In My Opinion
The Early Architects:
Beyond Old Tom
Most of us are stubborn by nature. Once we get an idea in our head its very difficult to remove it, at least that has been my experience. In contrast to this human nature a good researcher should strive to keep an open mind when approaching their subject, and for the better part of a year my subject has been the golf architecture of the 19thC, unfortunately when I began my mind was hardly open. Just the opposite, I entered with a predisposed and frankly poor opinion of the golf architecture of this period. My view had been formed by the likes of Colt, MacKenzie, and Simpson, who dismissed the era, going so far as to call it the Dark Ages. Because of their harsh treatment I had always thought the nineties were a wasteland, and as a consequence focused my energies on the so-called Golden Age. However ignoring the nineties proved to be difficult. While researching the more acclaimed age I continually came across references to this apparently unrefined period, and as I dug further I found many of the leading figures of the good years were either products of that previous era or influenced by men from that era. It became clear the two periods were linked, and in order to fully understand the Golden Age I had to better understand the earlier period, and so I set out to learn what I could.
Early on in the investigation what struck me was the sheer amount of activity, especially in the 1890s. The game’s popularity exploded in these years, and as a result there was great demand for new golf courses. Reports of new courses inundated magazines and newspapers, and as I made note of these courses a group of names surfaced as the primary designers. Some of the names are well known to us today, men like Tom Morris, Tom Dunn and Willie Park-Jr, but there were other names-Charles Gibson, Peter Paxton, B.Hall Blyth, and James McKenna as examples-that were unfamiliar. I concluded that the key to uncovering the truth would be found through these men.
Another surprising discovery, in contrast to what the critics implied, not everything created by these early architects was bad. On occasion they produced very good work, and sometimes historically significant work. In fact some of our most acclaimed courses trace their origins back to this period. I am not suggesting Simpson and the others were entirely wrong, it is true this period and these early men produced their share of average to below average designs, but there were notable exceptions.
This led to an obvious question – why was there such a disparity? When analyzing the good and bad results a fairly simple formula emerged. In virtually all the examples of good design the golf architect started with good material, usually near the sea. When they were given less than perfect land the results were often disappointing. The early architects had little or no capacity to improve what they were given. But despite these limitations a number of early designers stood out, not only for their good work, but also the influence they had upon those who followed.
If I may digress at this point, and explain my motivation for writing this essay. I had planned on writing about this subject at some point but had no immediate plans to do so, in fact I had moved on to another project. This changed when I learned of Melvyn Morrow’s fine essay ‘The Early Golf Designers: The Real Golden Age.’ When I first read the title understandably I was interested in his thoughts and how his conclusions might compare to my own. Based on the title it appeared we shared a similar view-that history had ignored important 19thC contributors. However as I read the essay it became clear his focus was different than my own. MM is justifiably proud of his great, great grandfather’s historic accomplishments, and without question Old Tom is a most deserving subject, but presumably, at least based upon the title, the essay was meant to celebrate the early golf architects not just Old Tom. Unfortunately, once again we find the others virtually ignored, and not only are they ignored, Old Tom’s architectural record is inflated at their expense. It was time to give these men their due.
CategoryOne – The Amateurs
I have segregated the architects into two categories – amateur and professional. You will find one or two familiar names among these amateurs but the majority are unknown. Their anonymity is not surprising since the typical amateur was involved in only a handful of courses, if that, and in many cases just a single course. Despite their limited activity it is important we recognize these gentlemen, not only for their outstanding designs, but also for the example they set for the amateurs who followed, men like Fowler, Macdonald, Abercromby, and MacKenzie. While compiling background information on these men a similar profile began to form: good amateur golfers, well educated, successful professionally or inherited wealth, and like so many of their era, multiple interests.
