Golf Course Architects

7 Great Classic Regional Golf Course Architects

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Last week, we introduced some great, less-heralded modern golf course architects whose work is more regional than national or worldwide in scope. These designers are responsible for both locally-loved and nationally-acclaimed courses alike.

This week, we’re turning back the clock a bit, to focus on some classic architects of a similar stripe. These aren’t the Donald Rosses, C.B. Macdonalds and A.W. Tillinghasts of the world, who managed to get around by ship, boat and early airplane. But these architects left behind a numerous consequential courses a little closer to home.

William Langford & Theodore Moreau

Lawsonia is a Langford & Moreau masterpiece in central Wisconsin.

Lawsonia Links is a Langford & Moreau masterpiece in central Wisconsin.

Region: Midwest

Notable Courses:
– The Golf Courses at Lawsonia (Links) – Green Lake, Wisc.
– Culver Academies – Culver, Ind. (9 holes)
– Harrison Hills Golf & Country Club – Attica, Ind.
– Marquette Golf Club (Heritage) – Marquette, Mich (9 of 18 holes)
– Wakonda Club – Des Moines, Iowa (private)

Geographical Exceptions: 
– The Country Club – Morristown, Tenn. (private)
– Texarkana Country Club – Texarkana, Ark. (private)

C.B. Macdonald, along with protégés Seth Raynor and Charles Banks, is well known for distinctively deep, flat-bottomed bunkering and greens that seem to drop off on all sides, but by no means did he have a monopoly on that exciting brand of design. Langford and Moreau’s work is mostly confined to the Midwest, but their standout courses, including Lawsonia Links and Culver Academies, make for some of America’s best inland golf.

William Flynn

Flynn's low-profile style brings a quiet beauty to the Cascades. (Omni Hotels)

Flynn’s low-profile style brings a quiet beauty to the Cascades. (Omni Hotels)

Region: Pennsylvania, Mid-Atlantic, Ohio

Notable Courses:
– Cascades at Omni Homestead Resort – Hot Springs, Va.
– Atlantic City Country Club – Northfield, N.J.
– Seaview Resort (Pines) – Absecon, N.J.
– Lancaster Country Club – Lancaster, Penn. (private)
– Huntingdon Valley Country Club – Huntingdon Valley, Penn. (private)
– Philadelphia Country Club – Gladwyne, Penn. (private)

Geographical Exceptions: 
– Cherry Hills Golf Club – Cherry Hills Village, Colo. (private)
– Indian Creek Golf Club – Miami, Fla. (private)

The vast majority of Flynn’s body of work is private, but key opportunities to enjoy his austere brilliance remain at Atlantic City, the Homestead and select other courses. We would love to see his courses at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland and Cleveland Heights in Lakeland, Florida restored as well.

Wayne Stiles & John Van Kleek

Taconic stands out as the best of the Stiles/Van Kleek portfolio. What's more, it's playable by non-members. (Taconic Golf Club)

Taconic stands out as the best of the Stiles/Van Kleek portfolio. What’s more, it’s playable by non-members. (Taconic Golf Club)

Region: Northeast, esp. New England

Notable Courses:
– Taconic Golf Club – Williamstown, Mass.
– Franconia Golf Course – Springfield, Mass.
– Country Club of New Hampshire – Sutton, N.H.
– Hooper Golf Club – Walpole, N.H. (9 holes)
– Rutland Country Club – Rutland, Vt.
– Prouts Neck Country Club – Scarborough, Me. (private, open to Black Point Inn guests)
– Split Rock Golf Course – Bronx, N.Y.

Geographical Exceptions: 
– Glen Arven Golf Club – Thomasville, Ga.
– Albuquerque Country Club – Albuquerque, N.M.
– Tarpon Springs Golf Course – Tarpon Springs, Fla.

Despite relative obscurity in modern times, Stiles and Van Kleek had a long and prosperous career in golf course design, with more than 100 courses bearing their names. Shying away from high-profile projects, they made inexpensive, solid golf their priority, and as a result, their courses tend to be beloved by locals first and foremost. But they have their prestige: Taconic is one of the best college golf courses in the country and the great Bobby Jones played the last round of his life at the Stiles/Van Kleek-designed Wahconah.

George Thomas

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is one of just a few public-accessible George Thomas courses (Golf Advisor)

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is one of just a few public-accessible George Thomas courses (Golf Advisor)

Region: California

Notable Courses:
– Riviera Country Club – Pacific Palisades, Calif. (private)
– Los Angeles Country Club – Los Angeles, Calif (private)
– Ojai Valley Inn & Spa – Ojai, Calif.
– Stanford University Golf Course – Palo Alto, Calif.
– Saticoy Regional Golf Course – Ventura, Calif. (9 holes)

Geographical Exceptions: 
– Whitemarsh Valley Country Club – Lafayette Hill, Penn. (private)
– Marion Golf Course – Marion, Mass. (9 holes)

Thomas’ body of work was quite small relative to the influence of his best designs, namely Riviera and Los Angeles Country Clubs. If you don’t have private club connections, focus your efforts on Stanford and Ojai to get an idea of the dramatic bunkering style Thomas deployed on his courses.

