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Ran Morrissett

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Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO New
« on: February 08, 2021, 01:19:30 PM »
https://golfclubatlas.com/williamwatsonbydeanknuth/

My wife and I like to read mystery books, the only difference being she likes to read the last 20 pages first. As a golfer, I find such tactics abhorrent because if I knew what I was going to shoot beforehand, I would have given up the sport a couple of decades ago! :P ;) Having said that, if you want to skip to the back of Dean Knuth’s piece on William Watson, I understand, for that is where he lists the over 100 courses for which Watson was the driving design force. That’s right – over a 100, which frames the conversation about how William Watson has never received his just due.

Dean, who is a member of Watson’s San Diego CC, has done Watson proud by assembling this meticulously researched piece. Laced with newspaper quotes throughout, Dean’s work conveys Watson's prominent stature in the game during the Golden Age. In Watson, we have a genuine minimalist. Dean highlights this quote from Watson: 'A good rule is to stress the importance of fitting in all grading work to harmonize with the surrounding territory, mounds, slopes, grassy hollows, sand pits, all have their values in beautifying the setting of our greens and in giving them distinctive definition — if artificially arranged without appearance of artificiality.'

Dean states, ‘From my point of view, besides being a minimalist just as he said, Watson was a master at routing golf holes on the land that he was provided. While he preferred land with significant rolls, dips and terrain, he did very well in laying-out courses on all types of land where he could envision a unique feature for each hole—and all without moving much land. He could envision sidewalls to bound the ball right or left, he could use horses to create contours on flat areas, and he used other skills to keep his courses from ever producing monotony.’

Three of the best roly-poly sites he ever received are White Bear Yacht Club, Orinda and Belvedere. All three are presented wonderfully today and stand as shining examples of Watson’s talent. Of course, for years WBYC was classed as a Ross but several brave members have established that it is Watson that deserves the primary credit. That’s in part why what Dean has done is so important – Watson was a first class Golden Age architect and if more people understood how talented the Scot was and how proud they should be to have a Watson course, then the direction that his courses evolve might well be different.

Dean highlights some of Watson’s best courses that are RIP like those at Olympic and Olympia Fields. If his work with Sam Whiting on the Ocean Links course for Olympic still existed, his profile today would be much higher as that ocean front course would still have everyone swooning. Also, Dean points out that Watson’s contributions to the California municipal golf scene seem to go completely unrecognized, including Garvanza Links in 1900 which apparently was the first municipal course built on the Pacific Coast. Watson moved to Los Angeles in 1899 when LA had a population of ~ 100,000. A club maker, teacher and architect, Watson played an outsized role in helping to establish golf in California.

Dean sums up Watson thusly, 'Watson embraced a minimalist design philosophy, where golf holes were found and not built. He disliked artificiality. Every bunker and mound he constructed had a purpose. Some shapes were simple, others more complex, but always he insisted on naturalness.' What’s not to admire?! Here is a Scot who immigrated to America and built great courses here at a key time in the sport’s development. It is indeed high time that William Watson’s accomplishments finally receive their due.
 
Dean has done what he set out to do: create a starting point to discuss what William Watson (and indeed the whole Watson family) meant to golf. He can be reached at dknuth@cox.net and would be most appreciative by whoever would be so kind as to share additional information on the Watson family. For instance, the fate of William’s wife Ada (who was integral to his design business) remains a mystery. Please help Dean gather information and he, in turn, will reward this readership with his further findings.

Best,
« Last Edit: February 27, 2021, 02:22:19 PM by Ran Morrissett »

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2021, 02:12:02 PM »
Nice to see the "pope of slope" branching out. Interesting about the provenance of some of the MN courses. San Diego CC is a sleeper of a course I loved it on my only play about fifteen years ago.
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

"Deep within your soul-space is a magnificent cathedral where you are sweet beyond telling." Rumi

Tom_Doak

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2021, 04:23:20 PM »
The part about Ada Watson coming up with the idea of a gravel base for putting greens is especially interesting.


The article says this was standard practice for Watson's later courses.  Has anyone doing renovation work dug up something like that?  I vaguely remember seeing a gravel layer for some work we did at WBYC - maybe the 7th green?

