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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 #25 on: October 26, 2022, 09:40:07 AM »
Thank you for your kind welcome, Ira. I agree with you and don't think North American-based golf course architects of the time came in droves to Old Elm to assimilate the ideas. I do think that CC Detroit, Toronto Golf, and Old Elm were the first new and fully realized Golden Age golf courses in North America because the original seed idea of the Golden Age was Ox-Cam. Colt was the prime mover and source for putting those viral ideas into concrete form. I also believe Colt's second journey to North America occurred at at time in his life when the combination of his inspiration, energy, knowledge, experience, creativity and hard work were peaking. Whatever Colt touched and created in 1913 should be considered and treated like a Picasso.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2022, 10:47:17 AM by John Challenger »

Bret Lawrence

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #26 on: October 26, 2022, 09:57:25 AM »
I think Coltís influence had more to do with the profession than a direct impact on what types of courses were built in the United States.  The idea was mulling about between architects and many architects were evolving their designs, but I donít think many of these architects had teams in place to carry out their work. 


Colt had professional architects as the head of his construction projects, , he brought in professional crews that knew how to build golf courses, drain them and irrigate them.  He knew what types of turf to use and where you could find it.  Iím not saying Ross and Bendelow didnít know all of this, but they didnít create the vertically integrated teams that Colt had in place in 1913, they did that later in their career.


Colts visit to America seems to coincide with Carters Tested Seeds becoming a major player in the golf construction business in the United States.  They made an imprint in the US when he arrived and several years after he was gone Carters Tested Seeds had greatly influenced the profession of building golf courses. 


Iím not sure how much of a relationship Colt had with Carters in 1913, but when Willie Park Jr. arrives, he seems to pick up with Carters where Colt left off. Before Colt,  a few courses may have put teams like this together, but they didnít always carry that expertise on to the next course.  This was essentially another asset of working with Colt that would allow a golf architect to get more work done without making as many site visits. 


Colt was really the first professional architect who treated his job like a profession.  Many of the early influences were amateurs, who had jobs during the day. Ross was a professional but he evolved into that on his own, never really working with other professionals to see how their approach may differ.  Thatís not to say Colt didnít learn anything from Ross, because itís very likely he did.


I think Old Elm is likely one of the first courses built in the Chicago area that was built on modern lines.  It was a model course for the Chicago area, as many of the newer model courses were being built on the east coast. If you wanted to see how a course should be constructed on modern lines then Old Elm would have been a great place to visit for any architects or constructors living in the Chicago area. It would be 10 more years before Chicago Golf Club gets its modern facelift that made it the course it is today.  1913 is early as far as Golden Age courses go.  Nationa (which had turf problems until they brought in Carters) and Piping Rock weíre built on modern lines but many of the other courses were updated, not built from the ground up.  The process for how they built great golf courses seemed to change after this 1913 visit.  Whether it was attributed directly or indirectly to Colt, is hard to say, but the golf architect profession in the United States really took off after 1913.

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #27 on: October 26, 2022, 10:45:44 AM »

For good reason, H.S. Colt was recognized as the greatest golf course architect in the world. Colt was the messenger and the carrier of those Oxcam ideas, not Donald Ross, who was still coming into his own as an architect.


An interesting comment, as at this point in their careers Ross may have designed more courses than Colt.  At the least, their numbers were comparable.


This was still very early in Colt's career as well, why is one deemed the greatest while the other "still coming into his own."
"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

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #28 on: October 26, 2022, 10:50:44 AM »
I also think that the C.B. MacDonald line of evolution, evidence-based design, emerged in a distinct trajectory. From reading the papers of the time, it seems like the Philadelphia School at this time was trying to answer the fundamental question: "how do we create complex golf courses that will test all the shots, and by doing so create a new generation of golfers that will learn to hit them all?"

Tony Gholz, would it be fair to call Colt Thomas Edison and Ross Henry Ford?
« Last Edit: October 26, 2022, 10:57:10 AM by John Challenger »

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #29 on: October 26, 2022, 10:56:54 AM »
I also think that the C.B. MacDonald line of evolution, evidence-based design...


Is "evidence-based design" your own coinage? 


It seems to be to present a bit of obfuscation in that it confuses the research (or the inspiration) with the result (the ideal).


