Last week three legends from the history of British and, indeed, world golf – Bernard Darwin, Alister Mackenzie and Willie Park Snr. – were posthumously inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. (www.wgv.com) Here we reproduce the speeches made in support of each nomination.
Ben Crenshaw, a lifelong student of the game, an architect in his own right and a member of the World Golf Hall of Game, spoke about Alister Mackenzie
Ladies and gentlemen, when you‘re confronted with a subject that you love so much, and this gentleman means so much to so many people around the world, it’s very difficult to put into words in such a concise way of what he had achieved in his life.
As we all play golf, we all play golf all over the world. It’s a global game now. But we all know what a golf course means to the game. Ever since the game was invented, the course itself is such an integral part of why we recreate and why we come and be with our friends and enjoy.
Well, this gentleman happened to enjoy such beautiful surroundings, and he was so good at it, it’s a very nice thing for me to say as a practicing builder of golf courses that this gentleman was in the top rung. Has always been that way. He has been one to study.
I‘ve been lucky enough to study golf and history since I was a teenager, but at the name of Dr. McKenzie, you conjure up these I‘d say scenes of an artist, and an artist he was.
How many great golf courses he’s left us throughout the world. He had so many different facets of his life; he was born in England but he had Scottish parents and he loved being a Scot. You can see those pictures with his kilt. He was very synonymous with the game’s traditions. He early on became enamoured with St. Andrews and it stayed with him through the rest of his life.
Dr. McKenzie felt it was the duty of the architect to exploit all natural features of a given property. Absolutely no land form escaped his attention, and he felt it was a duty to learn a piece of property so well that any little mound, little hillock, body of water, whatever was going to be in the scheme of preceding nature. He wanted every golf course that he built to not have the hand of man in it. That’s how much he exalted nature.
Obviously when he became interested in camouflage in the Boer War, he saw this readily when he saw the enemy that concealed themselves in trenches and he was fascinated by it. So when he came back to Leeds, he was already a member of Alwoodley. Alwoodley is where he practiced some of his first designs along with Headingly, very close to Leeds.
But what he wanted to do was something different; he was part of a band of architects that brought the game inland. All the courses then and all of the observations were done because all the great links courses were on the coast. Well, there were a band of people that wanted to bring the game inland, and he was one of the first people to start the design inland features. So he thought, well, as a matter of fact, he went to Cambridge and he got three degrees. He got degrees in medicine, in botany, and also in doctoring.
But he was immersed with camouflage. So when he saw the Boers during the Boer War, he came back to Leeds, and he came to be enamoured, and he said, look, this is starting to be something that I can sink my teeth in, I can go out on a piece of property and I can look at these features and I can start going towards my will.
So at Alwoodley, where I‘ve played, it’s a gorgeous golf course, I made the pilgrimage a few years ago, he met Harry Colt. Harry Colt was a wonderful architect. They built that golf course and they did a marvellous job. He started his lifelong work.
In 1914 he entered a prize competition that Country Life, a great publication in Britain, he won first prize, and at that time Horse Hutchinson, who was a great amateur player there, Bernard Darwin, were judges. He won first prize, and it was that hole that was transported into Long Island and was built actually at a course called Lido, which is no longer in existence by Charlie McDonald.
That was where the public really started to get his name. But then after the First World War, he came back again, and he once again was employed by the British Army as a camouflage expert. So he started his life’s work, and I would think that some of the first golf courses he became interested in, and he made a map at St. Andrews in 1924, I think almost everybody in the country has got a map of St. Andrews that he depicted in 1924. He built courses before that, not the least of which was Lahinch.
He started to gain this name. But the thing that set him apart was utilization of natural features. He believed in St. Andrews because of so many principles. One can still play St. Andrews, and with any ability, you are not dictated as to how to play at St. Andrews. You are free to roam. In other words, you are not dictated as to how to play it.
This fascinated him. It was one of the principles later on that he thought was part of the aspects of a great golf course in that the more that you play it, you more you learn it and the more that you try to strive for better figures, and you also learn things about it as you go on.
Now, some of the golf courses that come to mind are the very best in the world that Dr. McKenzie did, Cypress Point, Augusta National and Royal Melbourne. It happened over really in the 1920s culminating with Augusta National, which he incidentally did not see before he died, before he passed away.
