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Frank Giordano

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Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« on: May 05, 2014, 02:47:58 PM »
In an earlier thread about Willie Park, Jr.'s impact on the game, I noted that Walter Travis was rarely mentioned here, although one could argue his impact on the game was very significant as the game was in its infancy in America.  Here's a copy of a brief piece I wrote for the Pinehurst MEMBERabilia, the Country Club's newsletter, in advance of last year's playing of the North-South championship here.  Is Travis not accorded his due respect on this website?  Can others reinforce our knowledge of the magnitude of his achievements?  Or can any of us suggest reasons why Travis is rightly ignored here?

Here's the article.

The North & South Amateur Champion 100 Years Ago
--by Frank Giordano

When he arrived in Pinehurst to compete in the 1912 North & South Amateur, the 50 year old Walter J. Travis had already established himself as one of America's greatest golfing figures of all time. The most successful amateur golfer in the country during the early 1900s, Travis had already won three US Amateur titles and, in 1904, became the first non-British golfer to win their national amateur championship. Living in the New York City area, where golf early established a foothold in this country, Travis had already won the Metropolitan Golf Association (MGA) championship three times. His successful campaign here one hundred years ago garnered for him a third North & South title. Yet Travis wasn't finished with major amateur titles, as he captured a fourth MGA cup at the age of 53.
Walter Travis was far more than a great amateur champion, though. His many-faceted talents as an author-publisher, equipment innovator, and golf course designer earned him a unique place among America's golfing elite. Only Jack Nicklaus has achieved so vast an influence upon the game as Travis, although Jack's contributions as architect, equipment designer, and author have all benefitted from the labors of a large supporting staff of professionals.
Walter Travis was a prolific writer on a variety of golf topics, and his first book, Practical Golf (1901), treated such topics as golfing techniques, golf equipment, construction of golf courses, the design and placement of hazards, the rules of golf, and handicapping in the conduct of golf competitions. The American Golfer magazine, which Travis founded and published in 1908, was the most influential golf magazine of its time.
A fearless innovator, Travis tried whatever new approaches and equipment that offered him an edge in competition. The first player to win a major event the 1901 U.S. Amateur using the Haskell rubber-cored golf ball, Travis virtually changed the nature of golf overnight. The gutty ball was dead, inserts were needed in the face of wooden clubs to prevent splitting, and golf courses had to be lengthened because of the longer shots made possible by the Haskell.
Travis achieved his British Amateur victory using the aluminum Schenectady center-shafted putter, which the Royal and Ancient would eventually ban along with all mallet-headed putters. He experimented with varying lengths of driver shafts, up to 50 inches, to gain greater length off the tee. At his home course in New York, Travis employed smaller cups on the practice green, to sharpen the accuracy of his putting.
A giant of a man, with a gigantic ego, Travis may belong among the game's very greatest course architects. It is not fanciful to call him the first "U.S. Open Doctor," given his remodeling of the Country Club of Buffalo and Columbia Country Club courses just prior to their hosting the Opens in 1912 and 1921. The credit he once claimed for the design of Pinehurst No. 2, however, is another story, which will perhaps be told another time.

David_Tepper

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2014, 04:10:28 PM »
"A fearless innovator, Travis tried whatever new approaches and equipment that offered him an edge in competition. The first player to win a major event the 1901 U.S. Amateur using the Haskell rubber-cored golf ball, Travis virtually changed the nature of golf overnight. The gutty ball was dead, inserts were needed in the face of wooden clubs to prevent splitting, and golf courses had to be lengthened because of the longer shots made possible by the Haskell."

My hero. ;)

Jim_Kennedy

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2014, 04:39:17 PM »
I think his 1904 Open British Amateur win was the nitrous oxide that powered the golf engine in the USA.  
« Last Edit: May 07, 2014, 05:53:28 PM by Jim_Kennedy »
"I never beat a well man in my life" - Harry Vardon

Ed Homsey

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2014, 09:05:10 PM »
The theme of this discussion thread pretty much sums up the almost 20 year mission of the Travis Society.  We would argue that Travis's contributions to the game of golf are largely unknown and underappreciated.  Among other factes of his contributions follows.  His great success as an amateur golfer can be only attributed to his study of the game, and  personal dedication.  Without question, he was the country's leading and most well-known golfer through the first decade of the 1900s.  His positive influence on the games of Bobby Jones and Frances Quimet are well documented.  His influence on the development of golf equipment is seen throughout the early literature.  His golf course design ideas were revolutionary in the very early 1900s, e.g.  can you find anyone who wrote so frequently and disparagingly about the ubiquitous use of cross-bunkers, and the strategic placement of bunkers earlier than Travis?  I'm ignoring his influence on the rules and format of play, or his years as founder and editor of The American Golfer, etc, etc., etc.  I rest our case.