Mark Mammel

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2021, 08:09:21 PM »
Tom-I'm thinking it was the 8th green, which you and Jim rebuilt in 1995 if memory serves!



So much golf to play, so little time....

Mark

PCCraig

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2021, 09:19:19 PM »
Wow - what an incredible article, Dean! Thank you for sharing.


Lots to unpack but as a WBYC member I really, really enjoyed it. Loved all the different profiles of the courses he designed.
H.P.S.

Tom Fagerli

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2021, 09:34:59 PM »
Glad to see Ridgeview CC in Duluth MN on the list. RCC sits on a knob with humps, hollows and crazy side slopes. It had a great ninth hole with almost a volcano green except it was shaped like figure eight. The club, in a move of extreme short sightedness tore it down so they could have a range! I really learned how to “play” golf at the View which you either love or hate. Great greens to this day.
I was under the impression that Watson also designed the original nine at Cloquet CC but do not see it on the list. There has been lots of rumor it was a Ross design but Watson is more likely. Whoever did this nine it is a fabulous nine holer (or was until they built a second nine).
Great article Dean!

Thomas Dai

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2021, 06:39:09 AM »
Well done. It takes a long time and lots of effort to research to write a piece like this.
atb

PCCraig

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2021, 09:24:57 AM »
How much of Interlachen is Watson, and how much did Ross do to it in his redesign? Would be curious, given Watson's comments on the course, if there are any holes there that were left somewhat unchanged by Ross.
H.P.S.

Jeff_Mingay

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2021, 09:55:49 AM »
Great stuff, absolutely fascinating. Thanks, Dean and Ran.


If I could only play one course for the rest of my life, Belvedere and White Bear would be candidates.
jeffmingay.com

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2021, 09:58:56 AM »
How much of Interlachen is Watson, and how much did Ross do to it in his redesign? Would be curious, given Watson's comments on the course, if there are any holes there that were left somewhat unchanged by Ross.


The 1920 reports called Ross' work a total rearrangement.


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

Tom_Doak

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2021, 01:01:01 PM »
Tom-I'm thinking it was the 8th green, which you and Jim rebuilt in 1995 if memory serves!





Mark:


We did rebuild that green, but we didn't find any trace of Watson's original green, which had been rebuilt sometime in the 1960's or 70's, I think.  Originally the green was much more blind, and nobody at the time wanted us to consider putting it back the way it was -- which we had a hard time getting a feel for, anyway.  Instead, we built a new version of the redesigned green. 
The one we replaced had so much back to front slope that a ball wouldn't stay on the front 2/3 of the green anymore -- most approach shots would hit, and then roll back off the left front!


I just vaguely remembered that when we got into the bunkers at the front of the par-5 7th that we hit a bunch of gravel, which surprised me.

PCCraig

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2021, 04:51:24 PM »
Tom Doak,


How deep would the gravel be under the green surface, if it were still there?


Wonder if we could take a sample out of a green (the 7th), and see if it's still there. They just put XGD in the greens last year, not sure if that's deep enough to hit that gravel though?


Thanks.
H.P.S.

Tom_Doak

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2021, 09:31:52 AM »
Tom Doak,

How deep would the gravel be under the green surface, if it were still there?




I know that in the old days, designers and engineers tended to put drainage infrastructure deeper underground than we do today, to use capillary action to pull the water down.  So, it's possible that the gravel layer would be deeper than the 12-18 inches at which it would be installed today.  But if so they would have used the same prepared soils from there up . . . so if you hit anything resembling native soils, you could stop digging.


Also note that they would not have installed a gravel layer when working in sandy soils; Scotsmen are too practical for that. 😉

Rick Shefchik

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2021, 03:50:18 PM »
Glad to see Ridgeview CC in Duluth MN on the list. RCC sits on a knob with humps, hollows and crazy side slopes. It had a great ninth hole with almost a volcano green except it was shaped like figure eight. The club, in a move of extreme short sightedness tore it down so they could have a range! I really learned how to “play” golf at the View which you either love or hate. Great greens to this day.
I was under the impression that Watson also designed the original nine at Cloquet CC but do not see it on the list. There has been lots of rumor it was a Ross design but Watson is more likely. Whoever did this nine it is a fabulous nine holer (or was until they built a second nine).
Great article Dean!


