Willie Park Jr. was the Open (British) champion in 1887 at Prestwick and again in 1889 at Musselburgh. He was the first person to pursue golf course architecture as a profession. He designed 160 courses in total including the Old course at Sunningdale, Portstewart, Olympia Fields #4, Huntercombe and The Maidstone Links on Long Island. He has a reputation as one of the best putters of all time. He was also an early designer of golf clubs and designed one of the first blade putters, the first driver with a convex face and he is also credited as the first designer to put grooves in irons. Park can best be described as an iconoclast. He was a heavy better and would allegedly take on all comers in match play. Many period photos of Park show him wearing suits that were all white and wearing a white hat.
The Game of Golf
The Game of Golf was first published in 1896 by Longmans, Green of London. There were five subsequent editions published: the 2nd and 3rd editions also published in 1896, the 4th in 1899, the 5th in 1901 and the 6th in 1904. All the editions have the same content and were simply reprints to keep up with demand. The Game of Golf is believed to be the first book to be written as a instructional. The book also contains chapters on Laying Out and Keeping Golf-Links. It outlines his design philosophy which includes starting with some easy holes, having all hazards visible and allowing for the ability to run a ball up to the green if so desired. There is also a chapter on The Laws of Golf (rules).
The Art of Putting
The Art of Putting was published in 1920 in Edinburgh by J & J Gray. The book is small, only 47 pages but it is nevertheless one of golf history’s most important books. The American edition of the book was published in 1921 by Donald Mathieson and is also 47 pages. The book was issued with green cloth but the U.K. edition was also issued in red and blue cloth.
This book is about Park’s recommended putting style. Park always hit the top half of the ball, thus imparting topspin. He also advocated focusing only on the ball and not the hole, which was a novel idea at the time. At the time, putting was done almost entirely with the wrists.
Books about Willie Park
Willie Park Junior, The Man who took Golf to the World by Walter Stephen was published in 2005 and is 317 pages. It is a carefully researched and thoughtful book about this important historical figure in golf. The title reflects Park’s role as a renaissance man serving as golf professional, golf club designer, architect and author. The first half gives a life story of Park and the second half focuses on courses designed by Park in Europe. Curiously, little attention is given to his extensive work in North America.
The Parks of Musselburgh: Golfers, Architects, Clubmakers by John Adams was published in 1991. The book was published in two editions: a limited edition of 125, which was an authors presentation copy and a limited edition of 750. Although not exclusively about Willie Park, Jr. the book also covers his uncle Mungo and father William Sr. and gives a good overview of this extraordinary golfing family.
Five Open Champions and The Musselburgh Story. George Colville, 1980. One of the five Open champions profiled is Willie Park Jr.