I'd also be curious as to how you think Myopia and Garden City fit into this conversation, specifically what they meant in moving away from the early geometric/victorian style and how they influenced subsequent courses in the US?
« Last Edit: October 26, 2022, 11:01:59 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

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #30 on: October 26, 2022, 11:59:14 AM »
Sven, In an earlier post, I mentioned "evidence-based" design quoting Keith Cutten, who has written a great book called, "The Evolution of Golf Course Design." Thank you for all of your extraordinary research and insight which is the backbone of GCA. I'm just trying to scratch the surface! I think MacDonald mostly went down his own path on the way towards the Golden Age. His journey to the mecca of golf, the golf courses of the British Isles, to find inspiration, ideas, and the ideal holes, is a pathway that architects like Ross, Dye, and Doak have emulated. It's interesting that Darwin wrote a book titled the same a few years after C.B.'s first trip. Today, the foundation of every architect's education is to see as many courses around the world as possible. I do think the theories of the Oxcam group led by Hutchinson, Low, Colt, and Darwin came first. My guess is that MacDonald, Travis, Leeds, Emmet all read John Low's 1903 book, "Concerning Golf" and it would have informed their work.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2022, 05:27:37 AM by John Challenger »

Anthony Gholz

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #31 on: October 26, 2022, 12:10:43 PM »
"6) "OE was the ONLY time C&R worked together in person."  What of Winnetka (IHC)?  The CCD in Detroit?  I'd also include, but can't prove, the DGC."

I have a copy of a Chicago Star article from June 27, 1915 that shares a bit of info on this topic. Since I cant effing post the pic, I will transcribe two paragraphs:


(Mr. Ferguson was the president of Glen View Club which is the topic of the full article.)


"Colt and Ross Did the Work" (actual title in
article)

The creation of Old Elm and Indian Hill has, of course, served to make Glen View less nearly unique than when it had Chicago Golf as its sole rival in this neighborhood. The changes made in 1913have all been in the way of betterment of the links, and are, in scheme, in the precise spirit of the modern golf architecture of the two new north shore courses

The new aspects of the course represent the work of Colt and Ross, the designers and builders of Old Elm. It was to this admirable team Mr. Ferguson turned over the ideas he had studied and pondered. He caught Colt when the latter was in the country to design Old Elm; and the finishing touches were given by Ross, whose handicraft is to be noted now on every hole.

The graceful, easy curves of Old Elm and Indian Hill can easily be recognized in the revisions at Glen View. Not a spadeful of earth was, in making the changes, dug for the mere sake of creating punitive hazards regardless of the logic of distances and of the mixed measurements of par.



Ian:


Thanks for this.  I covered that date extensively last evening in the Chicago papers and discovered the bigger version of this article is from the Chicago Tribune June 27, 1915.  It covers your quotes and several more paragraphs re Glen View.  Includes hole by hole changes and comments.  No question that work suggested by C&R was in fact done in the field.  The article also includes comments re Indian Hill as right up there with OE in design.  I'll send the article to John directly as I too have "problems" posting pics, no matter how many on this site have tried to help me.  And btw thanks for trying.


I'll stay out of the who did what specifically at OE, IHC, or GV.  But regarding the larger question of influence: I would say John covered it in his most recent post.  If you put Toronto, The Country Club of Detroit, and OE together you could get a pretty good argument that together they had a wide influence.  Vardon's trip to the US with his comments about The CCD being the best in America after he played most of our best at the time speaker volumes.  He was well quoted throughout the NA press and back in the old country.  Bernard Darwin also spread the word on both sides of the Atlantic and he wasn't an unknown at the time.  Chick Evans Chicago Examiner articles also cover Colt (and Alison) and these three courses extensively.  And Chick very definitely knew his Colt from his Alison.


More recently our fearless leader played Toronto and he was "ecstatic."  Says the 147 list will change.  I say that's influence, if only 111 years later.


Anthony





Sven Nilsen

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #32 on: October 26, 2022, 06:00:49 PM »
Sven, In an earlier post, I mentioned "evidence-based" design quoting Keith Cutten, who has written a great book called, "The Evolution of Golf Course Design." Thank you for all of your extraordinary research and insight which is the backbone of GCA. It's a privilege to talk with you. I'm just trying to scratch the surface! I think MacDonald mostly went down his own path on the way towards the Golden Age. His journey to the mecca of golf, the golf courses of the British Isles, to find inspiration, ideas, and the ideal holes, is a pathway that architects like Ross, Dye, and Doak have emulated. It's interesting that Darwin wrote a book titled the same a few years after C.B.'s first trip. Today, the foundation of every architect's education is to see as many courses around the world as possible. I do think the theories of the Oxcam group led by Hutchinson, Low, Colt, and Darwin came first. My guess is that MacDonald, Travis, Leeds, Emmet all read John Low's 1903 book, "Concerning Golf" and it would have informed their work.


