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After All These Years Still Golden Why Classic Architecture Lives On G


olf courses are the most varied of all sports fields. Also the most interest- ing in terms of terrain, character and feel. In part


that’s because the rulebook specifying the playing ground is limited to a single specification: that the intended target of play, the hole, measure four and one- quarter inches in diameter. Everything else is up for grabs—playing textures, elevation, slope, setting, length and width. No other sport accords as much freedom and imagination as the golf course designer can claim. Ninety years ago, one of those vi-


sionary architects voiced an irony about the craft that to this day continues to shape golf design. British-born Alister MacKenzie (1870-1934), the architect of Cypress Point (1929), Pasatiempo (1929), Sharp Park (1932) and Haggin Oaks (1932), was referring to praise a green chairman had bestowed on him for a newly opened design. Writing in 1920, MacKenzie mused that “these natural features which he so much ad- mired had all been artificially created.” Indeed, anyone lucky enough to walk


(or play) Cypress Point will appreciate how natural and embedded its holes look—and yet on closer inspection there are holes that take one on a jour- ney through distinct ecologies—dunes land, maritime forest and ocean-front bluffs. MacKenzie, who was a pioneer for the British Army in military cam- ouflage before he turned to golf design, was also a master at making apparent things disappear. At Cypress Point more than on any of his courses, you gaze down the length of a hole from the tee and see a proliferation of sand arrayed in ways that make it hard to discern perspective and landing areas. From the vantage point of the green looking


46 / NCGA.ORG / SUMMER 2012 BY BRADLEY S. KLEIN


PHOTO: LARRY LAMBRECHT


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