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Niall C

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #100 on: November 17, 2022, 09:23:03 AM »
John is, I think, abundantly correct on MacKenzie. Though he was friendly with Colt after 1907, and though he was a Cambridge man, he was NOT part of the Oxbridge ‘set’ that clustered around Low, Colt, Arthur Froome, Alison etc. Throughout his life MacKenzie was an outsider: born in Yorkshire but saw himself as Scottish (though he never lived in Scotland); not that great a golfer -- Low, Colt, Alison were all among the elite of amateur golfers in Britain; and imo a bit of a chip on his shoulder (we Yorkshiremen are often characterised as chippy  :) ).


Yes MacKenzie was a bit of an outlier in some respects but he was a professional gentleman who had been to Oxford/Cambridge and who was a member of the R&A. I think that was more of a connecting influence rather than where they were all domiciled.


Niall


Adam Lawrence

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #101 on: November 17, 2022, 10:13:11 AM »
John is, I think, abundantly correct on MacKenzie. Though he was friendly with Colt after 1907, and though he was a Cambridge man, he was NOT part of the Oxbridge ‘set’ that clustered around Low, Colt, Arthur Froome, Alison etc. Throughout his life MacKenzie was an outsider: born in Yorkshire but saw himself as Scottish (though he never lived in Scotland); not that great a golfer -- Low, Colt, Alison were all among the elite of amateur golfers in Britain; and imo a bit of a chip on his shoulder (we Yorkshiremen are often characterised as chippy  :) ).

Yes MacKenzie was a bit of an outlier in some respects but he was a professional gentleman who had been to Oxford/Cambridge and who was a member of the R&A. I think that was more of a connecting influence rather than where they were all domiciled.

Niall


I'm not putting MacKenzie in with the pros at all: in his outlook he clearly had more in common with Low et al. But he was socially NOT part of that set. He was not an R&A member until 1913, for example, more than twenty years after Colt had joined.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
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John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #102 on: November 17, 2022, 10:15:11 AM »
I have wondered whether the Oxbridge (won't use the term Oxcam going forward) judges, Hutchinson, Darwin, and Fowler, knew that it was MacKenzie who designed the hole they selected to win Country Life's 1914 prize or whether it was a blind competition. 

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #103 on: November 17, 2022, 12:21:44 PM »
The Country Life contest was done blind.  There's a June 20, 1914 article announcing the contest which describes how it was done.
"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

Sean_A

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #104 on: November 17, 2022, 12:57:57 PM »
John is, I think, abundantly correct on MacKenzie. Though he was friendly with Colt after 1907, and though he was a Cambridge man, he was NOT part of the Oxbridge ‘set’ that clustered around Low, Colt, Arthur Froome, Alison etc. Throughout his life MacKenzie was an outsider: born in Yorkshire but saw himself as Scottish (though he never lived in Scotland); not that great a golfer -- Low, Colt, Alison were all among the elite of amateur golfers in Britain; and imo a bit of a chip on his shoulder (we Yorkshiremen are often characterised as chippy  :) ).

Yes MacKenzie was a bit of an outlier in some respects but he was a professional gentleman who had been to Oxford/Cambridge and who was a member of the R&A. I think that was more of a connecting influence rather than where they were all domiciled.

Niall

I'm not putting MacKenzie in with the pros at all: in his outlook he clearly had more in common with Low et al. But he was socially NOT part of that set. He was not an R&A member until 1913, for example, more than twenty years after Colt had joined.

I agree 100%. Dr Mac was a peripheral figure of the Oxbridge set. He didn't get anything close to the commissions Colt did. I think Fowler is another example of such even though he didn't attend Oxbridge...he was certainly from that societal stock.

Ciao

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022:

PCCraig

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #105 on: November 17, 2022, 01:58:55 PM »
I saw today Old Elm was listed on Golf's Top 100 at #116 which is deserving but dare I say still underrated!?
H.P.S.

