Born on 30 August 1870 in England, Alister MacKenzie originally trained as a surgeon, and then served as a civilian doctor during the Boer War.
He became aware of and adept on the use of camouflage during that war, and was later able to use this knowledge in golf course design using the natural terrain to maximum effect.
MacKenzie designed more than 50 golf courses world wide and is regarded as one of the great golf course designers- perhaps THE best!
He was able to to combine playability, natural looking terrain, and sound strategy to give players multiple ways to play a hole.
His legacy includes his 13 principles for an ideal golf course design :
- The course, where possible, should be arranged in two loops of nine holes.
- There should be a large proportion of good two-shot holes, and at least four one-shot holes.
- There should be little walking between the greens and tees, and the course should be arranged so that in the first instance there is always a slight walk forwards from the green to the next tee; then the holes are sufficiently elastic to be lengthened in the future if necessary.
- The greens and fairways should be sufficiently undulating, but there should be no hill climbing.
- Every hole should be different in character.
- There should be a minimum of blindness for the approach shots.
- The course should have beautiful surroundings, and all the artificial features should have so natural an appearance that a stranger is unable to distinguish them from nature itself.
- There should be a sufficient number of heroic carries from the tee, but the course should be arranged so that the weaker player with the loss of a stroke, or portion of a stroke, shall always have an alternate route open to him.
- There should be infinite variety in the strokes required to play the various holes--that is, interesting brassie shots, iron shots, pitch and run up shots.
- There should be a complete absence of the annoyance and irritation caused by the necessity of searching for lost balls.
- The course should be so interesting that even the scratch man is constantly stimulated to improve his game in attempting shots the has hitherto been unable to play.
- The course should so be arranged that the long handicap player or even the absolute beginner should be able to enjoy his round in spite of the fact that he is piling up a big score. In other words, the beginner should not be continually harassed by losing strokes from playing out of sand bunkers. The layout should be so arranged that he loses strokes because he is making wide detours to avoid hazards.
- The course should be equally good during winter and summer, the texture of the greens and fairways should be perfect and the approaches should have the same consistency as the greens.
Amazingly these principles are equally as valid now, nearly a hundred years after they were written...
Notable MacKenzie courses include:
Augusta National GC
Cypress Point GC
Royal Melbourne West
MacKenzie visited Australia for 3 months October- December 1926, and made a huge impact.
Apart from his groundbreaking work on Royal Melbourne's West course, Dr McKenzie also consulted to and had an influence on: Royal Queensland GC, Manly GC, Royal Sydney GC, New South Wales GC, Royal Adealaide GC, Metropolitan GC, Kingston Heath GC, Barwon Heads GC & Flinders GC & more...
Dr MacKenzie was responsible for designing a number of the best and most revered courses in the world.
His design principles have influenced many of the architects of the modern era.
The courses continue to set a benchmark
You could say that he good doctor has left the game in good health!