Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Looking at the list in Hindsight

I will finish up on Monday and Tuesday of next week.

It will be a while before I consider another blog series as involved as this one. I’m finding I’m much too busy with work to continue at this pace. I’m not sure what I will write about coming up and I’m considering a “best of” week to create a break for me and to highlight a few of the best series from the past.

I have some hindsight I would like to offer on the list:

I definitely think placing Trent Jones in was a mistake and at the same time I felt leaving Frownes out was an oversight. With both Wilson and Crump on the list, it is hard to justify Frownes being left off. The other four are still good choices.

25. Mike Strantz
24. Herbert Leeds
23. Henry Frownes
22. Max Behr
21. Herbert Strong

The Old Tom debate was fascinating. I knew I was going out on a limb with Old Tom, but I felt the early influence was crucial to the development of golf architecture. It turns out that I may have given him too much credit for existing work which in most cases has turned out to be another architect’s work. The more I read, the more information I received, the more I felt I had misjudged his role in the development of some key courses. The influence is still there, and some great work exists, but I think it is not quite as significant as I once thought.

20. Hugh Wilson
19. James Braid
18. Walter Travis
17. Old Tom Morris
16. George Crump
15. Herbert Fowler

Fowler was the man I didn’t know and the more I read after I posted the more I realized I had sold him a little short. I find I’m drawn to his architecture the more time I spend looking at courses that he has done, and I’m quite convinced that a visit to Eastward Ho would also have a huge impact on what I think of Fowler. The rest is a list of architects who have all influenced what I think about design with Maxwell and Langford being more recent fascinations.

14. William Langford
13. Tom Simpson
12. Willie Park Jr.
11. Charles Alison
10. William Flynn
9. Perry Maxwell

People have questioned my “anti-bias” against Thompson, but I’m quite certain I have his place right. One friend felt his best 5 were better than the likes of Tillinghast but I don’t agree. I would also counter that his next five can’t touch Tillie’s so it is a matter of where that line is drawn. Ross may confound the people off who think he should have been one or two - I like his work a lot - but I don’t see the genius that other people do.

8. Seth Raynor
7. Stanley Thompson
6. Donald Ross

Thomas’s remaining work is too strong to ignore. Macdonlad built the best course of the bunch, but then repeated himself in work that followed. Tillinghast certainly had the depth of exceptional work that few can touch. These are all great and gifted men whose work you should seek out every chance you get.

5. George Thomas
4. Charles Blair MacDonald
3. A. W. Tillinghast

The final two on Monday and Tuesday – The number one architect was the easiest selection to make. I will post a final revised list at the ned too.

Next Architect:


Harmesh said...

I feel that Henry Fownes and W Fownes should be included in the list. They created one of the best penal golf course in the world and W Fownes was influential is the development of the USGA and helped to guide Pine Valley after George Crump's death.

Anonymous said...

A very difficult task this rating the 25 best. Its not entirely clear what was your criteria, personally I would give more credit to those who did more and who did it longer. As a consequence I would not include one course wonders like Crump or Fownes (or Sutherland, Paton, Hutchings, Croome, etc) or those who did a couple of courses like H. Wilson or Behr or Leeds. Would Pine Valley be Pine Valley without Colt? And if the answer is no, probably not, how can Crump be the 16th greatest architect of all time?

IMO RTJ, D. Wilson, Bell, Abercromby, Hutchison, Emmet, Campbell, Watson, Taylor, Hotchkin, and few others should be considered before the architects whose reputation rides largely on one course often in collaboration with another.

And if you are going to include Morris, which I'm not sure I would do, you have to include others of his era like Tom Dunn, Willie Fernie, Charles Gibson and George Low, who, I think it could be argued, did as much if not more.

If you judge OTM by the same standard as architects like Ross, Tilly, Fowler or even Park, namely what kind of sites were they given, what did they actually design and what of that design survived, I don't think he makes your list, nor do the others of his era. In fact - based on his extraordinary sites - I believe you could make the case OTM was the worst architect in history. Of course that wouldn't fair either, as Horace Hutchinson pointed out: you can't hold it against a man for not being advanced for his time.


Vance said...

Love the blog Mr. Andrews. I found it around midnight last night and I couldn't pull myself away! While I admit that I don't know as much about golf course architecture as...well...everyone that comments on your blog (I'm a physical therapist in training, not an architect), it is something that I've loved for a while. The list is spectacular. While I don't always understand the terms (like redans and reverse cants), I recognize and appreciate the features you have pointed out in the architects' courses.