Niall C

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #106 on: November 17, 2022, 03:00:21 PM »
John is, I think, abundantly correct on MacKenzie. Though he was friendly with Colt after 1907, and though he was a Cambridge man, he was NOT part of the Oxbridge ‘set’ that clustered around Low, Colt, Arthur Froome, Alison etc. Throughout his life MacKenzie was an outsider: born in Yorkshire but saw himself as Scottish (though he never lived in Scotland); not that great a golfer -- Low, Colt, Alison were all among the elite of amateur golfers in Britain; and imo a bit of a chip on his shoulder (we Yorkshiremen are often characterised as chippy  :) ).

Yes MacKenzie was a bit of an outlier in some respects but he was a professional gentleman who had been to Oxford/Cambridge and who was a member of the R&A. I think that was more of a connecting influence rather than where they were all domiciled.

Niall

I'm not putting MacKenzie in with the pros at all: in his outlook he clearly had more in common with Low et al. But he was socially NOT part of that set. He was not an R&A member until 1913, for example, more than twenty years after Colt had joined.

I agree 100%. Dr Mac was a peripheral figure of the Oxbridge set. He didn't get anything close to the commissions Colt did. I think Fowler is another example of such even though he didn't attend Oxbridge...he was certainly from that societal stock.

Ciao

Ciao


Sean


I think what we are nitpicking over is a small point but have to say MacKenzie probably did more than any of the other guys from that set other than perhaps Colt but then Colt had a longer design career plus he had design associates.


Adam


In case you were in doubt my reference to Mac being a professional was in relation to his medical qualifications.


Niall

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #107 on: November 17, 2022, 06:12:42 PM »
SeanA, It is puzzling how TOC seems to transcend the the penal and the Golden Age design styles. It really isn't a Golden Age OR a penal style golf course. It was born before the penal era and yet for some reason, it isn't even more primitive, it is more evolved. It would suggest there might have been an earlier Golden Age lost in time that existed before the penal era and the Golden Age of the early 20th century. :D
« Last Edit: November 17, 2022, 07:10:40 PM by John Challenger »

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #108 on: November 17, 2022, 08:47:03 PM »
You’ve stumbled on the idea of “found” courses v. constructed.  The early penal courses were most often built on land not naturally suited for the game.  Where nature didn’t provide hazards, man had to build them. 


Those early penal courses were not big budget projects.  No one was spending extravagant amounts on projects back then.  The easiest way to build a course, and the cheapest, was to follow simple bunkering schemes on the parts of a parcel that were easiest to negotiate.


There’s more to this concept including the tools available at the time and the land that was accessible.


It didn’t take long to move on to bigger projects, more remote courses, massive earthmoving and courses that could embrace many natural features without having to avoid them. 


I think we exagerate the idea of a penal movement a bit.  Its not hard to presume that the early course builders would have done whatever they could to emulate places like the Old Course.  But not every site allowed for that type of re-creation.



"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: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #109 on: November 18, 2022, 04:55:05 AM »
You’ve stumbled on the idea of “found” courses v. constructed.  The early penal courses were most often built on land not naturally suited for the game.  Where nature didn’t provide hazards, man had to build them. 


Those early penal courses were not big budget projects.  No one was spending extravagant amounts on projects back then.  The easiest way to build a course, and the cheapest, was to follow simple bunkering schemes on the parts of a parcel that were easiest to negotiate.


There’s more to this concept including the tools available at the time and the land that was accessible.


It didn’t take long to move on to bigger projects, more remote courses, massive earthmoving and courses that could embrace many natural features without having to avoid them. 


I think we exagerate the idea of a penal movement a bit.  Its not hard to presume that the early course builders would have done whatever they could to emulate places like the Old Course.  But not every site allowed for that type of re-creation.


Sven


I agree with the general gist of what you say regarding the penal movement being overblown. Presumably though your commentary is more aimed at golf development in the US ?