I'm probably not as enamored with Cutten's book as others might be.  Shack's "The Golden Age of Golf Design" seems like a better kick off point for this conversation.


We'll agree to disagree on CBM.  I look at him as someone who may have had a singular drive in creating his ideal course, but also someone who was seeking out the thoughts of others on both sides of the Atlantic. 


The community of budding architects in America just after the turn of the century wasn't very large, but it contained some names that would remain prominent for a number of years, including CBM, Travis, Emmet, etc.  All of them had already produced significant work, written on the subject and most likely shared whatever knowledge they had gleaned along the way by the time Low's book was written in 1903.  Not to say it didn't influence them as their design career's progressed, but all of these guys had already witnessed the first great wave of course development in this country by that point.  The American Design School planted its roots well before 1903.


We often undersell the influence of the early guys like Davis, Dunn, Bendelow, etc.  But these were the guys that did the heavy lifting on course development over here.  They essentially created something out of nothing, and we'll leave alone the debate on how substantive that something was for another thread.


Ross can be looked at as a late arriver to this early boom, but he was part of it.  Like Dunn and Bendelow, he had a wealth of knowledge as to what a golf course could be from his days in Scotland.  And he saw what was being built in the US.  He wasn't as prolific as the others early on because that was not what he came here to do.  His work balance prior to 1910 leaned more to teaching and playing than it did to building.  By 1913 there is no dispute that Ross was considered one of the preeminent designers located in the United States.  Not a construction expert, as his teams and networks were only just getting going, but a designer.


I think the best way to look at the evolution of American design is to think of all of the players almost acting in concert.  Travis was sharing ideas with CBM, until he wasn't.  Emmet was talking to everyone and anyone who would listen.  They all stopped in on Donald when they came down to Pinehurst in the winter.  Everyone knew Leeds had done something special at Myopia and Fownes was on his way to doing something pretty cool up in Pittsburgh.  Tillie was in the background learning and writing, and even guys like George Thomas were on their way to caching away the information they'd need to produce masterpieces down the line.  Some of these guys were amateurs, with their focus on one or a few courses only.  Others were professionals who were called in as experts on big money projects or filled the void when a course was going to be built without the local knowledge to make it happen.  We often draw a line in these parts between the pros and the ams in this realm, but in reality they were probably all drinking from the same cup, one that was first filled by mother nature, later by Tom Morris and his ilk and then further a bit more be each of them in their own way.


This was a spider web of activity, ideas, inspirations and debates.  When the market for development truly arrived post-World War I, the web only grew with more players being added on nearly a daily basis.  There was room for Raynor and his millionaire CBM connected clients, for Langford and his bold features, for Flynn and his nature-faking, for everything taking place in California, for Willie Park to be the hottest name in town, for the Old Man to shape his greens, for Emmet to plug away into eternity, for Macan and Egan to build the Northwest, for a banker in Oklahoma to shape dirt into rolls, you get my point.


To put all of this on the influence of any one person or any one small collection of courses built in one year seems a bit simplistic.  Who's to say Old Elm had more impact on the game in this country than Van Cortlandt did years earlier.  I'd venture way more people saw VC than ever saw OE?  None of this happens without that initial grab we all felt at one point.  Who get's the most responsibility for creating that collective itch in America?  I don't know if anyone has the answer to that question, and I don't think the answer is just one name.


Sven


PS - I owe you a call.  My apologies, its been a hectic fall.
"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

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #33 on: October 27, 2022, 06:11:05 AM »
Sven, We don't disagree on CB MacDonald. Along with Harry Colt, CBM carved another major highway into the Golden Age. I think he came at it from an "evidence-based" starting point by creating template holes derived from his travels in 1902 - 1904 to the British Isles. Who were the 30 prominent golf figures he interviewed? In Cutten's book, MacDonald's vision is called "trans-Atlantic translation." Interested to explore more about CBM in another thread. Need to read more Mark Bourgeois and Anthony Pioppi and Bret Lawrence on MacDonald/Raynor/Banks. Cutten's book is filled with interesting information and ideas but I haven't read Shackelford's book yet. Shame on me and putting it at the top of my list!

