Alister MacKenzie is one of the most famous golf course architects of all time. He co-designed Augusta National with Bobby Jones. He also designed some of the world’s most impressive and best golf courses including Cypress Point, Crystal Downs, Royal Melbourne and Pasatiempo.
MacKenzie was born and raised in England of Scottish blood and attended Cambridge University. He trained as a surgeon and served his country in the Boer war in South Africa.
Golf Course Architecture
MacKenzie wrote one of the seminal works of golf course architecture when he published Golf Architecture Economy in Course Construction and Green-Keeping in 1920. This wee book measures only 4 inches x 6 ½ inches and is 135 pages.
The book was published in London by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton , Kent and Co. Ltd. The book was issued with a dust jacket as shown above at a price 2/6 net. Copies with the dust jacket are quite rare. The book is also shown above without the jacket showing the green cloth with black lettering.
The book lays out MacKenzie’s thirteen rules of course design:
- The course should be arranged in two loops of nine holes
- There should be a large proportion of good two-shot holes, two or three drive-and-pitch holes, and at least four one-shot holes
- There should be little walking between greens and tees
- The greens and fairways should be sufficiently undulating, but there should be no hill climbing
- Every hole should have a different character
- There should be a minimum of blindness for the approach shots
- The course should have beautiful surroundings
- There should be a sufficient number of heroic carries from the tee
- There should be infinite variety in strokes
- There should be a complete absence of the annoyance and irritation caused by the necessity of searching for lost balls
- The course should be so interesting that even the plus man is constantly stimulated
- The course should be so arranged so that the long handicap player, should be able to enjoy his round
- The course should be equally good during winter and summer
Since an original 1920 Golf Architecture is extremely rare, several reprint editions have been published. Grant Books issued one in 1982 and it was done in a limited edition of 700. Ailsa also issued a reprint in 1987 and Storey Publishing printed an edition of the book in 1997. Both the original and copies of the Grant reprint are difficult to find.
The Spirit of St. Andrews
MacKenzie died broke, but left an unpublished manuscript of a book he was working on, near completion before his death. In the golfing equivalent of finding The Dead Sea Scrolls, the manuscript for The Spirit of St. Andrews, which was written in 1933, was discovered in 1995. His heirs didn’t have the funds necessary to have the book published and it was tucked away until rediscovered. The book was published by Sleeping Bear Press in 1995 and is 269 pages and readily available in the standard edition. In 1995 it was also issued in a special limited edition of 1,500 (seen below) with a leather cover and a slipcase. This edition of the book is much more difficult to find.
Books about Mackenzie
The Life and Work of Dr. Alister MacKenzie was published by Sleeping Bear Press in 2001 and was written by Tom Doak, James S. Scott and Raymund M. Haddock. This book is very well done and highly recommended. It contains extensive color photographs of MacKenzie courses and thoughtful analysis. It also gives insight into how MacKenzie “Changed a Continent”, referencing how he had such a large and lasting impact designing courses in Australia for the two months he visited that country. For a book published within the last ten years, it has become quite rare already and difficult to find.
Alister Mackenzie’s Cypress Point Club was written by Geoff Shackelford and published by Sleeping Bear Press in 2000. The book contains many black and white photographs of Cypress Point and a good overview of the course. Surprisingly, this is the only book ever written about Cypress Point.
Rare MacKenzie Works – Military Camoflague
MacKenzie served in the British army and became something of an expert in camouflage techniques (which he would use effectively in his course designs in later years). MacKenzie published several articles while in the Army. Entrenchments and Camouflage – Professional Memoirs, Corps of Engineers, United States Army (Vox. 1x, p.573, et. Seq.) was published in 1917. An article published in the May 1st issue of Country Life was written by MacKenzie entitled Military Entrenchments.
Rare MacKenzie Works – Augusta
Description of the “Bobby Jones” Golf Course with an Historical Sketch of Fruitlands was written by Alister MacKenzie, L.A. Berckmans and P.J.A. Berckmans. This 16 page softcover booklet was privately printed in Augusta, Georgia circa 1934. It is extremely rare.