Tom, I suspected Watson might have been the original designer at Cloquet, as I was told by someone at the club that their lore held that a "Scotsman" returning from a design job in Duluth had stopped by and laid out Cloquet's original 9 holes. The club has always claimed that mysterious visitor was Ross, but as neither Ross, his office nor any historian has ever offered any evidence of his work there, the Ross myth is easy to dismiss. Watson returning from his work at Ridgeview in Duluth made more sense, but in the Oct. 1938, St. Paul Pioneer Press obituary for WBYC pro Tom Vardon, Cloquet was included in a list of dozens of courses Vardon - an Englishman - designed in the upper Midwest. That's my current conclusion: the original 9 hole course at Cloquet is a Vardon.
 
"Golf is 20 percent mechanics and technique. The other 80 percent is philosophy, humor, tragedy, romance, melodrama, companionship, camaraderie, cussedness and conversation." - Grantland Rice

Tom Fagerli

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2021, 09:43:19 PM »
Thanks Rick! Hope all is well in Stillwater. Whoever did the original nine at CCC did a fantastic job. The ninth hole (now 18) and 4 are all time great par 3s.

Terry Lavin

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2021, 06:57:35 PM »
The part about Ada Watson coming up with the idea of a gravel base for putting greens is especially interesting.


The article says this was standard practice for Watson's later courses.  Has anyone doing renovation work dug up something like that?  I vaguely remember seeing a gravel layer for some work we did at WBYC - maybe the 7th green?


IIRC, this was found at Olympia Fields, but only reported at the #4 course, now the North, which is a Willie Park Jr. classic. Others more knowledgeable can chime in but none of the original greens on what is now the South course(a combo of courses 1, 2 and 3 and a couple new holes) have been “dug up” enough to find a gravel base, but maybe Andy Staples might go deep.
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.  H.L. Mencken

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2021, 10:17:36 PM »
The part about Ada Watson coming up with the idea of a gravel base for putting greens is especially interesting.


The article says this was standard practice for Watson's later courses.  Has anyone doing renovation work dug up something like that?  I vaguely remember seeing a gravel layer for some work we did at WBYC - maybe the 7th green?


IIRC, this was found at Olympia Fields, but only reported at the #4 course, now the North, which is a Willie Park Jr. classic. Others more knowledgeable can chime in but none of the original greens on what is now the South course(a combo of courses 1, 2 and 3 and a couple new holes) have been “dug up” enough to find a gravel base, but maybe Andy Staples might go deep.


Terry:


What holes on the South are from the #3 course?  My understanding was that only holes 8 and 9 were taken from the #2 course.


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

Tommy Naccarato

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2021, 02:53:30 AM »
Deleted and sent to Ran.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2021, 03:06:02 AM by Tommy Naccarato »

Ronald Montesano

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #18 on: February 14, 2021, 08:55:04 AM »
Wanakah for years attempted to claim Donald J. Ross, jr. lineage. That attempt was back in the days when William Watson was known as Willie Watson. Watson must have hired, from beyond the grave, a PR firm, as he has now been recast, in such a distinguished manner, as William. Wanakah was designed as a fun, summer club for Buffalo's magnates, many of whom would depart the city environs for pagodas along the lake shore to the south. Chris Wilczynski did a fab job with his chainsaw in the last decade, and opened up vistas across what was a tree-ridden course. When Wanakah's green speeds are up, watch out. It doesn't need much beyond 10 on the stimp to give you the shivers.