Dr. W. Laidlaw Purves – William Laidlaw Purves was born at Edinburgh in 1842, the son of a physician. Purves was educated at Edinburgh University. In contrast to his father initially he turned to law, but then had a change of heart, and while employed in a lawyer’s office began to study medicine. His parents died during these years and at the age of 19 Purves found himself a ship’s doctor operating off the coast of Australia. After three years in Australia he returned to Europe and continued his medical studies at Universities in Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, Utrecht, and Paris. After his European educational tour he eventually settled in London as a consulting aural surgeon at Guy’s Hospital. Purves had a most successful medical career, becoming ophthalmic and aural surgeon at the Hospital for Diseases of the Nervous System and aural surgeon at the Aural College and Academy for the Blind.
Medicine may have been Purves’s vocation but golf was clearly his passion. He learned the game on the Bruntsfield Links in golf crazed Edinburgh but found a very different situation when he arrived in England. There were but four golf clubs of any note in the entire country – Westward Ho!, Hoylake, Blackheath and Wimbledon. The first two were far from his home in London, and the latter two were nearby but poor substitutes for the real thing. For the next nine years Purves searched Greater London for a perfect site on which to build a golf course. Epping, Epsom, the downs from Reigate to Farnham, Windsor Forest, Bushey, Richmond Park were all prospected. At Epsom he actually marked out a Sunday course in 1875.
The coastal areas within reach of London were also surveyed. Purves inspected the Isle of Wight, New Forest, Southampton, Littlehampton, and Bognor. In 1876 Felixstowe was examined, and a golf course laid out. But Felixstowe was not completely satisfactory, in fact none of the sites were satisfactory, that is until he discovered Sandwich in 1877. Finding the perfect site was only half the battle, for the next several years Purves tried to convince his fellow golfers that the property held amazing potential and they should help finance the project. Finally in 1883 he had generated enough interest to make an offer to secure the land, actually he made four offers, unfortunately all failed. At last in 1887 an offer was accepted, a lease secured and a syndicate of 36 formed. Purves proceeded to lay out the course, and St. Georges was born.
The course immediately drew universal praise, and not long after became a fixture of the Open and Amateur Championships. Although some of the quirkier aspects of the early course are now gone, like the Maiden and Haides, its bones remain very much as Purves originally made them. One must also give credit to Ramsey Hunter, the club’s first professional, who helped to formalize the layout. Purves’s success at Sandwich led to another opportunity in 1888, when at the request of the proprietors of land on the coast near New Romney, he laid out Littlestone. Purves died in 1918 at Hartwick Cottage, his home and one of the oldest residences in Wimbledon.
B. Hall Blyth – Born in Edinburgh in 1849 Benjamin Hall Blyth studied at Edinburgh University before joining the family engineering firm in 1867. His father, the senior Benjamin Hall Blyth, founded the firm of Blyth & Cunningham, which eventually became Blyth & Blyth (a prominent firm to this day). Hall Blyth like his father before him became one of the best-known civil engineers in Scotland. As the consulting engineer for the Caledonian, North British and Great North of Scotland Railway Companies he was involved in the design and construction of a large numbers important works, including the North Bridge and the Waverly Station in Edinburgh. He was also responsible for extending the North Berwick rail line to include stations at Aberlady, Luffness and Gullane. Blyth was elected the president of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1914, the first Scot to have such an honor. In addition to his engineering activities he was President of the Scottish Football Union in 1875 and 1876 – BHB had been a prominent rugby football player as a young man.
Benjamin Hall Blyth played his early golf at North Berwick, the family home Kaimend House overlooked the famous Redan hole. As an adult he was a long-time member of the Royal and Ancient Club, Captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in 1880-81, Captain of the Royal Liverpool Club in 1885, and Captain of Tantallon Golf Club from 1896-98. Despite this impressive resume Hall Blyth was only an average golfer, although he did defeat Willie Campbell in 1880 in one of the more bizarre matches in history, a cross-country affair that began at Point Garry, North Berwick and ended at the High Hole at Gullane. “Campbell opted for the shore line and played over North Berwick, Archerfield and the ground that eventually became Muirfield, before reaching Gullane. Hall Blyth elected to play on an inland route through Dirleton and although longer this was a much simpler course. Hall Blyth won easily over the six mile distance and his opponent came early to grief on the rocks.”