I think it’s very interesting when you study Dr. McKenzie that wherever he travelled, he became involved with someone who was very skilled at that site. For instance, he only spent two months in Australia, and his imprint is so indelible there that it gave Royal Melbourne, which is still one of the great courses in the world, so many courses down there, Kingston Heath, Royal Adelaide, Victoria, Metropolitan, Yara Yara and New South Wales, but he did have some help. The thing is that the Forkum family, who were greenkeepers, Dr. McKenzie thought he was the best greenkeeper in the world, but he actually provided impetus to actually build the holes, and somehow he grasped his principles.
The principles I‘ll get to in a minute.
In this country, he actually did the three courses which get so much attention, and rightly so, Cypress Point, Crystal Downs and Augusta. Crystal Downs was sandwiched in between Augusta and Cypress Point, and then Pasa Tiempo came at the end.
I think that some of the elements that Dr. McKenzie thought of and he was very passionate about bringing the game to the masses. The courses should not be designed just for the expert himself; the lesser players should have an alternate route around them. And also a couple of quotes I think of note are “narrow fairways bordered by long grass make for bad golfers. It’s a common error to cut rough in straight lines. It should be cut in irregular, natural looking curves. He should be able to put himself in the position of the best player in the world that ever lived, and at the same time be extremely sympathetic towards the beginner or long handicap player.” Those are still elements of St. Andrews.
“He should above all have a sense of proportion and be able to come to a prompt decision as to what the greatest good for the greatest number. It may appear unreasonable that the question of aesthetics should enter into golf course design. However, on further analysis, it’s clear that the great courses and in detail all the famous holes and greens are fascinating to the golfer by reason of their shape and their modelling. When these elements are in the fundamental balance and harmony, the fine proportion they give rise to is what we call beauty.”
Now, I don‘t think there’s any person who has been lucky enough to be at Cypress Point who knows how gorgeous the golf course is. It’s probably the prettiest golf course in the world. But in it, it’s a great test of skill. It doesn‘t beat you over the head with so many insurmountable obstacles, and it’s thrilling to play. It’s enjoyable. This was the hallmark of what he believed.
I think that in any study of all of his golf courses, he believed that golf should be played by everyone. As a matter of fact, he went so far as to say that some of the best holes should be played with a putter. The 11th hole at St. Andrews was one of his favourite holes. He thought it was an ideal hole where the locals would play with a putter and could get a 4 pretty easily. It’s a par 3. And for a very, very fine player, it was very difficult to play in par figures, as well.
So it’s all about, it’s about placement of hazards. He also believed that there’s no such thing as an unfair bunker wherever it’s placed. He said it’s always you enter it at your own peril. In other words, you play around it, you play over it, you play past it. It was the duty of a golfer to figure that out. But you had to have a way around. That’s why his courses were so important.
I think I‘d like to say, too, that Sandy Tatum had a great quote. Certainly he came up with the idea that Cypress Point was the Sistine Chapel of golf, and rightly so, but he also said something very interesting about architecture. He said that when you build a golf course, it reveals your soul. It reveals something about your character. Well, if that’s so, Dr. McKenzie was so equitable to the world’s golfers, and he did believe that it should not be, as a matter of fact, he had a lot of criticism in the way that he had some of the most fierce greens that you ever saw, undulations he thought were a great part of the game. They didn‘t escape criticism, and he believed in that, and because he believed that, once again, St. Andrews was the model.
I know we have so many people here tonight who came on Dr. McKenzie’s benefit. We have people from around the world from this Society, and I think that I‘d like to pay particular attention to Ray Haddock and his wife. Ray Haddock is Dr. McKenzie’s grandson. He happened to be the man who found the manuscript that became The Spirit of St. Andrews. If anybody has ever read The Spirit of St. Andrews, it says a lot about Dr. McKenzie, about why we play and about how golf should be presented. I‘d certainly like to make a special hello to him tonight.
This subject obviously is way too deep to cover in a short period of time, but it’s why we build courses, with the love of the land. And no one can do it any better than him.
Augusta is obviously on so many people’s minds with respect to conditioning and the way tournaments are held; it’s got such high marks in everything. It is a remarkable place, but it’s due to Bobby Jones and Dr. McKenzie’s eye that they wanted to exploit all those natural features.
I think that it’s very interesting that with all of the familiarity that we see at Augusta every year, still the hole that stirs up people, and it’s the meanest little hole that ever was, is No. 12. It’s 155 yards of terror, and it shows you that a golf course does not have to be 8,000 yards to be an absolute brute. It’s the hardest hole I have ever played, and somehow I got through it many times.
I‘ll build golf courses the rest of my life, but I hope if I had any way of knowing at the end of my career if I built one hole that even came close to what Dr. McKenzie built, I would have been a happy man. I won‘t belabour it anymore, but it’s a great honour for me to speak on his behalf because we follow his lead in so many respects. I still think they‘re timeless. I think they‘re timeless today. If any course worth their salt is a natural one and possesses great beauty, that’s what we try to achieve.
