Saturday, February 11, 2012

The passing of a legend.

The par-five 3rd hole on the South nine at York Downs.
Geoffrey St. John Cornish, designer of hundreds of golf courses - including New Ashburn and York Downs here, in Canada - died yesterday, age 97.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Mr. Cornish ended up spending most of his life living and working from Amherst, Massachusetts, from where he also authored many important books on golf course design and its history.

Other than York Downs, north of Toronto - where I'm now consulting on golf course improvements - I'm not very familiar with Mr. Cornish's design work. But his books - including The Architects of Golf, Golf Course Design, and Classic Golf Hole Design - are prominently displayed on my bookshelf. And I was fortunate to meet the man.

Spending a few days with him at Cape Breton Highlands Links a number of years ago now was priceless. Mr. Cornish was already into his 90s then but, with martini in hand, he enthusiastically shared some remarkable stories about working on the construction of Highlands Links as an associate of Stanley Thompson's during the late 1930s; and, with my full attention, talked candidly about Mr. Thompson himself.

Following that visit to Cape Breton, I was fortunate to be the recipient of a number of Mr. Cornish's cherished type-written letters. These letters would usually arrive at my house after I'd published an article in a magazine on some aspect of golf course architecture. Mr. Cornish was a prolific letter writer, and always very complimentary and genuinely encouraging with his words. His letters were incredibly thoughtful gestures which speak to the man's character.

Geoff Cornish's selfless contributions to golf and course architecture, and his admirable personal nature will certainly never be forgotten.

Here's Lorne Rubenstein on Mr. Cornish from yesterday's Globe and Mail:

More from Golf Course Architecture magazine, including a link to a recent interview with Mr. Cornish:

And, the Royal Canadian Golf Association's Hall of Fame profile:


  1. Wow. Would I have loved to be there for that conversation at Highlands Links.

    1. Me too - perhaps Jeff can share a few tidbits?

  2. I would love to take a trip over to have a round on this course.