Geoff Shackelford’s photograph from the Macdonald Marine Hotel of the 16th green at North Berwick leaves no doubt as to why it is his favorite links.

Geoff Shackelford’s photograph from the Macdonald Marine Hotel of the 16th green at North Berwick leaves no doubt as to why it is his favorite links.

GolfClubAtlas.com exists to promote frank commentary on golf course architecture. Within this commercial-free site, the subject of golf course architecture is explored in several different formats, including:

  • Detailed course profiles that highlight the finer virtues of golf architecture as found in over 170 courses world-wide.
  • Monthly Feature Interviews, including more than 170 ones archived for your perusal.
  • A Discussion Group limited to 1,500 individuals from around the world. If interested in participating, please contact us.
  • An In My Opinion section containing architecture related essays. Numerous course profiles are found within this section, frequently from people espousing the virtues of their home course.
  • A Best of Golf section features just that, anything superlative that conjures up the spirit and allure of the game including paintings, photographs & literature to locker rooms and individual golf holes. New material is added quarterly.

Many of the courses profiled are lesser known venues that don’t overtly promote themselves, but where the authors believe there is something important to be learned. They may not be ‘championship’ courses (whatever that means) or necessarily the best-conditioned, but they all share the single most important characteristic: they are inspiring to play, be it by yourself or with your dog, family or friends. Enjoyment is the hallmark of these descriptions, that taken together hopefully trace the history and evolution of golf course architecture. In general, the courses fall into one of four distinct architectural periods:

1. Pre-1899: The ‘architects’ of this day spent only one or two days on site to stake out the tees and greens. They made few decisions as they didn’t have the ability to move much land. However, the lesson learned from studying the works of the Old Town Morris and the like is timeless: nature, as opposed to money, provides the most enduring challenges.

2. 1900-1937: Architects began to move and shape land to create hazards and add strategic interest. Such work originated with the heathland courses outside of London and men like Charles Blair Macdonald brought it to America, where he coined the term ‘golf architect’ around 1910. Tom Simpson correctly titled the Roaring Twenties as the ‘Golden Age’ of course design.

3. 1949-1985: The dark ages of course design when courses were based on length, lacked variety and offered few options. Only a handful of courses from this period are profiled.

4. Present: With every imaginable tool available, modern architects have unprecedented options to shape the land. In the mid-1980s, architects manufactured courses with immense visual impact but that often  lacked charm or enjoyment. In addition, these penal courses proved to be expensive to maintain. As the new century began, architects again appreciated the subtleties of the existing land and tempered their impact upon it. Not surprisingly, the most successful courses tend to be less expensive to construct because they are built on natural sandy albeit, remote, sites. Without doubt, golf is meant to be a simple pursuit enjoyed in the great outdoors and the fewer man-made disturbances, the better. In this manner, golf architecture has come full circle from a century ago.

Geographically, the courses selected are diverse, coming from twenty-one countries. Alister MacKenzie, Harry Colt, Donald Ross, Seth Raynor, Coore & Crenshaw and Tom Doak are among the frequently profiled architects.

While golf course architecture is a subjective art form, several key tenets have stood the test of time. These are explored so that we may understand why some courses are more fascinating than others, and why such courses continually beckon for a return game.

We hope you enjoy GolfClubAtlas.com.

Ran Morrissett                                                                  Ben Cowan-Dewar                                                                    Joe Andriole


This site is dedicated to Ed Morrissett. Without his love for his family, the game, and travel, this site would not exist.