I want to thank Ray Haddock, again, for being here, and all the representatives from around the world who made the special trip here on behalf of him. May his name always live.
Tony Jacklin, Open Champion and a member of the World Golf Hall of Game, spoke about Willie Park Snr
To say that Willie Park Snr. was a pioneer is almost an understatement. There was very little that happened before him. So I‘m sure you‘ll forgive me if my remarks are not overly long.
The thing that strikes me about him, as a 21 year old in 1854, he started challenging old Tom Morris to matches around St. Andrews and Musselbugh for £100 challenge matches, and these matches prior to the Open Championship were followed by crowds of 5,000 and 6,000 people. I mean, it’s incredible to think about that today.
The thing that strikes me about him, he was very sure of himself, as a lot of us were when we were 21! Memories!
“The first,” as Peter Thomson said, “is always going to be the first,” and as long as this game is played, he will always be that. He had a big family with nine children. The eldest son won the Open twice. He, of course, won it three more times. He prevented old Tom Morris from winning the belt outright. Old Tom won the second and third championships, and then Willie stepped in with the fourth.
He was a real player, he was a gambler. He made his money gambling as a professional. There was a reference to his club not as well tooled as some of the professionals. It was a stick with a crooked neck and he became very clever at manipulating the golf ball with that. He was a long driver and he was a fantastic putter.
I think it was his son Junior who quoted the words “a good putter is a match for anybody.”
So this was a well rounded man. He didn‘t enjoy great health. He died at 70. There were pictures, and I‘ve compared him. He looked older than old Tom Morris, who was older than himself in his latter years, but he was a real pioneer of the game. He did some golf course design with his son. is son, of course, became a prolific designer, designed 120 or more courses, and they collaborated on a number of those. Olympia Fields over here was one of their collaborations; one of my favourites in the UK, Sunningdale, was another great golf course, Formby in Lancashire was another one they collaborated on. He’s a real pioneer, as I‘ve said. He’s left an indelible mark on this game, and it’s a privilege for me to be here to introduce him tonight.
John Hopkins, golf correspondent of The Times and chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, spoke about Bernard Darwin
Ladies and gentlemen, I‘m proud and honoured to introduce you to Bernard Darwin, who for most of the first half of the past century was golf’s foremost writer.
To many of you, the name Darwin means Charles, the naturalist, the man who wrote The Origin of the Species. Charles Darwin was Bernard’s grandfather. Bernard Darwin was born in 1876 in Down in Kent near London and died in 1961. In the matter of golf writing, we should all pay attention to what Herbert Warren Wind wrote and said. Herb went to Yale and from there to Cambridge University, and it was while he was in England that he met Darwin and read his golf reports in the times and elsewhere.
I do not think it is too strong to say that Herb was besotted with Darwin. “There is little disagreement that the best golf writer of all time was an Englishman, Bernard Darwin,” Herb said later. Darwin, Herb said, was the finest talent ever to write about sport.
If Darwin himself had heard such an encomium, he would have blushed, and the moustache that at times looked as though it was struggling to survive on the gaunt slope of his upper lip might have quivered. He would have thought that such a description was over-egging the cake. Modesty could have been one of Darwin’s forenames.
He never inserted himself unnecessarily into his copy. He rarely used superlatives, and in complete contrast to today’s practice, he never interviewed players. Darwin was so modest, in fact, that when he and Joyce Wethered won the mixed foursomes in 1933, he referred to himself in The Times as “the elderly gentleman whose name for the most escapes me”.
Yet has there been a writer since whose prose compared with the seamless tapestries that Darwin wove in the times from 1907 to 1953 and in Country Life from 1907 until 1961? He wrote an introduction to the Oxford Book of Quotations. He was an expert on Charles Dickens, and could and often would recite chunks from Dickens‘ novels. He wrote four volumes of autobiography, as well as slim volumes about British clubs, mens‘ clubs, that is, and the British public schools, which, being private, are, in fact, anything but public.
Most of all, he wrote about golf, and if you have a golf library and you do not have any volumes of Darwin on your shelves, then let me tell you this: You do not have a library.
There is a saying in Britain that “those who can, do, and those who can‘t, teach.” You might add that those who can‘t teach, write. Far from being unable to do any of these three, Darwin could have done them all with graceful ease. I have often thought that in his wide-ranging talents, he was like Bobby Jones, and how sad and ironic it was that these two gifted men should end their lives crippled in such ways that the one could not play and the other could not write.