Hall Blyth was a powerful voice within both the R&A and the HCEG. He was one of the primary forces behind the creation of the Amateur Championship. He pushed for the formation of the new Rules of Golf committee in 1897, and not only was one of the original 15 members of that committee, he was appointed its chairman. BHB is also credited with securing the transfer of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers from Musselburgh to Muirfield.
In ‘Muirfield and the Honourable Company’ author George Pottinger describes this extraordinary man: “Hall Blyth served continuously on numerous committees concerned with Golf clubs throughout East Lothian and he usually got his way. A tall powerfully built man, he had a loud voice in which he boomed confident opinions and defied challenge. He wore a Dragoon’s moustache and affected something of the air of a marinet. To see him, attired in checks almost as loud as his voice, referee a championship match and hear his resonant ruling was said to be unforgettable.”
For many years Old Tom Morris was thought to be the architect of the New Course at St.Andrews however the R&A and Links Trust now recognizes Hall Blyth as its creator in 1895. His formal plan is thought to be the first draft plan to use centerlines to indicate the proper path to the hole. His involvement with the New should not have come as a complete surprise, he had been heavily involved in the new layout at Muirfield in 1891 (along with Old Tom). Early reports mention his name prominently during the design and construction phases of Muirfield. The Honourable Company minutes of April 1914 confirm his important involvement: “On the motion of the Captain it was unanimously agreed to record in the minutes the club’s heartiest appreciation of many services rendered by Mr. B. Hally Blyth in connection with acquisition and preparation of the course at Muirfield,” Remarkably he also designed Muirfield’s clubhouse. In addition to his design work, Hall Blyth was chiefly responsible for the acquisition of Braids Hill for the citizens of Edinburgh. Benjamin Hall Blyth died in 1917 at the family home overlooking the links at North Berwick.
The foreign correspondent Henry Leach wrote this amazing tribute in American Golfer:
“Mr. Hall Blyth was sixty-eight years of age, and a life member of the Royal and Ancient Club. Being an engineer by profession he could not help applying some of his engineering and constructional instincts to golf courses. Probably he was the first real golf course designer. Until he turned his attention to the business, which is now pursued ardently and thoroughly by many persons, golf holes were to a large extent made themselves, as it might be said. Nature, the lie of the land, suggested the places where putting greens should be made, the places for teeing, and the main route to the hole. In course of time it might happen that a number of persons who were agreed upon the point, such as the committee of a club or society that played upon the ground, would dig a hole for a bunker at a spot where it was considered there should be some punishment waiting, but this sort of thing was very sparsely done, for it was considered and generally found that Nature made quite enough trouble for the golfer. It was more or less in this way that most of the famous holes on the old courses came to be made, such as those of St. Andrews, North Berwick and other places, though in latter times bunkers were added according to carefully arranged schemes. But Mr. Hall Blyth considered that fine holes might be made without waiting for the slow evolution from Nature, and he set himself about the design and construction of such holes at St. Andrews itself, North Berwick, Muirfield and Gullane, and on these famous greens there endure testimonies to his fine imagination, great golfing judgment, and skill as a designer.”
S. Mure Fergusson – Born in Perth, Scotland in 1855 Samuel Mure Fergusson spent his formative years at St. Andrews. Ironically he did not take up golf until comparatively late in life, late that is for a lad in St. Andrews, he was fourteen. His father managed an insurance company in London, and acordingly time was split between north and south. His early golf on the Old Course was played with Tommy Morris, David Strath and Leslie Balfour-Melville. At the age of twenty Mure Fergusson was elected a member of the R&A, and proceeded to win the Autumn Medal in his first competition. In all he won twenty medals, the last one coming thirty-nine years after the first. Fergusson was twice runner-up in the Amateur championship, losing close matches to John Ball and FG Tate respectfully. He was fourth in the 1891 Open Championship at St.Andrews and might well have won had his putting not failed, the strongest part of his game. Not only did Fergusson compete at a high level he was also one the game’s most effective administrators, being a member of numerous committees including the inaugural Rules of Golf Committee of 1897. S. Mure Fergusson was captain of the R&A in 1910.