In this transition period from 1906-1912, and even before, as you point out, there were a variety of Americans creating golf courses that were more modern. Makes sense to think of them as the "American School." Started in 1908, Travis created American Golfer, one of the key intellectual platforms. His early design ideas and his reworking of Garden City were foundational. Tillie was perhaps the key intellectual voice for the Phillie school and had been finding inspiration playing Scottish golf courses and from Old Tom Morris from early on. "Budding" amateur golfers turned architect like Leeds and Emmet created early flowers.

What you say about Ross, at this point, being more in the nextgen mode of Davis, Dunn, Bendelow makes sense to me. I don't think Ross had yet created designs that could compare with Myopia, Garden City, Chicago Golf and NGLA. Perhaps, one of the Pinehurst courses or his work on remodeling Essex? What do you think Ross' greatest original design was in this period?
« Last Edit: October 27, 2022, 09:04:56 AM by John Challenger »

Niall C

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #34 on: October 27, 2022, 08:04:22 AM »
John

I have to agree with Sven's assessment of Keith Cutten's book, at least in terms of early golf/UK stuff. That might not be representative of the book as a whole as I really don't have much knowledge of the US stuff to pass comment on that, but some of the early chapters are fairly poor. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautifully produced book and I dare say there is a lot of good stuff in there but it seems to me the epic scope of the subject matter was just too much for him to master. Can't comment on Geoff Shackleford's book as I don't have it.

Anyway, very much enjoying the thread.

Sven

Thank you for post 32 which was enlightening and a great read. One very small quibble and that is where you say about Ross -  "Not a construction expert, as his teams and networks were only just getting going, but a designer". I've always thought with these early professional/greenkeeper types that the construction/greenkeeping went hand in hand and was the greater part of laying out a course. No doubt his knowledge would expand particularly as he began taking on more and more design and build work with an ever-expanding workforce, but would his early jobs not have come about through his ability to get the course built ?

Niall

Bret Lawrence

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #35 on: October 27, 2022, 11:14:44 AM »
Here are a few interesting articles about Donald Ross throughout the years that may add value to this thread:


Donald Ross as the first golf architect:



Donald Ross comparing Pinehurst to the Henry Ford Plant:(Starting with two men of vision):



Donald Ross after his 1910 tour of courses (Svenís quote comes from this article):



Donald Ross collaborating with Colt at Old Elm:

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #36 on: October 27, 2022, 06:40:03 PM »
Thanks for posting these articles, Bret.

"The interesting thing about Donald Ross as a golf architect is not that he stands as the head of his profession - but the fact that he originated his profession."

"You will have some idea of what it meant to be the first golf architect in America."

What happened to MacDonald, Leeds, Tweedie, et al.
 
Your articles led me to look up Old Elm in the Donald Ross 1930 booklet, "A Partial List of Prominent Golf Courses." Here's what I found. It says "Old Elm Club (Construction) Chicago 18 Holes." It's the only course in the entire booklet that says "Construction." There are many entries that are noted as "Remodeled." All of the other courses are Donald Ross originals. On the title page, it says "Walter B. Hatch J.B. McGovern Associates."

In the 1989 brochure, "A Directory of Golf Courses Designed by Donald Ross," it lists, "Old Elm Club Fort Sheridan 1913." The term "Construction" has been dropped. There are still a number of courses in the brochure that are noted as "Remodeled." There is no mention of McGovern and Hatch, or Colt.

Ok, it's a mad, mad world. We live in a Ross world and history is told by the winners. Donald Ross may be our country's greatest architect, the Henry Ford or Old Tom Morris of U.S. golf history. True to his first mentor, Old Tom, Donald Ross was instrumental in creating Pinehurst, the St. Andrews of the U.S. and the Model T of the American golf community.

