Augusta National, Cypress Point, Royal Melbourne, Lahinch, and Crystal Downs all have two things in common: each course is a veritable cathedral to the game of golf and each was designed by the legendary golf course architect, Alister MacKenzie.
Alister MacKenzie was born on August 30, 1870, in Yorkshire. After graduating from Cambridge, he practiced medicine and served as a surgeon for the British Army during the Boer War. While in the Army, MacKenzie became fascinated with land-based camouflage, and later he incorporated these principles into his golf course design philosophies.
His holes were designed for strategic play, with many of them angled away from the line of the fairway – forcing golfers to consider the green approach shot right from the tee. His designs also encompassed much more than strategy. He included a mix of long par fours with drive and pitch holes to provide an infinite blend of shots required during a round. His routings would wind through scenery and holes were positioned with emphasis on natural beauty. He also ensured an alternative route for less skilled players, enhancing their enjoyment to the game.
While credited with designing acclaimed courses on five continents in eight countries, it was his design of Augusta National for Bobby Jones that elevated MacKenzie to be considered one of the greatest golf course architects of all time. Speaking of their famous collaboration, Jones once commented, “there was never any question that he was the architect and I his advisor and consultant.”
In his book, The Story of the Augusta National Golf Club, Clifford Roberts, Bob Jones’ partner in organizing and building the club and the course wrote this about Alister MacKenzie: “What a pity MacKenzie did not come to this country earlier or did not live for another ten years! We surely would have had many more really interesting and pleasurable courses.” Bob Jones and Dr. MacKenzie completed the design plans in time for construction to begin in the spring of 1931.
Sadly, the legendary Scotsman left us much too soon – passing away in 1934 at the height of his design prowess. He was a man’s man, not only by serving his nation, but also through his love of the outdoors, his appreciation of good whiskey and the importance he placed upon his numerous friendships. He loved the game of golf, and his legacy, deeply entrenched in each of his design masterpieces will stand the test of time – now and forever.