Niall

Sean_A

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #110 on: November 18, 2022, 05:08:19 AM »
You’ve stumbled on the idea of “found” courses v. constructed.  The early penal courses were most often built on land not naturally suited for the game.  Where nature didn’t provide hazards, man had to build them. 


Those early penal courses were not big budget projects.  No one was spending extravagant amounts on projects back then.  The easiest way to build a course, and the cheapest, was to follow simple bunkering schemes on the parts of a parcel that were easiest to negotiate.


There’s more to this concept including the tools available at the time and the land that was accessible.


It didn’t take long to move on to bigger projects, more remote courses, massive earthmoving and courses that could embrace many natural features without having to avoid them. 


I think we exagerate the idea of a penal movement a bit.  Its not hard to presume that the early course builders would have done whatever they could to emulate places like the Old Course.  But not every site allowed for that type of re-creation.

I agree, so called Victorian architecture was a blip on the radar. Hoevery the issue of penal architecture is a long surviving matter which we still wrangle with today. I believe the Oxbridge boys blew up the importance of strategic architecture at the cost of some good penal architecture. Forced carries were seen as poor architecture and worse if blind. I give CBM credit for not buying wholesale into strategic architecture. He was able to recognise that strategic and penal did not equate to good and bad.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022:

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #111 on: November 18, 2022, 08:46:11 AM »
Interested to hear how others would sort out this quick attempt at distinguishing these categories and eras of early golf architecture:

1. "Found.". The original golf courses were "found" on the linksland. "Found" doesn't refer to rediscovered courses but ones where the holes were laid out on land that pre-existed. The land was not worked on by man, or it was worked on by man in a minimal way. TOC was a "found" course but it was worked upon and changed by man. Cutten notes that "Between 1848 and 1850, Allan Robertson completed several significant alterations." Are Pacific Dunes and Sand Hills modern "found" courses? Old Tom Morris is the most recognized "found" architect.

2. "Penal." As a design approach, it refers to course design where punishment increases as the quality of the golf shot decreases. As an era, it refers to courses designed by golf professionals in the 1890s and 1900s. It has persisted as a design philosophy based on building courses that put a priority on creating challenges for the top players. Perhaps, the USGA's design philosophy for the U.S. Open and RTJ's heroic designs are iterations of this approach to course design.

3. "Golden Age." The Golden Age has been defined fundamentally as the era of "strategic" golf design, but also perhaps as the era of "anti-penal" design. Landforms were created by the architects to imitate nature, to craft beautiful large-scale natural objects, and to create variety and interest for players of all abilities.  A defined time period for this era might be 1907 to 1939. I would suggest the first golf courses appeared in 1907 in the British Isles and in 1911 in North America, and that the idea stage started in 1903 with John Low's "Concerning Golf." Selecting dates is categorical by definition.


4. "Victorian." This refers to the period widely from the 1840s to the end of the century. It refers to courses that were constructed with penal and old-fashioned hazards, mostly outside the linksland.

5. The early "American School." Designers like Tweedie and Bendelow laid out the hundreds of courses in the U.S. to meet the growing demand for a nearby place to play golf.

6. "Oxbridge (referred to often in this thread as Oxcam)." The core were members of the Oxford Cambridge Golfing Society. They were the leading pioneers of the Golden Age. They were were prime movers and key agents of change.

7. "Ideal and Template Hole" design. This approach was led by CB MacDonald who sought the principles in the great holes of the British Isles and translated them into the ground in North America.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2022, 09:17:23 AM by John Challenger »

Jim Sherma

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #112 on: November 18, 2022, 09:19:35 AM »
In reference to TOC being neither purely Penal, Victorian, nor Golden Age I think that it is important to consider the two iterations of the course and how people would have looked at it in across the two eras. Prior to Old Tom's widening of the course in the 1880's the narrow fairways necessitated play directly over the existing bunkers en route to the single pinned greens. As the whins were cleared out of the ocean side of the course and new bunkers cut along the right side going out the course became the strategic course we are familiar with. As per Robert Kroeger's book  "The Golf Courses of Tom Morris" these changes to the course were not universally applauded with many players of the time believing that the course was being made easier. It is possible, if not likely, that the Victorian steeple-chase style of GCA owes as much to the earlier version of the Old Course as the golden age inspired work of Dr Mac, Colt, et al owes to the widened/strategic version.