But, back in 1913, Harry Colt was the greatest architect in the world and for good reason. He came to North America at the peak of his powers, sparked the Golden Age, and created some of the greatest golf courses of all time. His first, CC of Detroit, has disappeared and so have some others. How fortunate we are to have the handful that still exist. Old Elm, Toronto Golf, Hamilton, Indian Hill, Bloomfield Hills, and Pine Valley all emerged from his groundbreaking trips to North America in 1911, 1913, and 1914.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2022, 11:25:52 AM by John Challenger »

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #37 on: November 02, 2022, 07:05:52 AM »
Bret Lawrence, In regard to the article you post from November 1910 in NY Tribune, about Ross's learnings from his British Isles trips, where he says, "The British architect of golf links pays little heed to criticism..."  It reminds me of what H.S. Colt wrote in 1912 in Sutton's "The Book of the Links."

https://imgur.com/a/g835Sk4
« Last Edit: November 02, 2022, 07:18:03 AM by John Challenger »

Bret Lawrence

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #38 on: November 03, 2022, 11:34:20 AM »
John,


The articles I posted were meant to give a barometer of where the US was at in terms of golf course architecture.  The Ross articles from the local Pinehurst newspaper show bias towards Ross and Pinehurst, but it demonstrates that influence came from many places.  I think there was more than one first golf architect in the US and they covered different regions of the country. Macdonald, Bendelow, Dunn, Tweedie and many others likely ran into the same problems as Ross.  They would go to different towns or cities and be confronted with the same problems or difficulties of finding skilled labor.  Thatís not to say they couldnít find people familiar with raking or digging or farming, but they couldnít find anyone that had seen a golf course before, so everything was on the shoulders of the golf architect or expert.


As time went on, each of these first architects found ways to deal with these shortcomings.  Some of them started to build a system they could repeat from site to site while others may have struggled on with the original approach.  Over time, more courses were built, more experts were created and added to the process.  It seemed to be a slow evolution that seemed to kick into overdrive around 1913.  By 1913-1915, you may now have an irrigation specialist, turf specialist, architect, engineer, construction supervisor, foreman, superintendent. The list goes on and on. The way the architect designed courses had changed and it involved more expertise. To say one person influenced all of this is not fair to everyone involved in the process.  The idea behind the great golf courses is and always has been collaboration of experts. 


This idea of collaboration and taking advice from the right people is a common philosophy among Ross and Colt.  I think many of the early architects held onto the same beliefs once they started producing their best work.  Ross didnít seem to stop at Old Elm either.  He also worked at Seaview and Whitemarsh Valley with other architects/experts.  He was reported visiting Blind Brook with Macdonald, Raynor and Findlay Douglas.  Maybe he was trying to get as many views on design and construction as possible?  I think the chain of influence runs deep in golf course architecture and the best architects then, just as today seek influence from as many places as possible. They may not always agree with each other, but they can still learn from each other.


Bret

Jeff_Brauer

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #39 on: November 03, 2022, 12:30:25 PM »
Two quick points:


I agree that in trying to condense history to understandable nuggets, we tend to compress long time periods for simplicity. The history of gca is (to quote Marge Simpson) "just a bunch of stuff that happened."  There was a slow evolution, not a few "aha" moments.


As to collaboration and sharing of ideas, that is still true today.  A marketing company doing some research for ASGCA was astounded by how helpful we are with fellow architects, and he has studied numerous professions and trades.  He thought we were far ahead of any other group he had seen.
Jeff Brauer, ASGCA Director of Outreach

Tony_Muldoon

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #40 on: November 03, 2022, 01:25:19 PM »
Congrats to all involved.  Great to see a (polite) history thread on here its been too long.


Does seem like there's more to be discovered.
Let's make GCA grate again!

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #41 on: November 04, 2022, 12:02:55 AM »
Thank you Jeff Brauer. I do think history evolves gradually through collaboration and sometimes by fierce competition, and it can move quickly forward when there are inventions and breakthroughs. The seeds of the Golden Age started with the ideas of Oxcam and flowed from Europe to North America and around the world.

Demand for new golf courses exploded in the late 1800s and continued to expand rapidly until WW1 slowed the momentum and created a vacuum in North America, and put the growth on hold in Europe. There was a natural competition between the golf professionals who had created the first wave of penal-based golf courses and the new wave of golf amateurs who were creating golf courses based on game strategy. The battle to move beyond penal architecture brought on the Golden Age.

Golf architecture in North America seemed to turn a corner in 1911. The demand for a new type of golf course had reached a crossroads. CB MacDonald was ready to unveil his masterpiece, NGLA. Walter Travis was reworking Garden City. Harry Colt had created masterpieces at Sunningdale and Swinley Forest, and St. George's Hill was underway.

