selected are diverse, coming from eighteen countries. Donald Ross has the most courses profiled with eighteen followed by Seth Raynor with eleven and Alister MacKenzie with ten. Coore & Crenshaw and Harry Colt follow with eight apiece. Tom Doak’s Renaissance Design, Old Tom Morris, Pete Dye, Stanley Thompson, Charles Blair Macdonald, A.W. Tillinghast, Jack Nicklaus, James Braid, Harry Colt, and William Flynn each have four or more courses profiled. While golf course architecture is a subjective art form, several key tenets have stood the test of time. These are explored in an effort to understand why some courses are more fascinating than others, and to understand why such courses continually beckon for a return game. We hope you enjoy GolfClubAtlas.com.

Ran Morrissett and Ben Cowan-Dewar

This site is dedicated to Ed Morrissett. Without his love for his family, the game, and travel, this site would not exist.