Sean_A

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #113 on: November 18, 2022, 12:37:42 PM »
Interested to hear how others would sort out this quick attempt at distinguishing these categories and eras of early golf architecture:

1. "Found.". The original golf courses were "found" on the linksland. "Found" doesn't refer to rediscovered courses but ones where the holes were laid out on land that pre-existed. The land was not worked on by man, or it was worked on by man in a minimal way. TOC was a "found" course but it was worked upon and changed by man. Cutten notes that "Between 1848 and 1850, Allan Robertson completed several significant alterations." Are Pacific Dunes and Sand Hills modern "found" courses? Old Tom Morris is the most recognized "found" architect.

2. "Penal." As a design approach, it refers to course design where punishment increases as the quality of the golf shot decreases. As an era, it refers to courses designed by golf professionals in the 1890s and 1900s. It has persisted as a design philosophy based on building courses that put a priority on creating challenges for the top players. Perhaps, the USGA's design philosophy for the U.S. Open and RTJ's heroic designs are iterations of this approach to course design.

3. "Golden Age." The Golden Age has been defined fundamentally as the era of "strategic" golf design, but also perhaps as the era of "anti-penal" design. Landforms were created by the architects to imitate nature, to craft beautiful large-scale natural objects, and to create variety and interest for players of all abilities.  A defined time period for this era might be 1907 to 1939. I would suggest the first golf courses appeared in 1907 in the British Isles and in 1911 in North America, and that the idea stage started in 1903 with John Low's "Concerning Golf." Selecting dates is categorical by definition.


4. "Victorian." This refers to the period widely from the 1840s to the end of the century. It refers to courses that were constructed with penal and old-fashioned hazards, mostly outside the linksland.

5. The early "American School." Designers like Tweedie and Bendelow laid out the hundreds of courses in the U.S. to meet the growing demand for a nearby place to play golf.

6. "Oxbridge (referred to often in this thread as Oxcam)." The core were members of the Oxford Cambridge Golfing Society. They were the leading pioneers of the Golden Age. They were were prime movers and key agents of change.

7. "Ideal and Template Hole" design. This approach was led by CB MacDonald who sought the principles in the great holes of the British Isles and translated them into the ground in North America.


John

I characterize penal as architecture lacking options. One option (forced carry, play between two hazards) being the far end of the architecture spectrum. Strategic architecture offers options not based purely on length and requires a certain amount of width to provide meaningful options. For instance, a forced carry is a forced carry. It doesn't matter if it can be carried in 1 or 10 strokes. Strategic architecture may see that carry on a diagonal which offers unlimited carry distances, but also offer options to avoid the carry.

There should be no value judgement as to which end of the spectrum is better. Both are good and valuable approaches to design. It's more a matter of striking the right balance within the spectrum given the land and design brief.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022:

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #114 on: November 18, 2022, 09:55:04 PM »
SeanA, It's true if whoever provides the brief doesn't mind if his/her golfers lose ten balls in a row or expect the architect to build a golf course on a tiny, hilly parcel of land filled with cliffs. Some might want cop bunkers and a steeplechase course too, or for that matter, a golf course that meanders through a housing development. Architects do have to  be responsive to their customers' wishes.

Putting aside the fact that there is a way to play the hole safely, do you think the 16th at Cypress is the ultimate example of a great penal design? MacKenzie says, "Players get such a tremendous thrill driving over the ocean at the spectacular 16th and 17th holes at Cypress Point that this also is well worth the risk of losing a ball or two."