Mure Fergusson was a successful stock-broker in London and as such played most of his golf in England. In the early eighties he was connected with Felixstowe but when Sandwich opened he migrated to that club. In 1895 he laid out a golf course on the estate of HF Locke-King, the pioneer in aviation and motoring. This was the New Zealand Golf Club at Blyfleet, and it was an unprecedented design being the first golf course carved out of a thickly forested property. Fergusson was New Zealand’s long time secretary, and in that capacity was regularly improving the course. Fergusson went on to design a nine-hole golf course for King Edward at Windsor and Duff House Royal in Scotland with Archie Simpson.
In 1906 Mure Fergusson contributed a chapter in Horace Hutchinson’s Golf Greens and Green-keeping-sharing his expertise on making a course out of a pine forest. It began, “To anyone who has been accustomed to play golf on a seaside course the idea of making a links in a pine forest seems, to say the least of it, a curious one. But when one thinks the matter out it is not so peculiar, for most pine forests grow on sand, and for a golf links sand is a sine quo non, at least from my point of view.” Later he describes how to construct a proper bunker, and can not resist taking a shot at golf architect’s favorite punching-bag, “Nothing to my mind, is more abominable on a golf course than the awful zarebas that used to be erected by poor Tom Dunn and others who first laid out inland greens.”
Zarebas? Merriam-Webster says they are improvised stockades native to North Africa, another in a long line of military allusions found in golf architecture’s lexicon. Mure Fergusson died in 1928 at his beloved New Zealand Golf Club.
H. Mallaby-Deeley – Harry Mallaby Deeley was born in London in 1863. His father William Clarke Deeley was a prosperous oil merchant. Harry was educated at Cambridge, and went on to become one of the most successful and daring real estate dealers at the turn of the century. “When the idea of acquiring any particular property had occurred to him he would follow it up with an interview with the owner, and usually, if the latter had the least intention of disposing of his interest, Mallaby-Deeley would come from the meeting place with a half sheet of notepaper recording the proposed contract.” That is how is he settled the purchase of Covent Garden with the Duke Bedford for the staggering price of just over Ã‚£1,750,000 ($15,000,000). Similar sums were paid for the purchase of properties at Piccadilly Circus and Founling Estates.
HMD was an avid golfer who played to a scratch at Prince’s Golf Club, Mitcham Common. Mitcham was designed by Tom Dunn in 1892, and was considered nondescript and ordinary. Mallaby-Deeley became the chairman of the club in the late 1890s and proceeded to overhaul the course. When he was done it was considered one of the better inland courses in the Kingdom.
Infected by the architectural bug Mallaby-Deeley then set his sites on a seaside property where he envisioned a modern links. His dream was to create The super course-a golf course incorporating all the theories of modern golf architecture. It had long been rumored the Earl of Guilford’s estate at Sandwich possessed some of the finest golfing ground in England, and there were several attempts to induce him to sell but he had always declined. In 1904 after a long negotiation HMD was finally able to purchase the 360 acre property.
Mallaby-Deeley then set out to make his dream a reality. Initially he consulted an impressive collection of experts, including Horace Hutchinson, HH Hilton, John Low, Cecil Hutchison and Herbert Fowler, and then proceeded to lay out the course with the assistance of Charles Hutchings and PM Lucas. It opened 1906 and was immediately recognized as a groundbreaking design. Princes was Britain’s version of the National Golf Links three years prior to the NGLA opening for play.
Princes was Mallaby-Deeley’s last known excursion into design, but despite his limited activity Josiah Newman editor of the American magazine Golf in 1914 called Mallaby-Deeley “the finest amateur golf architect in the world.” He died in 1937 at his chateau at Cannes, but not before donating Princes, Mitcham Common to the public.
John Sutherland – John Sutherland was born in 1864 the son of a Dornoch shoemaker. He began playing golf at 14 and was admitted to the club three years later, making scratch at once. Sutherland was appointed secretary in 1883 – a position he held for an amazing 58 years. Sutherland first competed in the Amateur Championship in 1891 at St. Andrews, and was a consistent attendant for the next 20 years. If there had been a prize for distance traveled most years he would have won it.