Harry Colt

St. George's Hill Golf Club is an absolute must-play Harry Colt design.

St. George’s Hill Golf Club is an absolute must-play Harry Colt design south of London.

Region: United Kingdom, especially England

Notable Courses:
– Swinley Forest Golf Club – Berkshire, England
– St. Georges Hill Golf Club – Surrey, England
– Stoke Park Country Club & Resort – Buckinghamshire, England
– Formby Golf Club – Merseyside, England
– Royal Portrush Golf Club – County Antrim, Northern Ireland
– Muirfield – East Lothian, Scotland
– Aberdovey Golf Club – Gwynedd, Wales

Geographical Exceptions: 
– Century Country Club – Purchase, N.Y. (private)
– Old Elm Club – Highland Park, Ill.
– Toronto Golf Club – Mississauga, Ont.
– Koninklijke Haagsche Golf & Country Club – The Hague, The Netherlands

The United Kingdom only really counts as a “region” by virtue of its size relative to corresponding “regions” in the United States. After all, for hundreds of years, it constituted the entire world of golf and golf courses. Nevertheless, Colt is noteworthy for the incredibly high standard of courses he left behind in the U.K. – including legendary links, heathland and parkland courses – as well as some notable designs in Continental Europe and the U.S.

James Braid

(Murcar Links)

(Murcar Links)

Region: United Kingdom, especially Scotland

Notable Courses:
– Brora Golf Club – Sutherland, Scotland
– Championship Course at Carnoustie Golf Links – Angus, Scotland
– Dunbar Golf Club – East Lothian, Scotland
– Lundin Golf Club – Fife, Scotland
– Murcar Links Golf Club – Aberdeen, Scotland
– Royal Troon Golf Club – Troon, Scotland
– St. Enodoc Golf Club – Cornwall, England
– Hunstanton Golf Club – Norfolk, England
– Pennard Golf Club – Swansea, Wales

Geographical Exceptions: 
– Grange Golf Club – Dublin, Ireland
– Newlands Golf Club – Dublin, Ireland

James Braid was first and foremost a professional golfer, known as part of the “Great Triumvirate” of the game around the turn of the 20th century (along with Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor). His prolific design career comprised more than 200 courses, all of them in the United Kingdom with the exception of a small handful in the Republic of Ireland. His well-routed, strategically sound courses are solid tests, from the more modest small-town clubs to the mighty Carnoustie, which hosts the 2018 Open Championship.

Stanley Thompson (EDITOR’S LATE ADDITION)

Cape Breton Highlands Golf Course is a spectacular Stanley Thompson design (Golf Nova Scotia)

Cape Breton Highlands Golf Course is a spectacular Stanley Thompson design (Golf Nova Scotia)

Region: Canada

Notable Courses:
– Cape Breton Highlands Golf Course – Sydney, Nova Scotia
– Green Gables Golf Course – Cavendish, Prince Edward Island
– Banff Springs Golf Club – Banff, Alberta
– Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course – Jasper, Alberta
– Whirlpool Golf Course – Niagara Falls, Ontario
– St. George’s Golf & Country Club – Etobicoke, Ontario (private)

Geographical Exceptions:
– Chagrin Valley Country Club – Chagrin Falls, Ohio (private)
– Constant Springs Golf Club – Kingston Jamaica
– San Andres Golf Club – Bogota, Colombia

Stanley Thompson, the “Toronto Terror,” had a prolific career that included more than 150 courses, the vast majority in Canada. His flair for bunkering and strategically fascinating holes translates well in any setting, from the Maritimes to the mountains of Alberta.

Have you played any of these classic regional golf course architects’ courses? Share your reminiscences and recommendations in the comments below!

18 Comments

  1. Stephen

    October 24, 2017 at 9:16 am

    Played a few of the number of courses discussed in your columns the last couple of weeks. There has been a wide sample of architects discussed. Makes it hard to imagine that Stanley Thompson has never been discussed!! Banff Springs, Jasper Park, Capilano, Niawka, Kawartha, Mississauga and the course George Knudson coined “the Pebble Beach of the East”, The Highland Links. There are many, many more unbelievable classic courses. Has to be mentioned.

  2. Greg P

    October 24, 2017 at 9:24 am

    I score a zero. Closest I came was getting rained out at Lawsonia. But even that was at one of the other courses.