Niall, In regard to the Arts & Crafts philosophy and its impact on the Golden Age, I ought to go back to Hutchinson and find some of his most relevant writings, but I don't know those well enough. And this is a thread on Colt! But, hope you might dwell upon this from Alister MacKenzie on beauty in golf architecture. He wasn't just a blood and guts military type. It is the best description I have read yet of one of the fundamental elements of the Golden Age.

"Often one hears players say that they 'don't care a tinker's cuss' about their surroundings, what they want is good golf....The chief object of every golf architect or greenskeeper worth his salt is to imitate the beauties of nature so closely as to make his work indistinguishable from Nature herself."

"A beautiful hole appeals not only to the short but also to the long handicap player, and there are few first rate holes which are not...in the grandeur of their undulations and hazards, or the character of their surroundings, things of beauty in themselves."

"My reputation of the past has been based on the fact I have endeavored to conserve the existing natural features and, where these were lacking, to create formations in the spirit of nature herself. In other words, while always keeping uppermost the provision of a splendid test of golf, I have striven to achieve beauty."

"on deeper analysis it becomes clear that the great courses, and in detail all the famous holes and greens, are fascinating to the golfer by reason of their shape, their situation, and the character of their modeling. When these elements obey the fundamental laws of balance, of harmony and fine proportion, they give rise to what we call beauty....in the course of time he (the player) grows to admire such a course as works of beauty must be eventually felt and admired."


Jim Sherma, Interesting idea of yours about TOC. I was trying to think of some analogy to TOC outside of golf architecture. Maybe the Magna Carta, which some think was "the greatest constitutional document of all times."

In regard to the blind contest in Country Life won by MacKenzie, the timing is interesting. Adam notes that MacKenzie was accepted into the R&A in 1913. One year later, he won the contest judged by the Oxbridge and R&A leaders, Hutchinson, Darwin and Fowler. It doesn't seem infeasible that there was some degree of orchestration inside the R&A in regard to how to approach the rapidly growing American market. If there was a group coordinating matters more generally, who were the key members of the braintrust: Hutchinson, Colt, Low, Darwin, and Froome?
« Last Edit: November 19, 2022, 01:42:07 PM by John Challenger »

Niall C

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #115 on: November 19, 2022, 01:30:47 PM »
Sean,


Yes, I have read a good bit of MacKenzie going on about beauty and any artificial work appearing natural; as well as economy in design/construction; municpal golf; the perils of bolshevism etc. He did tend to get a wee bit repetitious (don't we all) on those subjects.


The Arts & Crafts was mainly about the decorative and fine arts. As a movement it was a loose grouping of ideas, that was rebelling in part against machinery and mass production. MacKenzie was all for mechanism in building golf courses. And if I remember correctly William Morris was a socialist so Mac at least wouldn't have been too keen on that.


In terms of Hutchinson, I can't recall reading anything that cried out Arts & Crafts. If you read his essay on how to lay out a links which was in one of the early golf annuals he gives advice on how to build a cop bunker and also advocates if necessary shoring it up with timber. Not much chat in there about features looking natural. His big thing seemed to be more length of holes. He was a great believer that holes should be either two or three full shots length so that the "foozler" couldn't get on in 2/3 to match his opponent who had hit every shot perfectly. I doubt he'd be a fan of short par 4's.


Niall       

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America New
« Reply #116 on: November 20, 2022, 06:23:22 AM »
Speaking of foozles, how can you not like Harry Colt when he leads off one of his writings about golf architecture with this:

"Fashions in golf courses,  as in ladies' clothes, seem to be so frequently hopelessly exaggerated. We have our latest Parisian styles and they are adopted for every form and every contour, quite regardless of the land to be dealt with."

« Last Edit: November 23, 2022, 09:03:01 AM by John Challenger »

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