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Colt’s 1913 visit might be the most critical step in the history of golf architecture in the United States.
It was Harry Colt, the “Thomas Edison’ of strategic design, who first and most successfully put these ideas into practice. Before Colt’s 1913 U.S. journey, it is safe to say that Donald Ross and other American golf course designers had not fully integrated the strategic, Golden Age design framework into their golf course layouts.
As the Golden Age of Golf Architecture emerged in North America, Colt’s three journeys to North America in 1911, 1913 and 1914 might be the most influential force in causing the changes in the golf architectural landscape that were fully realized after the Great War ended.
Transition From the Victorian Age to the Golden Age – 1907 to 1912. Until 1910, Ross' approach to the laying out of golf courses, like that of other golf professionals, was traditional. In 1910, Ross followed Walter Travis’ and C.B. MacDonald’s lead and visited Scotland and England to better understand golf course architecture there. He returned and began to apply his learnings at Essex CC and Pinehurst. It is an interesting question whether what Ross learned was in the C.B. MacDonald vein of analysis of the structure of the greatest holes in the U.K. or in a deeper understanding of the strategic design conceptualizations of Hutchinson, Low, Colt and Darwin.
New Design Framework. Armed with first-hand experience, Donald Ross capitalized on the opportunity and the design framework he had witnessed Harry Colt creating at Old Elm. Ross saw how “the attitude of golfers as a whole (had) undergone a big change” and how “everywhere, now, the prime object of the leading men in different golf and country clubs is to have their courses up-to-date…and oblige the golfers to improve their standard of play to cope with the difficulties involved.”
One exception was mounding around the 12th green which was recently "restored" by Dave Zinkand who did a great job interpreting the drawing left by Colt.
Looking forward to Dan's history of Old Elm and to learning more about the only time these two giants of the 20th century worked in-person together. Dan's book will be a must read for anyone interested in golf history in North America! Today, through the efforts of Curtis James, Kevin Marion, and Dave Zinkand and others, Old Elm might just be the greatest Colt restoration of our era. By all accounts, Bloomfield Hills by CDP extraordinary too.
GentsAn interesting discussion and FWIW I also tend to think it is a stretch to think of Colt's work at Old Elm being some sort of eureka moment for golf course design in the US. I have to think the flow of ideas to and fro via writings in mags, books and visits to one anothers country by the likes of CBM, John Low, Hutchinson, Travis as well as all the GB&I pro's who took seasonal work in the US and travelled back to the UK for the winter meant there was a fairly free flow of information.Niall