Donald Ross sensed it in 1910 and followed the path of so many others by returning to the source - St. Andrews, North Berwick, Prestwick, Royal Dornoch. When he went to England, he visited Mid-Surrey, the home of J.H. Taylor, his fellow golf professional, who at the time was one of the remaining proponents of building penal golf courses. Is there any evidence Ross met with John Low, whom he had played with in 1898 at Royal Dornoch, or was the gulf between professionals and amateurs too wide? Ross wanted to get off the Dunn and Bendelow train and get into the Henry Ford automobile, which btw was introduced in 1908! I think Ross's masterpieces were still to come.

Harry Colt sensed it too. At the beginning of 1911, he decided to open up new ground in North America. He bypassed the east coast, Boston, New York and Philadelphia, where the competition was stiff, and landed in the Silicon Valley of the U.S. which at the time was Detroit. He also put his stake in the ground in the more congenial city of Toronto.

It's reasonable to think that the Golden Age started in North America in the years just before the war from 1911 to 1914. Perhaps, it started in 1907 in the British Isles. Based on reports in the papers and magazines of the transition period from 1900 to 1910, the general consensus seemed to be that the greatest North American courses were Chicago Golf, Myopia, and Garden City. 

What do you think were our earliest great masterpieces of the Golden Age, the golf courses created between 1911 and 1914 in North America?
« Last Edit: November 05, 2022, 06:29:25 AM by John Challenger »

Sven Nilsen

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #42 on: November 04, 2022, 09:49:23 AM »
The two earliest great masterpieces during the years from 1911 to 1914 were most likely Mayfield and Merion (I am assuming you mean post NGLA).  You could probably through Piping Rock, Sleepy Hollow, Interlachen, Wanakah, Hamilton County (Maketewah), Shawnee, Rhode Island, Altadena, Los Angeles, Beresford (Peninsula), Race Brook, Druid Hills, CC of Indianapolis, White Bear, Hillcrest (KC) and Pinehurst #4 on the list of contenders amongst others.


You have one thing not quite right in your second paragraph.  Demand for golf courses did have an early boom in the U.S. in the late 1890's, but that demand tailed off after the turn of the century.  There was a relatively quiet period from around 1902 to after World War I, when things really took off.  Many of the early clubs disappeared, while some new ones did pop up on the scene.  It is probably best to look at the first 30 years or so years of golf over here in terms of waves of development, as opposed to a constant expansion.
"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

Michael George

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #43 on: November 04, 2022, 10:32:29 AM »
I think it is safe to say that one of the defining time periods of the Philadelphia School was the creation of Pine Valley.  Most were involved in the design and multi-year construction of the golf course.  Yet, George Crump - a friend to many of the Philadelphia School - consulted with Harry Colt when it came down to designing Pine Valley.  Colt gets more credit than any of the Phily School architects for the course.

Doesn't that make it difficult to say that Colt didn't have a huge impact on the Philadelphia School.  I would imagine that Crump consulted Colt at the recommendations of his friends, who were some of the best architects of the day.  I would also imagine that those architects learned something from Colt's work at Pine Valley.
I don't profess to be a historian.  Just wondering.

   
"First come my wife and children.  Next comes my profession--the law. Finally, and never as a life in itself, comes golf" - Bob Jones

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #44 on: November 05, 2022, 07:18:15 AM »
Sven, Thank you for your thoughts. Is there a thread or a book you think highly of that examines what caused the slowdown in golf course development after 1902? Did the economy go into recession in that year? It's interesting that in the years just before the war, there was constant talk of overcrowding on golf courses. If the building of courses slowed down from 1902 to 1910, but interest in the game and the number of new players continued to expand rapidly, then there must have come a point when the forces and pressures holding back course development were pushed aside. What were those forces and pressures?

Bendelow, Tweedie, and Dunn and others had been strewing seeds everywhere up until 1902. How much did their work slow down in this period, when I assume Spalding and other companies were seeing a boom in the demand for golf clubs, balls, and other golf products? Is it possible that public golf, started at places like Van Cortlandt and Jackson Park in the late 1800s, with its potential for geometric expansion in the number of golfers, finally caused a new boom in 1911, or in some other year just before the war? What did happen inside those years from 1903 to 1914?

Michael, I think when Harry Colt came to North America in 1911 and 1913, and to a lesser extent 1914, it was much bigger news inside the small community of golf course designers, constructors, and journalists than we can appreciate today. The Philly School of golfers and intellectuals would have closely followed everything Colt said and did during those trips. They helped convince Crump to bring Colt to Pine Valley and Colt was the only architect/designer that Crump paid. It was good advice. Look at what emerged!

