GolfClubAtlas.com is presented to promote frank commentary on golf course architecture. Within this commercial-free site, the subject of golf course architecture is discussed in several different sections, including:
- Detailed course profiles by Ran (and sometimes John) Morrissett. Additional course commentary can be found on GolfClubAtlas on Instagram .
- Feature Interviews archived for your perusal.
- An In My Opinion section where people contribute architecture-related essays.
- A Discussion Group limited to 1,500 individuals. If interested in participating, please contact us.
- A 147 Custodians section that lists courses/clubs that intrigue and impress. Inclusion on this list not only indicates a course whose design we applaud, but a club whose culture promotes golf as (we believe) it ought to be played.
Many featured courses are lesser-known and don’t overtly promote themselves. They may not be ‘championship’ courses (whatever that means!) or necessarily the best-conditioned, but they all share a single, 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 architectural periods:
1. Pre-1899: The architects of this era were largely golf professionals who spent limited time on-site to stake out tees and greens. They didn’t have the ability to move much land or create hazards so incorporating natural features was paramount. The lesson learned from studying the works of Old Tom Morris and the like is timeless: nature provides the most enduring challenges.
2. 1900-1939: Architects interjected strategy by shaping land and creating hazards. Such work started with the heathland courses around London and men like Charles Blair Macdonald brought time-tested design tenets from the United Kingdom to America. Tom Simpson deemed the Roaring Twenties to be the ‘Golden Age’ of course design – and he was right.
3. 1949-1995: Length and difficulty became prized attributes, at the expense of variety and optionality. With heavy machinery readily available, architects had the unprecedented ability to bend the land to their will. Many such manufactured courses enjoyed immense visual impact but often lacked charm. In addition, such courses proved expensive to maintain. Only a handful of courses from this dark period are profiled, mostly those by Pete Dye who emerged as a hero.
4. Present: In this century, architects once again started to appreciate the subtleties that nature provides and they consciously tempered their impact upon the land. Indeed, many of the most impressive designs in the past twenty years were relatively inexpensive to construct as they are built on sandy sites. Golf is meant to be a simple outdoor pursuit and the fewer man-made disturbances, the better. Thanks to people like Mike Keiser, one can argue that golf architecture has been allowed to come full circle from a century ago. Once again, it is providing maximum pleasure to a wide range of players.
Geographically, the courses featured on GolfClubAtlas are diverse, coming from over twenty 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 to understand 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.