No one knows precisely when golf began at Dornoch, records indicate the game had been played there as far back as 1630. We do know the ‘modern’ game came to Dornoch in the 1870s with a nine-hole golf course. The Dornoch Golf Club was officially founded in 1877. In 1886 Old Tom Morris was engaged to layout a proper golf course, staking out a new nine thus extending the course to 18 holes. Sutherland carried out this work over the next few years. Old Tom deserves credit for getting things started but without question Dornoch was Sutherland’s long term project. Throughout his tenure he continually improved the courses including a major redesign in 1904, which included extending the ladies course to 18 holes.
In 1902 Golf Illustrated wrote of Sutherland: “He has given great service in laying out and altering, not only his own green but many of those in the neighbourhood.” Sutherland was invited in 1891 by the newly formed Brora Golf Club to layout a nine-hole golf course. He returned to Brora in 1902 and extended the links to 18 holes. That same year he laid out Skibo a private course for none other than Andrew Carnegie. In addition to Carnegie’s private course Sutherland designed and built private golf courses for the Duke of Portland at Lanfwell, the Duke of Sutherland at Dunrobin and Mr. Eric Chaplin at Stoer.
Sutherland taught the game to future professionals Donald Ross, Alec Morrison and Tom Grant, and this quote from The Scotsman may indicate which pupil he favored, “John Sutherland I know was proud of the Dornoch boys who carried the fame of his native town across the Atlantic.” One wonders what impact he may have had upon Ross the golf architect. As a young man Ross was both an apprentice to a building contractor and one of the best amateur golfers in the region. Members of the club urged him to go to St.Andrews to learn club-making, however his family wanted him to continue in the trade of carpentry. When the club promised to make him their professional, his parents consented and he was off to St. Andrews and Forgan’s golf shop for a brief apprenticeship. From 1893 to 1899 Ross was Dornoch’s first professional and presumably worked closely with Sutherland, who acted as the club’s secretary and greenkeeper (Sutherland was a self-taught expert in agronomy whose advice was sought throughout the UK). It is difficult to say to what extent Sutherland influenced Ross but it appears at the very least he laid his foundation.
In addition to his club responsibilities, John Sutherland was the Town Clerk, and beyond his public duties he advised Lord Rothermore and WT Tyser of Gordonbush on financial matters. He was also a successful Estate Agent. Sutherland even found time to write the golf notes for The Daily News, and contributed several articles to Golf Illustrated. Through his writing Sutherland was largely responsible for publicizing this islolated gem, and as a result the course attracted an impressive list of pilgrims including the Newton, Joyce and Roger Wethered, John Low, JH Taylor, Ernest Holderness and others. John Sutherland died suddenly at his home Golf View in 1941.
A.M. Ross – Alexander Mackenzie Ross was born in Edinburgh in 1850. His father made Venetian blinds for a living. One of the most famous of the old school Scottish golfers AM Ross was raised on the doorstep of the historic Bruntsfield Links. “It is said in St.Andrews that babies are toothed on golf clubs. Though born in Edinburgh, Mr. Ross’s aptitude for the game found almost the same fostering circumstances, for in boyhood he lived on the verge of Bruntsfield Links, and there, before he had reached his teen, he had become something of a prodigy.”
Had there been an Amateur Championship in those days it is difficult to believe he would not have been one of the first holders. When the Championship was eventually instituted in 1886 he had little time to devote to the game due to business interests. Ross was the most successful exhibition caterer and refreshment contractor of his day, and held the exclusive contracts for the International Exhibitions of Edinburgh (1886), Manchester (1887), Brussels (1888), and London (1891). He was also the proprietor of the famous CafÃƒ© Royal Hotel in Edinburgh.
MacKenzie Ross was a member of the Edinburgh Burgess Golfing Society, and for many years was considered almost invincible over Musselburgh links. He was also a frequent medalist at North Berwick, Gullane and Luffness. Ross won over one hundred medals during his golfing career (They are currently on display at the clubhouse of the Burgess Golfing Society at Barnton).