Bret, With the worker shortages and other obstacles caused by the war, what a lesson Pine Valley must have been in regard to the importance of creating a company of designers, experts and builders to bring the new, much more complex Golden Age golf courses to fruition. They were building modern-day pyramids, just like the Keisers, Doak, Schneider, Zager, and all of the others have done at the Lido today.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2022, 06:55:17 PM by John Challenger »

Tom_Doak

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #45 on: November 05, 2022, 08:37:53 AM »
This is a fine thread and I don't want to thread-jack it too much or get into the weeds, because Sven and others are doing a fine job of that.  Instead, I will comment by way of comparison to the "Second Golden Age" which I have been living through.


Sven's description of the first Golden Age really resonated with me:




I think the best way to look at the evolution of American design is to think of all of the players almost acting in concert.  Travis was sharing ideas with CBM, until he wasn't.  Emmet was talking to everyone and anyone who would listen.  They all stopped in on Donald when they came down to Pinehurst in the winter.  Everyone knew Leeds had done something special at Myopia and Fownes was on his way to doing something pretty cool up in Pittsburgh.  Tillie was in the background learning and writing, and even guys like George Thomas were on their way to caching away the information they'd need to produce masterpieces down the line.  Some of these guys were amateurs, with their focus on one or a few courses only.  Others were professionals who were called in as experts on big money projects or filled the void when a course was going to be built without the local knowledge to make it happen.  We often draw a line in these parts between the pros and the ams in this realm, but in reality they were probably all drinking from the same cup, one that was first filled by mother nature, later by Tom Morris and his ilk and then further a bit more be each of them in their own way.


This was a spider web of activity, ideas, inspirations and debates.  When the market for development truly arrived post-World War I, the web only grew with more players being added on nearly a daily basis.  There was room for Raynor and his millionaire CBM connected clients, for Langford and his bold features, for Flynn and his nature-faking, for everything taking place in California, for Willie Park to be the hottest name in town, for the Old Man to shape his greens, for Emmet to plug away into eternity, for Macan and Egan to build the Northwest, for a banker in Oklahoma to shape dirt into rolls, you get my point.


To put all of this on the influence of any one person or any one small collection of courses built in one year seems a bit simplistic.





I agree with all of that.  "Historians gotta explain history," I guess, but it is always oversimplified.  As N.N. Taleb pointed out in one of his books, when you look at histories of medicine or aviation or technology, they tend to focus on the Oxford-Cambridge-Ivy League theorists, and leave out the people who tinkered around and made the thing work, because they are written by fellow Oxford-Cambridge-Ivy Leaguers who believe that history is a neat timeline, instead of a spider web.  That was my problem with Keith's book, as well.  Declaring one guy the most important guy in the Golden Age [or the second] is a study in bias.


But Sven's description matches my own experience in this newer Golden Age.  By the time I graduated college and left for Scotland, I had already met Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and Pete Dye and Tom Weiskopf and Deane Beman, among others.  I met Dick Youngscap ten years before Sand Hills, and Ron Whitten and Brad Klein before that, and Mike Keiser five years before Bandon Dunes, and Ran Morrissett several years before Golf Club Atlas.  And, just like me, guys like Gil Hanse and Mike DeVries and Kyle Franz started meeting these same people very early in their forays into the golf business.


I guess a spider web is a poor analogy, too, though, because one spider creates the web, and there's no fair way to give just one of the people above credit as the leader of the movement.  For example, I give Mr. Dye credit for teaching both me and Bill his methods of construction-based design as opposed to plan-based, and we have taught that in turn to everyone who worked for us . . . but our interest in minimalist design is a separate thread from Pete, and something we admired from seeing Golden Age courses and reading books and talking to Ben Crenshaw.


But then there will be someone who comes along a hundred years from now and credits it all to the landscape architecture program at Cornell, because Gil and I both went there.


P.S.  I got a laugh out of Jeff Brauer talking about how ASGCA forges such connections.  Maybe so, but the spider web I describe above was all outside of ASGCA, and somewhat deliberately so -- one thing all of us had in common, apart from Mr. Dye, was that we were not members of the establishment, which tended to look down on "construction guys" back then.