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2014, 10:32:56 PM »
Ed:

What's your take on Travis's influence on Ross, in light of his words in this American Golfer article:

http://library.la84.org/SportsLibrary/AmericanGolfer/1920/ag2333f.pdf

Sven
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Niall C

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2014, 07:59:12 AM »
The theme of this discussion thread pretty much sums up the almost 20 year mission of the Travis Society.  We would argue that Travis's contributions to the game of golf are largely unknown and underappreciated.  Among other factes of his contributions follows.  His great success as an amateur golfer can be only attributed to his study of the game, and  personal dedication.  Without question, he was the country's leading and most well-known golfer through the first decade of the 1900s.  His positive influence on the games of Bobby Jones and Frances Quimet are well documented.  His influence on the development of golf equipment is seen throughout the early literature.  His golf course design ideas were revolutionary in the very early 1900s, e.g.  can you find anyone who wrote so frequently and disparagingly about the ubiquitous use of cross-bunkers, and the strategic placement of bunkers earlier than Travis?  I'm ignoring his influence on the rules and format of play, or his years as founder and editor of The American Golfer, etc, etc., etc.  I rest our case.

Ed

Are you speaking in an American context or describing his influence world wide ?

Niall

Patrick_Mucci

Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2014, 08:14:18 AM »
Ed,

Interesting comment about cross bunkering, a feature that was tremendously repetitive at GCGC in 1938.
If Travis didn't like them he sure fooled the members at GCGC

It would seem that some of these ODG's did one thing and wrote another.

I agree that Travis is under recognized in golf, ditto Emmett, Flynn and Wilson

Patrick_Mucci

Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2014, 08:14:45 AM »
Ed,

Interesting comment about cross bunkering, a feature that was tremendously repetitive at GCGC in 1938.
If Travis didn't like them he sure fooled the members at GCGC

It would seem that some of these ODG's did one thing and wrote another.

I agree that Travis is under recognized in golf, ditto Emmett, Flynn and Wilson

BCrosby

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2014, 09:04:59 AM »
I think his 1904 Open win was the nitrous oxide that powered the golf engine in the USA. 

Agreed. An under-appreciated event in the history of American golf. It is usually over-shadowed by the US Open at Brookline nine years later.

Bob

Tom_Doak

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2014, 09:19:10 AM »
Ed,

Interesting comment about cross bunkering, a feature that was tremendously repetitive at GCGC in 1938.
If Travis didn't like them he sure fooled the members at GCGC

Patrick:

Are you sure the cross bunkers should be attributed to Travis and not to Emmet?

I don't know the answer to that.

BCrosby

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2014, 09:28:48 AM »
Ed:

What's your take on Travis's influence on Ross, in light of his words in this American Golfer article:

http://library.la84.org/SportsLibrary/AmericanGolfer/1920/ag2333f.pdf

Sven

Beyond his skills as a player, Travis 'got' the quiet revolution in golf architecture that took place in Britain (circa 1901) much earlier than most in the US.  From what evidence I've seen, Travis' American contemporaries understood that and he was consulted often.

Travis' influence on early 20th century gca remains under-appreciated. I'd guess the primary reason for that is because he did not design many courses in his own name pre-1910. But Travis keeps turning up as a consultant over that decade. The extent of that consulting will take some digging in local newspaper archives.    

Bob  

Ed Homsey

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2014, 11:43:45 AM »
Patrick--

Didn't Emmet change a lot of Travis's work at GCGC. Perhaps he returned some of his cross-bunkers.  On the other hand, in his 1909 article in The American Golfer, titled, "Garden City's New Hazards", Travis listed cross, or cop bunkers, on #3, 10, & 14.  The cop-bunker on #10 was described as the "Old Cop Bunker", so it appears that he left some of Emmet's cross-bunkers, and maybe added some, but did not rigidly adhere to his basic principles in that project.  It is apparent that he added many bunkers there, stating that when the project is completed, the course would have 150 hazards (not counting the large number of "sand patches on the sides").  On those courses, whose original Travis drawing I've studied, he stuck to his notions about strategic placement along the sides of fairways (those courses include:  Lookout Point CC, Cherry HIll Club, Pennhills Club, Stafford CC, CC of Troy, Yahnundasis GC, & CC of Scranton).   