Later in life Ross was fortunate to have a good deal of leisure time, and this he spent in enjoyment of the game. In addition to playing the game Ross was keenly interested in golf course design. In fact his son, future course designer Phillip Mackenzie Ross, claimed his father was the first to coin the term golf architect. The elder Ross’s first taste of design appears to have come just prior 1890 when he and his friend Colonel Baird discovered Mildenhall and laid out two holes on the property of William Gardner. Eventually a club was formed and in 1891 Tom Dunn was brought in to extend the course. He pegged out 18 holes, however before construction commenced Ross convinced the principals nine holes would be preferable since Dunn’s eighteen was to utilize unsuitable marshy ground. Ross remained closely associated with Worlington and deserves a great deal of credit for what many consider the best inland course built prior to 1900.
In a twist of the Worlington situation Mackenzie Ross was involved with another famous nine-hole course when in 1893 he proposed Musselburgh be extended to 18 holes, and went so far as having the ground surveyed. In the end his proposal was rejected. In 1897 Ross was captain of Luffness New when a group of members broke away to form Kilspindie in 1898, and he along with Ben Sayers designed the new course. From 1898 to 1900 Ross was in charge of the committee that oversaw the construction of the second course at Gullane. Willie Park-Jr. had originally laid out the course but a disagreement over his fee resulted in the termination of that relationship. PM Ross claimed his father was involved in the design or redesign of Royal Burgess at Barnton Gate, Murrayfield and New Luffness.
Ross apparently enjoyed his boyhood home adjacent the Bruntsfield Links for in 1894 he acquired a villa overlooking North Berwick, and in 1904 built the impressive Hill House situated a top Gullane Hill with panoramic views over Luffness, Kilspindie and Gullane Links. A young PM Ross’s first foray into course design occurred at Hill House, when he designed a miniature golf course on land adjacent to the formal garden. AM Ross died in 1915 at Gullane Hill House.
Horace G. Hutchinson – Born Horatio Gordon Hutchinson in London in 1859, the son of General William Nelson Hutchinson. In 1860 the family relocated to Devon when his father was appointed commanding officer of Government House. It was at North Devon (Westward Ho!) that a very young Hutchinson was introduced to the game by his uncle, Colonel Hutchinson, one of the club’s founders. After studying at Oxford, Hutchinson went to London and began to read for the Bar, but before being ‘called’ he had second thoughts, and spent the next several months traveling through Europe. He did not touch a golf club for an extended period and claimed he had to ‘relearn’ the game on his return. Evidently he relearned well for he won the Amateur Championship the first two years it was held in 1886 and 1887.
HGH used those championships as a springboard to his writing career, a very successful career that ultimately led to him becoming in essence the voice of the game. Bernard Darwin wrote, “In the early eighties golf was, save in a few places, comparatively little known in England, and Mr. Hutchinson, alike by his fine play and his pleasant writing, did a great deal to increase the popularity of the game. Indeed, it is hardly too much to say that at one time golf to the Englishman was represented by two names, those of Mr. Horace Hutchinson and Mr. Arthur Balfour.”
Hutchinson’s first known architectural involvement came in 1888 after his father moved from Devon to Eastbourne in Sussex. A local man requested HGH lay out a course which became Royal Eastbourne. The downland course was known for two attributes: the cavernous ‘Chalk Pit’ and wild greens. Darwin wrote, “To putt at Eastbourne is an art of itself. It is not that the greens are not good, for they are excellent, but the hidden slopes in them are extensive and peculiar.” That same year Hutchinson claimed to have laid out one of the first golf courses in America for the Rockaway Club in 1888. He toured the United States in 1887 and 1888.