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #46 on: November 05, 2022, 06:26:59 PM »
Tom, In this thread, one of the things I have been writing about really has been the idea that "declaring one guy the most important guy in the Golden Age (or the second) is a study in bias." I think that the fog of war and time, the marketing prowess of Ross and the organized nature of his legacy, and the human tendency to reduce the past to a simple "neat timeline" has led historians, even today, to give Ross too much credit for what happened in the past, especially in the years just before the start of WW1, the first stage of the Golden Age. I believe that Harry Colt was instrumental in sparking the Golden Age in North America when he made three lengthy trips to North America in 1911, 1913 and 1914. MacDonald was just as important, perhaps Tillinghast and Travis too. Agree with you that there isn't too much point in trying to assess each one's relative impact.

I believe Ross's most influential impact is in the second (the war years) and third phases (the post-war boom) of the Golden Age. He started creating masterpieces midway through WW1, perhaps from 1916 to 1921, when he (and his golf course building organization of experts and artisans) was the one putting the paint on the canvas. These include Plainfield, Scioto, Oakland Hills, Inverness, and Oak Hill. He did create others later in his career such as Seminole and Aronimink and there were the long term projects at Essex and Pinehurst 2 and 4.

In 1913, during the nine days he spent at Old Elm, Ross took a masterclass from Harry Colt in the design and construction of golf courses, just like you and Bill and others with Pete Dye. It was the catalyst and turning point in Ross's meteoric career. It didn't take long for Ross to assimilate Colt's ideas and start his own run of brilliance. In the same way that the design principles of Colt's new golf courses were based on Oxcam, Tillinghast's and Flynn's ideas sprouted out of the Philly School. I think Colt was construction-based too. Before he arrived in Detroit and Toronto in 1911, he had spent years tinkering on a daily basis in his lab and in the ground at Sunningdale working out how to build a great golf course.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2022, 07:03:01 PM by John Challenger »

Ira Fishman

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #47 on: November 05, 2022, 06:50:51 PM »
John,


In reading all of your posts, my conclusion is that you think that Ross gets too much credit as the force behind the Golden Age and that Colt does not get enough credit. But this strikes me as a bit of a Straw Man debate. I do not remember people overselling Rossís influence. As many have pointed out, he was one of many architects that prompted and produced the Golden Age. Nor do I remember people underselling Coltís role, especially given Pine Valley. The reality and common understanding is what Sven, Tom, and others have stated: there were quite a few architects who interacted directly and indirectly to construct the greatest era of gca that the US has ever seen. Some architects probably get too much credit and some too little. However, I am not aware of any claim that Ross is the Father of the Golden Age.


Ira

Tom_Doak

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #48 on: November 05, 2022, 10:02:04 PM »
Itís probably true that Donald Ross gets too much credit for the Golden Age, and Harry Colt not enough. 


The reason for that is just that Ross built 400 courses whose members want to put him on the pedestal, and Colt built only a handful in the USA.  Plus there is Pinehurst Resort touting Mr Ross 24/7/365.  I think the actual historians are less sold on Rossís preeminence.

John Challenger

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Re: Old Elm, Harry Colt and the Start of the Golden Age in America
« Reply #49 on: November 08, 2022, 01:03:36 PM »
The primary idea I had hoped to put forward in this post was that Harry Colt's 1913 trip to North America, and also his 1911 and 1914 trips if we think of the three visits as one, was a landmark in our golf architectural history that has been hidden in plain sight for a century. I hope my main thesis does not get obscured because I have focused too much on Donald Ross's role at Old Elm or his work in pre WW1 gca history. I believe Ross is the Old Tom Morris or Henry Ford of the U.S. and his contributions were great.

I believe we have lost sight of Colt's importance to the Golden Age in North America and of the golf course masterpieces Colt created during that brief and diminished moment in time.   

Of course, it's not completely true. We now know that Pine Valley emerged from Colt's 1913 visit. It isn't that long ago, however, that Colt did not receive as much credit for Pine Valley, so there has been in one way or another a growing recognition of his impact on creating the U.S.'s greatest course. In Golf Magazine's recently announced rankings, Pine Valley is #1 and it's listed as "Crump/Colt" and not "Crump" or "Crump et al."

If what Colt did at Pine Valley is any indication of what he was capable of at this fertile period in his life, we should know much more about what else he accomplished in his work in North America. He wasn't a one-hit wonder!
« Last Edit: November 08, 2022, 03:05:29 PM by John Challenger »

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