  3. @spottersgolf

    October 24, 2017 at 9:34 am

    3 other Langford/Moreau’s absolutely worth playing –

    Spring Valley – Salem, WI (excellent value play almost untouched and prime for restoration no sand traps)
    Kankakee Elks – St. Anne, IL (another great value play 17 holes intact again with virtually no sand)
    Franklin County Country Club (back nine only) – West Frankfort, IL (wonderful routing their 10th hole is a superb L&M par 5)

  4. Jim Woods

    October 24, 2017 at 9:51 am

    If you like to see, feel and smell the sea during your round of golf there is no better course than Dunbar! 14 holes completely exposed to the sea.

  5. tdSHIPS

    October 24, 2017 at 10:06 am

    No William F Bell for the Western US? Sandpiper alone should get him on the list, but he was massively prolific in the area, with many top-notch tracks to his name

  6. Tim Gavrich

    October 24, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Stephen–
    Thanks for the note re: Stanley Thompson. You’re right, he deserves a section in this piece, too. I’m going to add one.
    –Tim

  7. Anonymous

    October 24, 2017 at 10:45 am

    I guess you’ve never heard of Bloomfield Hills CC in Suburban Detroit.

    Notably the only HS Colt (with no Allison) in the United States.

  8. Stephen

    October 24, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Tim….thanks for the update….this guy has courses in out of the way places that, if they were near an airport, people would be going crazy over. There is literally one masterpiece after another. Even a little nine hole in a place called Fundy National Park is an unbelievable design, despite the poor maintenance budget. Peterborough G&CC is another that is never discussed and is absolutely beautiful.

  9. Mike Marshall

    October 24, 2017 at 11:25 am

    Can’t believe you left out Capilano in Thompson’s list. Though private it has forever been in Canada’s top 5, and is a first rate course that other private club members fight over to play. Great views, diabolical greens, and a club policy of four hours or less!

  10. Randolph Rogers

    October 24, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Taconic Golf Club is one of my favorites. What a treat to have it as our home course in college. I go back a couple of times a year to play.

  11. Arthur Little

    October 24, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Under William Flynn, you should add Kittansett
    For many years the course was attributed to Frederick Hood, a member with Flynn listed in second position
    Now the club gives sole credit to Flynn and, with the discovery of his plans, added features not previously installed
    Arthur Little

  12. Pat Powell

    October 24, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    Lawsonia Links is a gem and anyone planning a Wisconsin golf trip should include this course. It’s location is about 1 1/2 hours west of Kohler (Whistling Straights), 1 hour from Erin Hills and less than 1 1/2 hours southeast of Sand Valley (Mike Kaiser’s new project). This course holds its own and it’s a bargain compared to the other courses mentioned.

  13. james cook

    October 24, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Suggest you include Architect Walter J. Travis in your list of excellent designers. He was an accomplished amateur golfer, prolific writer and great architect. Most of his courses were in new York, New Jersey other mid-atlantis states and Canada.

  14. Michael Walsh

    October 24, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    Don’t forget Harry Colt did a lot of the work at Pine Valley as well,
    thank you for a great piece on these Architects

  15. Peter W

    October 24, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    I had the pleasure of playing Formby during this year’s Open at Royal Birkdale and also recently played the Red and Blue nines at St George’s Hill. Both Harry Colt courses are superb. If you are coming over from the US to play some of the Open rota courses in the north west of England (Lytham, Birkdale, Hoylake) do pay a visit to Formby. It has hosted many Amateur Championships most notably a win by Olazabal over Montgomerie before they turned professional. It plays like a links course but the holes are bounded by pine trees. Holes 5 to 9 is a magnificent sequence that includes one of the scariest tee shots you will ever face.

    Three of the par 3s at St George’s Hill are played from elevated tees (per the photo) as is a short par 4, drivable downwind, and all provide thrilling tee shots. The roast lunch in the clubhouse is not to be missed. Stoke Park is only about 30 miles from St George’s Hill and is in a wonderful park land setting.

  16. Travers Wood

    October 24, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    In addition to LACC and Riviera, another notable George Thomas course in the same west Los Angeles area is Bel-Air Country Club. It should not be omitted from the list of great George Thomas courses. I belong to one (LA) and have played all three many times. Each is a delight and a unique challenge and experience.

  17. Gary Tipton

    October 29, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    Played Jasper Park a few years ago. Loved every second! Staff was unbelievably service oriented; vistas were magnificent; course was beautiful & in great shape; wildlife very interesting for someone from the SE United States. It was mid June. The weather was great & you could play up until about 10:30 pm. And for the resort overall, food excellent, staff was tremendous. I highly recommend for golfers who are going to be anywhere near that area in the summer.

  18. George Tidd

    November 7, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Please don’t forget Colts wonderful Hamilton G&CC in Hamilton Ontario. This great course has been consistently ranked in to top three in the Nation and has hosted at least three Canadian Opens.

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