Born in London in 1911, Don Harradine grew up with his step-father who was a golf professional at Shooter’s Hill Golf Club.
His step – father upgraded and remodeled courses, fabricated his own brand of golf clubs and taught the game at Harrod’s in one of the first indoor facilities. This early connection with the world of golf gave Don Harradine his future passion and intensity for the game and he actually reached a handicap of +5 which he held for many years. He also fabricated golf clubs under his own brand name and they became quite renowned within the tight and illustrious continental golfing community of those days.
It was in continental Europe and in 1929 that he obtained his first opportunity to demonstrate his talents as a golf course architect by remodeling the old nine hole Bad Ragaz course in Switzerland. The existing18 hole Bad Ragaz course was built by Don and co-designed by himself and Fred Hawtree and is the venue of the yearly and very popular Swiss Senior’s EPGA Event.
His stay in Switzerland brought him close to that country and its people. He decided to settle there despite the hard times; especially during the slack winter months when in order to make ends meet he used to work as a librarian in the Grand Hotel, St. Moritz.
Harradine lived in Davos, Vulpera, Flims and Berne where he designed and built a 9 hole course on the “Gurten”.
Due to his perfect knowledge and fluency in the Swiss – German dialect he was recruited during the war years by the British Embassy in Berne.
Destiny played a role in his marriage to Babette whom he had met due to the breakdown of a ski – lift. Babette gave and raised a son and daughter, managed the house and was a unique and indispensable collaborator throughout Don’s distinguished and exciting career. After the war Don could finally pursue his chosen profession and the family settled in Caslano, next to Lugano (Switzerland).
During Don’s long and stimulating career, he designed, built and rebuilt countless courses and his influence on European Golf is undeniable. His style was the simple and uncomplicated integration of the course into the natural landscape whilst producing a tough but fair golfing challenge.
One of Don’s specialties was the design and construction of courses on very limited and problematic sites usually with severe budget restrictions, a specialty which he fully mastered and which has rarely been equalled. His courses were maintenance friendly.
One of his favorite sayings was that a Green Committee should always be composed of an odd number and that three were too many.
He liked to remind everyone that golf should be played with what you have between your ears and very little could be achieved just by brute force.
Don always had two objectives when he built a course: fun for the beginners and a challenge for the good player.
"a Green Committee should always be composed of an odd number and that three is too many.."
Donald Leslie Harradine
Don was the first member to join the British Association of Golf Course Architects and was a founder member of the European Society of Golf Course Architects. Both these organizations later amalgamated to form the European Institute of Golf Course Architects. Membership of the institute guarantees a higher quality course coupled with today’s obligatory preservation and respect for the environment.
In 1971 Don and Babette founded the International Greenkeepers Association in order to educate the members of this profession which was and still is a poorly understood and unappreciated occupation. Sponsored by specialist manufacturers within the industry they organized seminars and workshops which were attended by competent speakers who talked about new methods and daily problems.
These informal meetings provided a forum for important exchanges of ideas and a bulletin was produced containing articles on the latest maintenance technologies which were translated into French, German and Italian.
The IGA and their respective national organizations would not have reached today’s high standard of maintenance if Don Harradine had not shown such a fortunate foresight.
The golf world has lost a friend and gentleman and with Don disappears an era which had a particular spirit and attitude towards the game. He was a man with great humour who tried to bring a lot of joy and pride to players by avoiding some of today’s incongruous monster courses that encourage deep depression amongst average players.
Don Harradine died on 26th September 1996 at his beloved house in Caslano.