Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bernard Darwin on architecture.

Bernard Darwin.
The greatest golf writer of them all is Bernard Darwin (1876-1961); and, his writings on 'golfing architecture' (Darwin's term) are essential reading for serious students of golf. Whenever I'm asked which books on golf course architecture are most important, I always include The Golf Courses of the British Isles, which Darwin published in 1910. There's also an excellent chapter in his 1944 book, Golf Between Two Wars, simply titled 'Architecture'.

In that particular chapter, 'Architecture', Darwin discusses the philosophies and works of some of the most influential thinkers and pioneers in the field, including John Low, Harry Colt, Herbert Fowler, Tom Simpson and J.F. Abercromby. To my mind, the following paragraph - written nearly 70 years ago - neatly sums up the what is, really, 'modern golf course architecture'. Darwin writes:

They have, I think, generally speaking eschewed the mere punishing of a bad shot directly and for its own sake have rather tried to contrive that it shall ultimately bring its punishment in the subsequent play of the hole. They have not come down like a hundred of bricks on the bad player, who will always have plenty of trouble of his own, but have insisted as far as may be that the strong player shall be set problems. They have held out baits, tempting him with great advantages if he will make a particularly bold and accurate shot and trapping him if it is not quite accurate enough. They have tried more and more to match their wits against the player. They have demanded that he shall do more than hit what he calls a good shot, just because it is hard and clean, and that he shall hit it to a particular place. In their own language they have discarded the penal for the strategic. Many examples might be given from many courses which have been made or greatly altered between wars, but if I had to choose one as embodying the spirit of modern architecture I think it should be the eighth on the New Course at Addington laid out by Mr. Abercromby. The hole, as many people know, is but the length of a drive and a pitch; it is 350 yards or so and the drive runs rather downhill. There is apparently most ample room into which to drive from the tee. The green is narrow, guarded in front by a pond and having one bunker eating its way into the right-hand side of the green and another guarding the left flank. The whole point of the hole is in the angle at which the green is placed. Only the player who holds his tee shot well to the left-hand side, almost skirting the rough, is ideally placed for his second, having the length of the green in which to pitch. He who goes straight down the middle or drives to the right is faced with a shot which it is intensely difficult to keep on the green. An apparently simple hole is in fact extremely subtle.

Unfortunately, the New course at The Addington (1933) no longer exists; but, you can read about, and see some of Abercromby's original 1912 design there - the Old course, which is located just 13 miles from the centre of London, England - here, at

And, for more on Bernard Darwin, click here

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