Date: Wed 02 Nov 2016

Spotlight on … Dr Alister MacKenzie

Alister MacKenzie is possibly the most well-known of ‘Golden Age’ golf course architects.

Alister MacKenzie

I am often asked to research various aspects of the work of Dr Alister MacKenzie. In particular, I have an ongoing request to search golf club histories as they come in to extract and references to him for the Dr Alister MacKenzie Chronology. More recently I was asked to find photos of him working on course.

As well as being a prolific designer across the United Kingdom, the USA and Australia, MacKenzie authored Golf Architecture, a collection of lectures he had delivered and which were published in 1920. In it he codified thirteen essential features of an ideal golf course that became standards for course architecture after World War II (

MacKenzie was born in 1870, in Yorkshire, England. He graduated from Cambridge University with degrees in medicine, natural science and chemistry, and went on to serve as a surgeon in the Boer War. At some point he became interested in golf architecture and was invited by H S Colt to collaborate on the design of Alwoodley Golf Club in 1907. After the First World War, when he once again served as a surgeon, he went into partnership with Harry Colt and Charles Alison. This is documented in Fred Hawtree’s work – Colt and Co Golf Course Architects, published in 1991.

MacKenzie playing Alwoodley

MacKenzie playing Alwoodley

In the 1920s he split with Colt and went to America, where he formed brief partnerships with a number of people, including Robert Hunter, H Chandler Egan, and Perry Maxwell. Cypress Point established his reputation and led to his collaboration with Bobby Jones on the design of August National.

A complete list of the courses he designed or remodelled can be found in The Architects of Golf by Cornish and Whitten.

The Dr Alister Mackenzie Chronology, now in its 19th revision, is an important source for MacKenzie’s movements throughout his life. You can download a copy of it from the MacKenzie Society’s website here –

19th Revision of the Dr Mackenzie Chronology

Download PDF:
19th Revision of the Dr Mackenzie Chronology

You can search the Library catalogue for ‘MacKenzie’ and will find a list all the club histories (i.e. those over 100 years old) we have where he is credited as the architect.

We have a number of books in the EIGCA Library specifically by or about him.

Books by MacKenzie:

  • Golf Architecture. 1920.
  • The Spirit of St Andrews. 1995 (written in 1934).
  • Methods of early golf architecture, selected writing, with Colt and Tillinghast. 2013.

Other Books:

  • Fletcher, Robert F: Alister MacKenzie – playing his legacy. 2015.
  • Doak, Tom: The life and work of Dr Alister MacKenzie. 2001.
  • Hawtree Fred: Colt and Co Golf Course Architects. 1991.
  • Lord, Henry & Pugh, Peter: Masters of design: great courses of Colt, MacKenzie, Alison and Morrison. 2009.
  • Shackelford, Geoff: Alister MacKenzie’s Cypress Point. 2000.
  • Shackelford, Geoff: Masters of the links. 1997.
  • Shackelford, Geoff: The Good Doctor Returns – Alister MacKenzie comes back to golf – a novel. (Some light holiday reading, if anyone is interested!)

I would like to say that all these books are available to borrow, but Tom Doak’s book is now too rare and valuable to trust to the post. You are, of course, welcome to come to Bramley to look at it.

Sue Stranger

Golf Course Design
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