Golf Architecture Books from the Golden Age of Design

History goes through inevitable periods of peak creativity and golf is no exception. There are certain periods that, for various reasons, the perfect confluence of events come together and genius has a prolific period. These events occur rarely. Consider for a moment that in the decade of the 1730s Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann, Rameau, Scarlatti and Handel were all composing music. And that in the 1850s the impressionist painters Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Degas and Manet were all at work.

The 1920s gave us some of the most lasting impressions of the twentieth century. The “Roaring Twenties” gave us Art Deco, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, a booming economy, jazz, the flapper, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s the Great Gatsby, mass production of automobiles, talking motion pictures and much more.

In the world of golf Bobby Jones won nine major championships in the 1920s. Of the courses built in the decade, 28 of the top 100 ranked courses were built in the 1920s, a period that is unmatched either before or since. Cypress Point, Royal Melbourne, Royal Portrush, Winged Foot, Seminole, Fishers Island, Morfontaine, Los Angeles, Riviera, Baltusrol, Cruden Bay and Kingston Heath were all designed in the 1920s.

Luckily for us many of the great architects of the day wrote about their design philosophies, including Tom Simpson, Alister Mackenzie, H.S. Colt, C.B. Macdonald, George Thomas and Robert Hunter. This month we take a look at the master works. The books are pictured below in their best state, ie, with original dust jacket or publisher’s box.

Alister Mackenzie, Golf Course Architecture, 1920

MacKenzie wrote one of the seminal works of golf course architecture when he published

Golf Architecture Economy in Course Construction and Green-Keeping (Donovan & Jerris M2890) in 1920. It outlines his famous “thirteen essential features of an ideal golf course.” A collector who has a copy that includes the original rare dust jacket is at the apex of his or her game.


H.S. Colt, Some Essays on Golf Course Architecture, 1920

A prized possession in any golfer’s library is Colt’s Some Essays on Golf Course Architecture (Donovan & Jerris C16810) which he co-authored in 1920 with his partner C.H. Alison. Colt and Alison’s golf course architecture design firm was involved in designing or remodeling over 300 golf courses worldwide.  Colt was the first full time golf course architect who was not a professional golfer.


Robert Hunter, The Links, 1926

Robert Hunter’s The Links (Donovan & Jerris H27280) was a groundbreaking golf book, in that it was the first to use illustrations, that is, black and white pictures, to demonstrate the art of good golf course architecture.

The Links DJ

The Links seen with its original issue dust jacket

 George Thomas, Golf Course Architecture, 1927

Thomas’s Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction (Donovan & Jerris T7730) has been cited as the most influential architecture book by those we have polled in our series on influential golf books. The book is a cornerstone collectible for anyone who loves golf course architecture. The book is profusely illustrated and contains many early pictures of his courses and PineValley.

Golf Architecture Thomas

Charles Blair Macdonald, Scotland’s Gift – Golf, 1928

 Indeed, most of the book is about Macdonald’s life and his boasting, but there is also a great deal about his important design thoughts. As the designer of the ‘ideal’ National Golf Links of America, Macdonald is a man to be listened to.

Macdonald Scotland's Gift Box

Macdonald’s Scotland’s Gift with its very rare original box

H.N. Wethered and Tom Simpson, The Architectural Side of Golf, 1929

Simpson designed such beauties as Morfontaine and helped shape Cruden Bay and Ballybunion. The book includes design sketches and maps and describes Simpson’s quirky but brilliant thoughts.

Architectural Side

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Valuable Book Group specializes in rare, collectible and valuable golf books. We are avid collectors ourselves obsessed not only with playing the game, but also its history and the literature of the game.
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