Re Sven's question about Travis's influence on Ross.  If you opened that link you'll see--in addition to Travis's opinions about cross-bunkers, his reference to "a history of the number two or championship course at Pinehurst".  In that section of the 1920 article, Travis claims major responsibility for convincing Mr. Tufts of the need to make #2 "more exacting".  When, in Travis's words, "I won him around to my way of thinking and he gave me carte blanche to go ahead, I knew the changes that I had in mind would result in a big uproar at the start, and I didn't feel like shouldering the whole responsibility.  So, I suggested that Donald Ross and I should go over the course together, without conferring, each propose a separate plan."  He goes on to say, "For some time I had been pouring into Donald's ears my ideas: in point of fact, I had urged him to take up the laying our of courses---". 

Those are some lofty claims.  I recall having conversations about this article with Bob Labbance, at the time he was working on "The Old Man", and, as the Travis Society's archivist, I was providing research assistance.  Bob's opinion, with which I concurred, was that the must have been some validity to Travis's claims.  Otherwise, we would have found some evidence of his claims being disputed.  On the other hand, I don't think that anyone associated with the Ross Society believes that Ross was influenced by Travis.  I have not read any of Ross's works, but I haven't heard that he gives any credit to Travis.  My personal experience with Travis and Ross courses adds nothing, in terms of verification, but I must say that on a few Ross courses, such as the CC of Buffalo or Teugaga CC, the green sites feel very familiar to me, as a Travis-nut.  One of those intriguing mysteries, subject to lots of speculation.  I tend to believe Travis because, having read most, if not all of his writings, I have been impressed by his modesty regarding his achievements (discounting his description of the 1904 British Amateur). 

Ed
www.travissociety.com

Patrick_Mucci

Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2014, 12:27:51 PM »
Ed,

Interesting comment about cross bunkering, a feature that was tremendously repetitive at GCGC in 1938.
If Travis didn't like them he sure fooled the members at GCGC

Patrick:

Are you sure the cross bunkers should be attributed to Travis and not to Emmet?

Tom,

I guess part of the answer to your question is whether Travis endorsed cross bunkering by retaining Emmett's prior work.

As to differentiating between what Travis introduced and what Travis left intact, and what Emmett may have reintroduced or left, I'd have to spend some time with Tom Kirby in the archives.


I don't know the answer to that.

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2014, 06:48:58 PM »
Ed:

Other than GCGC, where the cross-bunkering may or may not be a vestige of a course built before Travis had fully developed his anti-"Willie Dunn System" sentiments (or were even the work of a different architect all together), are there any other Travis courses that have features that are reminiscent of the geometric architecture he decried in that article?

All the best,

Sven
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Ed Homsey

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2014, 11:34:14 PM »
Sven--There are none that I know of.  It would be interesting to have original drawings of Travis's very early courses such as the Mount Pocono GCC 9-holer that he designed in 1903.  His 1916 drawing of the Roscoe Conkling Park course in Utica, NY did not have cross-bunkers, nor di his 1916 Park Club course in Orchard Park, NY.  Leads me to think that he was faithful to the principles that he described very early in the 1900s, with the exception of GCGC.

I have not been able to determine if other designers wrote about the strategic and aesthetic placement of bunkers prior to Travis.  He added a chapter on hazards to his book "Practical Golf" in 1902 in which he supported the notion of creating hazards, and expressed distaste for the cross-bunker type of hazard.  He illustrated his opinion with hazards drawn along either side of the fairway.  Had others written about this 'modern' type of bunkering prior to Travis?  If not, why is he not given more credit for the concept?

Ed
www.travissociety.com

Patrick_Mucci

Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2014, 12:05:51 AM »
Hollywood had numerous cross bunkers.

Another example of the field product differing from their writings

Blake Conant

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #16 on: May 07, 2014, 08:12:59 AM »
There's an old plan of Hollywood in the men's clubhouse that predates Travis' renovations.  It'd be worth looking at that to see how many cross bunkers Travis inherited.

