Architect Art: Golf's Grand Design

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Architect Art: Golf's Grand Design

April 24, 2013

A look at the early sketches by some of the game's great golf course designers

A.W. Tillinghast's Three-Way Hole, created around 1919 to be built at San Francisco Golf Club.One of the great mysteries is whether the hole was ever built as planned. If so, which hole at SFGC is it? Today, no one knows for sure.

Curiously, a diagram very similar to Tilly's Three-Way Hole was published by Chicago architect William B. Langford in 1915. So did Tillinghast "appropriate" Langford's idea? Or did great minds simply think alike?

Donald Ross also envisioned an alternate fairway hole, but unlike Tillinghast or Langford, Donald Ross really got his built in the late 1920s. It's the 15th at Seminole Golf Clubin Juno Beach, Florida.

In the early 1930s, young architect Robert Trent Jones proposed a three-way par-5 when he remodeled the Country Club of Ithaca (N.Y.).Ironically, the course was originally designed by A.W. Tillinghast.

As shown in this drawing of the par-4 third at Pottawattomie Golf Course in St. Charles, Ill., Trent Jones was also a talented artist as well as an imaginative designer. He placed the green on an island in the Fox River, making it one of the game's earliest island greens.

Pete Dye always preferred to design in the field, waving his hands and drawing lines in the sand with a stick. But once in a while he would doodle a hole, as he did (on a legal pad) for the 12th at Mission Hills Country Club's Pete Dye Challenge Coursein California.

For years, Dye's one-time design partner, Jack Nicklaus, relied on Bob Cupp to do his golf hole diagrams, but when Cupp left Jack's firm in the mid-1980s, Jack started drawing. This is his concept for the par-5 eighth at The Bear's Club,Jupiter, Florida.

Another tour-pro architect who carries a drawing pad on site visits is Ben Crenshaw. In the early 1990s, Ben stood on the proposed fairway on the 14th hole at Sand Hills Golf Clubin Nebraska and sketched how he thought the green should look.

We generally equate the late Desmond Muirhead with wacky ideas like mermaid holes and fish bunkers, but he was also a graceful artist. This is his graphical of the par-3 fifth at what is now the Earl Fry Course at Chuck Corica Golf Complexin Alameda, California.

Among golf architects, the most accomplished freehand artist was the late Mike Strantz, who practiced commercial art for several years. At his last project, the remodeling of the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.Strantz drew the holes he wanted to build, then built them.

Equally artistic in a different way was Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who used water colors or oil crayons to prepare both overhead and oblique plans of his greens at many projects. This is his proposed 11th at Crystal Downsin Frankfort, Michigan.

Another rare MacKenzie hole diagram, the 14th at Crystal Downs. These and several others had been stored in a suitcase for decades before their discovery by Ron Whitten, who's convinced that most of MacKenzie's greens were never built at Crystal Downs.

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