A Little Slice of Augusta National and Dr. Alister MacKenzie
All Square 5min read • 8 Apr 2016
For all golf fans, and many general sports fans, this week is an incredibly special one. This is the week that we hear of landmarks such as Magnolia Lane, Rae’s Creek, Amen Corner and Butler Cabin. It is, of course, Masters week. The first major championship of the season undoubtedly represents the symbolic start of the season for many golfers.
Now playing Augusta National is not impossible as a non-member, but it is extremely difficult. The course was opened in 1933 and was designed by Bobby Jones and Dr. Alister MacKenzie. Today, however, All Square is going to give you some alternatives to let you get some idea of what it would be like to play Augusta by telling you some of MacKenzie’s other courses that are more accessible.
Given the fact that MacKenzie’s mother was brought up in Glasgow, it’s no surprise that he had a project near Scotland’s largest city. Bonnyton Golf Club is within 30 minutes of the city centre and offers a fantastic golfing escape. This course certainly does have a feel of Augusta about it, if you can excuse the disparity in the weather. The course has many trees and bunkers awaiting wayward shots but if you squint, just a bit, you could definitely emulate some Augusta-esque approach shots to elevated greens on this course. Welcome to the Glaswegian Augusta.
This course was a joint effort between MacKenzie and James Braid, yes two of the greatest names in the history of course design joined forces to create arguably the best inland course in Scotland. This course has played host to the European Tour, it was the sight of Greg Norman’s first victory on the tour, and is reminiscent of the heathland terrain of courses around London. At 6630-yards this is not a long course, but it is a tricky course and you’ll need to be carefully plan your way around it. In more recent times the 2014 Junior Ryder Cup was played out on this course during the build up to the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
Described as ‘an Alister MacKenzie masterpiece’, Moortown is situated close to MacKenzie’s Normanton and is probably the most famous of his UK designs. Moortown has hosted many of golfs biggest events including the Ryder Cup, The European Tour and The Brabazon Trophy. The course is set on part parkland and part heathland. Like most of MacKenzie’s courses, Moortown features the kind of dramatically undulating greens that you’d normally find on links courses but in an inland setting. This course also hosted the first Ryder Cup to be played out on British soil so it has some significance in golfing history too.
It would be unfair to mention Moortown with talking about it’s neighbouring course, and in many ways it’s predecessor, Alwoodley. MacKenzie designed this 6657-yard championship course and it opened in 1907, two years before Moortown. In fact, it was when the good doctor was in town designing Alwoodley that they recruited him for their neighbouring project. This course is still a test of golf today, a testament to the design skill of MacKenzie, and is a course that was close to his heart. It was here that he played a lot of his golf and developed his own game.
This was another collaborative design, which was done alongside none other than the great Tom Morris. Both designers were immensely proud of this course with each commenting on the sheer beauty of the terrain on which it was built. This course is a bit of a standout on the list as MacKenzie tended not to design links courses but more took links-like features as inspiration to create dramatic inland tracks. At 6,355 yards this is not a long course but it certainly is easy on the eye. This course is a proper old-fashioned natural links and was a source of infatuation for MacKenzie.
Another of Dr. MacKenzie’s Irish creations, there were six in total, is this spectacular championship course beside the Galway Bay. The views this course offers are just magnificent and it provides a good test for the discerning golfer. This parkland course was home to two of Ireland’s most famous golfers and Ryder Cup stars Christy O’Connor Snr. and Christy O’Connor Jnr. This course features a lot of gorse, which glows golden yellow in the late summer months providing wonderful colour to compliment the course. Couple that with the backdrop and you have yourself a wonderful round of golf ahead of you.
Consistently ranked as the best course in Australia this course was sanctioned by the R&A who commissioned MacKenzie to design it, unfortunately he was never able to see the finished article. This is the oldest continually open golf club in Australia in is revered as one of the greatest courses in the world. Gene Sarazen lamented that although this course was conceived in 1926 it is still the pinnacle of course design. It is a playable course and higher handicapped golfers will still find it enjoyable whilst more skilled players can find it challenging too. By all accounts this may just be golfing Nirvana.
During his Australian tour in the 1920s MacKenzie designed three courses, each of which are amongst the best courses in the land, and this one was laid out overlooking Botany Bay. This course somewhat resembles the views on offer at Cypress Point and this was a view shared by the great doctor himself. The ocean is in view at almost all points on the course and this is one of the rare links courses that MacKenzie put together. It is widely accepted that if golfers are in the Sydney-area with time for just one round of golf then this is the one they should make sure they play.
A quick look at the timeline of MacKenzie-design golf courses suggests that as Alister grew older he grew tired of the British climate as his courses start to take on more exotic locations. This, however, is a special on and as far as this list goes is also an important one. This course was a joint design project with Bobby Jones, and as you already know, that’s the same team behind Augusta. The two men met at Pebble Beach where Jones had become an early casualty at the US Amateur and MacKenzie was designing near by. Jones was actually in the first group to ever play the course which was crafted on land that was famed for its awe-inspiring beauty. MacKenzie’s home bordered the 6th hole and he regarded this as the greatest layout, yes even above Augusta. Here’s the best news though, this is a public course and so is one you can quite easily add to your All Square world map. Who fancies a trip to California then?
On the Monterrey Peninsula in California lies three of the most famous golf courses on the planet. Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Cypress Point. The last member of this list was created by MacKenzie and is yet another example of incredible golf course design. Cypress Point, along with Augusta National, Seminole and Pine Valley, are the most exclusive courses in the US and so getting a round here isn’t going to be easy. However, should you be lucky enough to get yourself an invite, an unforgettable round awaits. This is one of the most dramatic settings in golf, the course is crafted on the cliff tops above the Pacific Ocean. The sixteenth hole is one of the most photographed holes in golf and it was whilst working on this course that MacKenzie and Jones met. This course makes its way through the Del Monte forest for some tree-lined holes then emerges for possibly the greatest finishing holes our great sport has to offer.