Patrick_Mucci

Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2014, 09:18:57 AM »

There's an old plan of Hollywood in the men's clubhouse that predates Travis' renovations.  It'd be worth looking at that to see how many cross bunkers Travis inherited.

Blake,

If an architect is brought in to an existing golf course and retains specific features from that course, that's tacit approval of those features.

Ed Homsey

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2014, 10:29:42 AM »
I think it is a real stretch to call any of the original Travis bunkering at Hollywood "cross-bunkers".  But, given the very large number of bunkers on holes such as #12, it was virtually impossible to get to the green without going over a bunker.  And, #3 had fairway bunkering that stretched nearly across the fiarway.  None of those resemble the cross-bunkering that was ubiquitous in the very early days of golf course design, and as illustrated in Travis's 1920 article mentioned previously in this thread.  That does not disprove your point, Patrick, nor am I trying to.  Just looking at the impact that Travis had on golf course design in terms that what he expressed in his writings and that vast majority, if not all, of his golf course projects.

Joe Bausch

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #19 on: May 07, 2014, 11:43:38 AM »
From Tom Paul:

Walter Travis never won a US or British Open but he sure did shock the British in 1904 by winning the British Amateur (the first American to do so).

But as a far as being under appreciated as the first American to win the US Open, that distinction would have to go to Philadelphia's John J. McDermott who won the US Open in 1911 and 1912 (and in 1911 as the youngest in history). For some reason that fame seems to go to Francis Ouimet who won the US Open in 1913. Why is that? It could be because Ouimet was an amateur and McDermott was a pro.
@jwbausch (for new photo albums)
The site for the Cobb's Creek project:
https://cobbscreek.org/
Nearly all Delaware Valley golf courses in photo albums: Bausch Collection

Ed Homsey

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #20 on: May 07, 2014, 01:20:16 PM »
I would agree with Patrick's assertion that if an architect, while remodeling,  leaves existing features on a course, that is "tacit" approval.  In the case of Hollywood, I think that the best source for determining what Travis did there is a map published in the HGC history book.  There are absolutely no cross-bunkers of the type that Travis railed against, and illustrated in various articles.

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #21 on: May 07, 2014, 03:14:00 PM »
Ed:

A while back there was a thread on the "economy" or early remodels, essentially noting many features were left as they were due to reasons of cost and effort. 

Unless we know the specific reasons why features were left as they were, I don't think any assumption regarding tacit approval can be based solely on the fact that those features were left undisturbed.

I would state that in the case of a wholesale remodel, the argument is a lot easier to buy.

Sven
"As much as we have learned about the history of golf architecture in the last ten plus years, I'm convinced we have only scratched the surface."  A GCA Poster

"There's the golf hole; play it any way you please." Donald Ross

Patrick_Mucci

Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #22 on: May 07, 2014, 03:26:07 PM »

I would agree with Patrick's assertion that if an architect, while remodeling,  leaves existing features on a course, that is "tacit" approval.  In the case of Hollywood, I think that the best source for determining what Travis did there is a map published in the HGC history book.  There are absolutely no cross-bunkers of the type that Travis railed against, and illustrated in various articles.

Ed,

Maps are nice, but, I'll have an early aerial that I have of Hollywood posted by Bill Brightly.

I think you'll find an abundance of cross bunkers in the photo.

The aerial reflects what was built and played.

Patrick_Mucci

Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #23 on: May 07, 2014, 03:31:19 PM »

I think it is a real stretch to call any of the original Travis bunkering at Hollywood "cross-bunkers".

Early aerial photos refute that statement.
 

But, given the very large number of bunkers on holes such as #12, it was virtually impossible to get to the green without going over a bunker. 

And, #3 had fairway bunkering that stretched nearly across the fiarway. 

None of those resemble the cross-bunkering that was ubiquitous in the very early days of golf course design, and as illustrated in Travis's 1920 article mentioned previously in this thread. 

What about the cross bunker on # 4 ?

9 ?  16 ?  18 ?


That does not disprove your point, Patrick, nor am I trying to.  Just looking at the impact that Travis had on golf course design in terms that what he expressed in his writings and that vast majority, if not all, of his golf course projects.

Ed,

The photo is very revealing.

Hollywood had to be one of the great courses in the country.

It's a shame that it was softened over all these years.

Especially when you consider that it's less than a mile from the ocean and enjoys great breezes.


Bill Brightly

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Re: Walter Travis' Impact on the game of Golf
« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2014, 03:31:50 PM »

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