Without question Hutchinson’s masterpiece was Royal West Norfolk (Brancaster)-collaborating with Holcombe Ingleby in 1892. A prideful Hutchinson remarked, “its distinguishing features are the absence of artificiality and the great variety to be found in the holes.” He would go on to design Isles of Scilly (1904), Harewood Downs (1906) with JH Taylor, and Le Touquet (1904) in France, in conjunction with Taylor and Willie Fernie. He also assisted in the redesign of Ashdown Forest where his friend Jack Rowe was the professional. Hutchinson lived in a cottage adjacent to the course. In addition to these projects he was involved in the formation of several new clubs, including Burnham & Berrow, Nairn, and numerous clubs around London. In all he was a member of a mind-boggling 300 golf clubs, and certainly his expertise in architectural matters would have been a benefit to all.
Although his design accomplishments are impressive unquestionably his greatest contribution came by way of the pen. In the 1890s he was a regular contributor to numerous magazines, most notably Golf magazine, often discussing aspects of design within its pages. An example of his forward thinking is illustrated in this excerpt from 1897, “Raynes Park itself is a pleasant and interesting course in the summer, but its soil is of very clayey nature, and in consequence becomes almost unplayable in the wet weather. But the country about Woking is all of that light, almost sandy soil in which rhododendrons and Scotch firs especially love to grow. This is, of all inland soils, the kind that gives the best golf, and its characteristics are those that the prudent prospector of a golf course in Great Britain, in America, and all the world over will first look for. Provided the soil is light-such at least is our experience over here-all things are possible, no matter what the growth or what sterility appears on the surface of the soil.”
A chronological look at Hutchinson’s architectural writing begins in 1890 with Golf from the Badminton series-one of the first and most widely read books on the subject. It touched on every aspect of the game including golf course development. That was followed by Famous Golf Links — published in 1891 — the first book profiling the great golf courses of both Great Britain and Europe. It was collection of articles he had written for The Saturday Review. In 1897 Hutchinson joined the staff of the new periodical Country Life as its first golf editor and almost immediately began commenting on new golf courses, emerging golf architects, and architectural theory. That same year he edited the remarkable British Golf Links – the striking photo essay that remains our best documentation of early golf. His next effort was The Book of Golf and Golfers, written in 1899. It included a chapter on “laying-out and up-keep of greens” written by Mssrs. Sutton & Sons, with supplementary remarks by Willie Fernie. In 1906 Hutchinson edited the first book devoted to the science of golf-architecture and maintenance — Golf Greens and Green-Keeping. Among the contributors were HS Colt, WH Fowler, S. Mure Fergusson, James Braid, CK Hutchison, Peter Lees and HH Hilton. Hutchinson was a guiding force not only for the game, but also for these men who would contribute so much to golf architecture.
Hutchinson’s last book relating to architectural matters was his golfing memoirs – Fifty Years of Golf – written in 1913, though not published until after the War. That same year he had very serious operation that almost killed him. He ultimately survived but was physically limited and in considerable discomfort the remainder of his life. Golf was over forever, as was his influence upon the game. The suffering ended in 1932 when he took his life, jumping from the roof of his four-story home at Lennox Gardens, Chelsea. He was 73 years of age.
Other amateurs – I would be remiss not to briefly touch on these other prominent amateurs golf architects.
Robert Chambers, Jr. was born at Edinburgh in 1832, and the son of Robert Chambers the famous publisher and author of Vestiges of Creation. He followed his father into the publishing business in 1853 and in 1873 became editor of Chamber’s Journal, which he ran with great success. Chambers was a fine golfer who grew up playing over the Old Course but in later years played mostly at North Berwick where he had a second home. In 1878 he won the inaugural Grand National at St. Andrews, the precursor to the Amateur Championship. Although not as prolific a writer as his father Chambers did manage to write one of the first books relating to golf – A Few Rambling Remarks on Golf. He also co-authored (with his father) the famous poem ‘The Nine Holes of the Links’ of St. Andrews, which appears in Robert Clark’s classic book, Golf: A Royal and Ancient Game. Chambers’ lone architectural accomplishment was laying out the first nine-hole course at Hoylake with George Morris in 1869-no minor accomplishment. Robert Chambers died at his house in Edinburgh in 1888.