Darwin could have taught, there’s no doubt about that; he gained an honours degree in both law and classics at Cambridge, and his knowledge of the classics meant he was comfortable with Latin and Greek. He would have been influenced by poets such as Homer.
Now, I stand to be corrected here, but I suspect that the nearest most of us have got to Homer is in watching “The Simpsons.”
Darwin had an acuity of mind that owed much of his forebears and his contemporaries. His was a very unusual family. Bernard trained as a lawyer and practiced law for a few years before, in his early 30s he sold his wig and gown and took up writing full time.
“Life was thrilling,” he wrote. “I had been a square peg in a round hole long enough to acquire sympathy with other misplaced people. Now I was to a large extent my own master. I settled down to do what I have done ever since; write weekly golf for The Times and Country Life.”
Most of all, though, Bernard Darwin could play golf. In “Green Memories”, his first volume of autobiography, he wrote, “I know there was a time when I did not play golf, and then after a blurred interval came a time when I played it with a force of enthusiasm not yet extinguished.” Twice a semi finalist in the Amateur, he represented England on eight occasions.
He reached the peak of his player career in 1922, when he was 46, and was in the U.S. to cover the first Walker Cup. When the British and Irish captain fell ill, Darwin was drafted to replace him as player and captain, and although he lost his foursomes, he defeated W.C. Fownes, the son of the founder of Oakmont Country Club in the singles. Darwin’s career was as long as a John Daly backswing. He started writing at the time of the great triumvirate, and although he had stopped writing for The Times in 1953, he continued wielding his pen for other publications until his death in 1961.
So in the body of his work, you have Darwin on Harry Vardon, James Braid and J.H. Taylor, the great triumvirate, who won 16 of 21 Open Championships, from 1894 to 1914. You have Vardon on Ted Ray, you have Vardon on Freddie Tate, John Ball and Harold Hilton, who we might as well call the great triumvirate of amateur golf. Indeed and in fact, you have Vardon on almost everybody else up ‘til the time when Jack Nicklaus was approaching the first tee.
Writing about Gene Sarazen, Darwin said the American reminded him of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland in the way his grin remained with us long after Sarazen himself had disappeared.
If you want to know how to report live golf, read Darwin on the 1913 U.S. Open where Francis Ouimet is sensationally tied with Vardon and Ray and then beat them the next day in a playoff. Darwin was the only British daily newspaper man to be present, and remarkably, it was he who marked Ouimet’s card during the tumultuous playoff.
Red Smith, the great American sports writer, was once asked how to be a good sports writer, and he replied, “Be there.”
The thing about Darwin was he was always there. He was present at Carnoustie when Hogan won the Open in 1953. We do not know what Hogan thought of Darwin, but we can guess that Hogan liked the thoughtful and insightful approach of the writer, and we know what Darwin thought of Hogan. After Hogan had won the Open by four strokes, Darwin commented, “If he had needed a 64 on his last round, you were quite certain he could have played a 64. Hogan gave the distinct impression he was capable of getting whatever score was needed to win.”
Darwin saw a considerable amount of Bobby Jones, and one suspects that he regarded Jones in much the same light as Herb Wind regarded him.
Here is what Darwin wrote in 1944 about Jones, the incomparable amateur. “I was in his company soon after he had finished his fourth round when he won the last of his three Open Championships here in 1930, and seeing him nearly past speech, I thought the time had come for him to call a halt and that this game could not much longer be worth such an agonizing cannel.” Darwin was always out on the golf course, for he believed he had to see as much as he could in order to understand and report on it.
Then in mid afternoon he would retire to a corner of the clubhouse and quickly write his day’s report in what can only be described as spidery handwriting. It would appear the next day under the by line of Our Golfing Correspondent. There were no vainglorious picture by-lines in those days, not in The Times anyway.
His writing was that of a master craftsman. As a fruit cake is full of raisins that you come upon with pleasure, so Darwin’s writing is easily recognizable by the way the reader comes coming upon literary references. He chipped away at paragraphs until they were as clear as a pane of glass. He chiselled away at sentences with the care of a draftsman that built Chartres Cathedral. At all times he wrote with gusto.
It was once noted in Britain that the quality of sportswriting got better as the size of the ball used in that sport got smaller. Thus the sports best served by literature are cricket, which has a ball slightly smaller than my hand, and golf, which has a ball one quarter or even less than the size of a cricket ball. Of the writing about these two sports, I think that golf has been the better served, and that is because of one man. His name is Bernard Darwin.
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