The legacy of Scotland’s pioneering golf course architects can be seen across the world and still influence today’s course designers.
A conference later this year, to coincide with Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, will celebrate the lasting impact on the game by the likes of Old Tom Morris, James Braid, Donald Ross, Willie Park Jr and Alister MacKenzie and their enduring effect on modern day design and internationally known courses including Royal Dornoch and last week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open venue, Castle Stuart Golf Links.
‘Design Masters: The Scottish International Golf Course Architects Conference’ will be held at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness from 10-13 October.
As well as remembering the names of the past, the event will hear from leading contemporary course designers from around the world, greenkeepers, equipment manufacturers and golf journalists.
The event, organised by the Golf Tourism Development Group, will be chaired by Adam Lawrence, editor of Golf Course Architecture magazine.
He said: “Scotland gave the world the game of golf itself, but it also produced some of the most influential designers of golf courses the game has known. More than that, though, Scottish golf continues to be a model for the rest of the world to look to, for its close connection to the population as a whole and its sustainability.
“No golfing country should copy Scotland, because to be truly authentic, golf has to be English, American, German or Chinese, adapting itself to local needs. But Scotland remains the original and best.”
Among the keynote speakers will be Tom Mackenzie, from designers Mackenzie and Ebert and president of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects; Bradley S. Klein, architecture editor of Golfweek magazine and the founding editor of Superintendent News; and Thad Layton, Senior Golf Course Architect at the Arnold Palmer Design Company, which is involved in plans to build a second championship course at Castle Stuart and Arnold Palmer’s first in Scotland.
Mr Mackenzie, a former European Tour caddie and a Royal Dornoch greenkeeper, said: “I am delighted to be part of this significant event to celebrate these Scottish pioneers. We still see the effect of these trailblazers today in the work of course architects and designers.”
Mr Klein, a former PGA Tour caddie and university professor, is regarded as one of the world’s most distinguished experts in the field of golf course design and maintenance.
He has published seven books on golf architecture and history, including Discovering Donald Ross, winner of the USGA 2001 International Book Award. In 2015 he won his industry’s highest honour, the American Society of Golf Course Architecture’s Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement.
He has served as a consultant on numerous golf course development and restoration projects.
He said: “I think it’s great that Scottish golf is celebrating the architectural legacy of Donald Ross. For a long while the pioneering design work of Ross has been unacknowledged. But it’s something of a miracle story how this humble son of Dornoch took the lessons of Old Tom Morris and links golf and transformed the entire face of the game and of the world’s sports landscape.”
Mr Layton, who will be part of the design team at the new Castle Stuart course, has lent his expertise to more than 60 projects worldwide and has a particular interest in the works of Alister MacKenzie.
He said: “Scotland’s greatest contribution to golf course design is its viewpoint on how the game should be played. A healthy appreciation for strategy, quirk, and an economy of design are a direct reflection of the shrewd Scots who perfected the game.
“These ideas are alive and well today, handed down through subsequent generations of golf architects and evident in every great golf course around the world.”
During the four-day conference, delegates will visit a number of historic courses in the Scottish Highlands, including Royal Dornoch Golf Club, which this year is marking 400 years of the game being played in the town’s links, and Brora Golf Club, which is marking its 125th anniversary.
Royal Dornoch was formed in 1877 and the first 18-hole course was laid out in 1886 by Old Tom Morris who extended the original nine holes and introduced the trademark plateau greens. It is also renowned as the place where Donald Ross honed his skills before going on to design some of the finest courses in the US, including Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
Neil Hampton, general manager of Royal Dornoch Golf Club, said: “Scotland is known as the Home of Golf and many of our early innovators like Old Tom Morris and James Braid were real pioneers on course architecture and helped raise the popularity of golf with their innovative designs.
“Old Tom Morris and Donald Ross both had an impact on the way Royal Dornoch developed and these and other designers are still highly regarded today as this conference will demonstrate.”
Brora is the headquarters of the James Braid Golfing Society, which has former Open champion Peter Thomson as president and Ryder Cup player Ronan Rafferty as a member.
Scottish International Golf Course Architects Conference www.scottishdesignmasters.com