Rev. AT Scott was born in 1848 at Cambridge where his father was vicar. A good athlete and avid sportsman, Scott was involved in the historic Oxford-Cambridge cricket match of 1871. In 1886 he became the vicar of St.James, Turnbridge Wells. In 1888 he was a founder of Royal Ashdown Forest, and laid out that famous golf course. Royal Ashdown Forest features a total absence of artificial hazards since the original charter of the Royal Forest prohibited man-made alterations to the land. Scott remained at the club his entire life, and was the Archdeacon of Turnbridge at the time of his death in 1925.
Henry Hope of Luffness in East Lothian was born in 1839, and educated at Eton and Christ Church College, Oxford. Henry Hope was the landed proprietor of Luffness House and it adjoining 3200-acre shire. Luffness had been in control of his family since the 18thC. In 1865 Hope laid out the first 18-hole golf course between Edinburgh and London. This was the old Luffness, which he built at his own expense with the help of Old Tom Morris. Sir Alexander Kinloch said, “Mr. Hope was very kind to lay out this course for them, but he did not see where the people were going to come from to play it.” They came, and they came in large numbers, and when in 1893 old Luffness moved to another site, Hope laid out Luffness New on his estate. The next year he asked Old Tom Morris to advise on the placement of hazards however the layout remained essentially Hope’s. Henry Hope died in 1913.
CJ Gilbert was born at New Romney, Kent in 1859. He began his professional life as a solicitor, but later became an electrical engineer and manager of a chemical works. Ironically he was best known as an amateur expert in geology, specializing in the occurrence of sand and gravel deposits. Who better than an expert in sand and gravel to dabble in golf architecture? His only known architectural work was the design of the nine-hole course at Berkhamsted in 1890. The site featured heather, bracken and the ancient Saxon earthworks known as Grim’s Dyke. Like Ashdown Forest there were no man-made bunkers.
George Combe was born at Belfast in 1862 and educated at Rugby. Combe was the consummate sportsman excelling in cricket, football, billiards and golf. He was also one of the pioneers of motoring in Ulster. Another in a long line of electrical engineers turned golf architect, Combe was a founder of the Irish Golfing Union in 1891, and for many years its Honorary Secretary. His status with the Union led to several design opportunities including the lay out of the first nine at County Sligo in 1895. Without question his greatest design accomplishment was transforming Royal County Down into one of the world’s great golf courses. That transformation began in 1900 and continued for the better part of a decade. Combe died at Lisburn, Northern Ireland in 1938.
WC Pickeman was born at Montrose in 1868, the son of the administrator of the Royal Lunatic Asylum. As a young man Pickeman was an insurance clerk in Edinburgh – playing his golf over the links at Musselburgh. He moved to Dublin in the early nineties taking a position with the Law Union and Crown Insurance Company, eventually ascended to managing partner. His architectural career began on Christmas Eve 1893, when he and fellow Scot George Ross rowed over to the peninsula of Portmarnock in search of land for a possible golf links. Boating in late December? I suspect Christmas cheer was involved. Whatever the case they found the site perfectly suited, and made a proposal to the landowner Mr. Jameson, the famous distiller, who being a good Scot himself, and an avid golfer, consented. Nine holes were laid out by WCP in 1894, and the full 18 were in play two years later. It should be noted Pickeman wisely sought the advice of Mungo Park (Old Willie’s brother) in this early stage. Pickeman went on to design/redesign an estimated twenty golf courses, including Castle, Skerries and Kilmashogue. He also inspired a group of Dubliners who went on to their own distinguished design careers: Cecil Barcroft, Peter Gannon and AV Macan. WC Pickeman died in 1931 at his home in Dublin.
HS Colt was born in 1869 at Highgate, London. Colt studied at Cambridge where he captained the golf team. In 1893 he joined a solicitors office in Hastings. As one of the leading amateur golfers in England understandably the Rye Golf Club sought his advise when planning their new links. Ultimately Colt and Douglas Rolland (who Colt knew from Malvern) laid out the golf course. Those two were also involved in the redesign of Hastings-St. Leonard the following year. The inclusion of one of the most successful golf architects in history may seem a bit odd, but one must remember his professional design career would not commence for another twelve years. For that reason Colt is a good example of the amateur architect from the early period.