##############


Orinda is home to the founder of FlagBag golf bag company, one of the coolest joints to come along in recent years. Dude is the super there, and seems to be an all-around approachable, good guy.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2021, 08:58:14 AM by Ronald Montesano »
Coming in August 2023
~Manakiki
~OSU Scarlet
~OSU Grey
~NCR South
~Springfield
~Columbus
~Lake Forest (OH)
~Sleepy Hollow (OH)

Terry Lavin

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2021, 09:30:16 AM »
Sven,


I’m sure you’re right because you’ve done the research and I’m dependent upon gca dementia!
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.  H.L. Mencken

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #20 on: February 16, 2021, 11:06:39 AM »
Seeing as my name is attached to the essay, I'd like to take the opportunity to provide additional comment on the "Marty Joy List" of Watson courses included at the end of the piece.


I've previously relayed comments on both the list and the text of the essay to Dean.  Some of the comments were minor in nature (i.e. the difference between naturalism and minimalism), while some perhaps might hold greater historical significance to others (i.e. the timing of Ross working at St. Andrews and leaving for the US, Willie Bell becoming famous for remodeling Watson's courses).


I'll let Dean do what he thinks is right with respect to the comments I've made on the essay itself.  As far as the course list goes, I'd like to see an effort made to clean up what is there.  The Marty Joy list has existed in the ether of the internet for far too long as a definitive list of Watson's work, despite the fact it is flawed.  I spent some time a while back on another thread trying to address these flaws  (https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,61453.0.html).  Dean has the opportunity to address the flaws in that list here, and I hope he does so as his work will be found, used and referred to as a definitive source by those that come across it in the future, just as the Marty Joy list has been erroneously similarly used.


I'm going to work through the list as it appears in Dean's essay.  If there is no comment on a particular course, you can assume I have nothing to add to the record as presented.  If anyone else has any additional information with respect to any course as it comes up, please add it in.


The Minikahda Club - Minneapolis, MN 1898


The date here should be 1899. 


April 12, 1899 Star Tribune -





1900 Harpers -


"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

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #21 on: February 16, 2021, 11:08:51 AM »
Hollywood Country Club - Hollywood, CA 1898

In the essay it is noted that Watson’s first trip to CA was in late 1899.  He couldn’t have laid out a course there in 1898. 

In addition, the first records of a course with this name start in 1919 (laid out by F. A. Peebles).  Watson worked on this 1919 course in 1921.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2021, 11:10:59 AM by Sven Nilsen »
"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

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #22 on: February 16, 2021, 07:46:38 PM »
Casa Loma - Redlands, CA 1899

This course was laid out by Thomas Arnold in Sept. 1899.  I have seen no evidence that Watson was involved here. 

The essay suggests that Casa Loma became Redlands CC, but these were different courses, as you can see by the 1900 Harpers Guide entries for each course.

Sept. 30, 1899 San Francisco Call -



1900 Harpers -



"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

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #23 on: February 16, 2021, 07:50:32 PM »
Ferndale Course - Ferndale, MN 1899 (6 Hole Course)


I can find no evidence of a course by this name or a course at this location.  If any evidence of its existence is out there, I'd love to see it.




Edit:  Dean forwarded an online piece by Joe Bissen on Ferndale (found in the link below).  The course did indeed exist, and it is possible it was laid out by Watson, but I have not yet seen that evidence other than the notation on the Marty Joy list.  Bissen notes that Watson did visit Ferndale to give lessons.


http://www.foregonegolf.com/ferndale-part-1


Edit 2:  Three articles on Ferndale.


May 7, 1899 Star Tribune -







June 25, 1899 Star Tribune -






May 2, 1900 Star Tribune -






Finally, a later May 8, 1910 article (I am still trying to verify the exact source) that notes Watson was working on his third Minneapolis course, the others being Minikahda and Lafayette.  The omission of Ferndale suggests that it might not have been his work, assuming it would have been considered a Minneapolis course.






« Last Edit: February 24, 2021, 10:25:00 AM by Sven Nilsen »
"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

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Dean Knuth's piece on William Watson now posted under IMO
« Reply #24 on: February 16, 2021, 07:53:49 PM »
Hotel Green - Pasadena, CA 1899 (r)

The course opened in 1900, so Watson’s work must have been done after 1899.  Watson was the professional and greenskeeper here, so it is highly likely he worked on the course although I have not seen anything as of yet that confirms this work.
"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

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