As far as comments on the list go, I'm really happy you found a place on the list for Strantz. I believe you were spot on with his blog entry. It usually is the younger person/architect that is drawn to Strantz's designs. For further proof, I'm 23 and Strantz is definitely one of my favorite designers. As you also mentioned, his courses really aren't as tough or over the top as people try to make them out to be. I live near the Myrtle Beach, so I've gotten to play True Blue and Caledonia multiple times. As a guy posted in the comments under the Strantz blog entry, it was his designs (specifically at those 2 coures) that got me interested in course architecture.

Again, great blog. Can't wait to read the final entries to the list.

Ian Andrew said...


1. The quality of the work - even if it were one course.

2. The influence that the work had on future architects

3. To a lesser extent - how much their work had a hand in shaping my architectural philosophy.

I included the influence of writings and books too,

Hope that helps - but like any list by an individual - there is nothing definative here since it still represents personal preferance.

Anonymous said...

You are living in 1918. You have a 175 acres of nice rolling Canadian countryside (a combination of sandy loam and with some pockets clay), featuring a winding stream and ravine. You are looking to hire the best golf architect possible to build your golf course. Money is no object, within reason, but the job must be completed in one year. Not an unreasonable request.

You have six candidates. Would you hire George Crump(sans Colt)before Herbert Strong, Walter Travis, Herbert Barker, William Watson or JF Abercromby?


sean said...


I am pleased you have reconsidered Fowler's place on the list. Of all the "just outside looking in archies" I think he merits the most study. I have actually read very little about the man or his philosophies of architecture, but after playing many of his courses it is clear Fowler was very talented.

I think he is deserving of more praise because he was part of the group of archies who successfully transplanted the links game from seaside to inland sites in the very early part of the 20th century. It is evident that by the start of WWI Fowler was a highly respected architect. I would particularly like to see Eastward Ho! Judging just by photos it seems that Fowler had become much more sophisticated in dealing with a hilly site in the 8ish years between finishing Beau Desert and and Eastward Ho! in 1922.

Ulrich Mayring said...

J. F. Abercromby is missing. He did more significant work than Leeds, Strong or even Wilson. Plus, he was the 4th man out of the gates, after Park junior, Colt and Fowler.

I'm sure you don't want to be a joke, so I venture you did not forget Alister MacKenzie and Harry Colt :)

They have got to be #1 and #2 - can't blame you for that selection, either.

John Jones said...

You cannot have George Thomas listed alone, unless you consider what is left of his Harding design in Griffith Park a masterpiece. Other than Griffith and possibly Redhill, he was the co-architect with William P Bell. Just because certain writers have snubbed Bell doesn't mean you have to. And not only did Billy Bell co-design all of the so-called Thomas courses, he also built them, pioneering construction methods, irrigation, including the first automated sprinkler, and managed multiple golf facilities over a 35 year period. He also prepared the grounds for the 1932 Olympics!
p.s. - you're still missing many Fowler courses too!

Anonymous said...

I am disappointed to see the views of Old Tom Morris from most of the people to have read this.

I may be slightly biased as I am English so am unfamiliar with a lot of your architects having not had the chance to see first hand many of the courses mentioned. But I have on the other hand seen the work of Old Tom extensively having worked as a Green keeper at St Andrews and visited many courses across Scotland and Britain

I personally can't believe he isn't higher up on the list. He is after all the man responsible for the current layout of The Old Course which is widely consider one of if not the best course in the world. People who have played and don't like the Old course, need to play it again..gets better every time you visit.

Royal Dornoch is also massively underrated even in Britain. It definitely would be a British Open course if it wasn't in the middle of nowhere.

Royal County Down is also widely considered the greatest course in the world by many people outside of America.

Yes he has had his name put to a lot of poor courses. Back then it was impossible to oversee the construction of the amount of course he is credited with. Most he would send drawings and probably never personally see the site even after completion, but being one of the only 'architects' around he was in demand. The works he does have true credit for are unbelieveable.

Royal County Down, The Old Course, Royal Dornoch, Muirfield, Carnoustie.

For many people they would be the top 5 courses in Britain all from the hand of Old Tom. I think that says enough.