|The 2nd hole at Huntercombe (from www.golfclubatlas.com).|
There are a number of 'watershed' moments in the history of golf course design that I think qualify as 'game changers'.
First is the work of two-time Open champion Willie Park Jr. at Sunningdale and Huntercombe, on the outskirts of London (UK), at the turn of the 20th century; 1901, to be precise. Park's work at these two courses proved, for the first time, that courses comparable to the classic links could be constructed on inland sites. His work there, more or less, instigated a period of remarkable work lead by Englishman Harry Colt.
A few years later, beginning in 1910, Charles Blair Macdonald began creating the National Golf Links of America, out on the eastern tip of Long Island, New York. NGLA was the first truly great course on this side of the Atlantic to compare favourably with the best courses throughout the British Isles. Macdonald had traveled to the UK to study the best courses there, then implemented many of those time-tested design concepts (through his own interpretations) at NGLA. It was NGLA that set a new standard for golf course architecture in the United States, instigating the so-called Golden Age of golf course design, between the wars, in North America.
I also think Augusta National was a 'game changer'. The concept behind its original design, devised by Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie, was revolutionary. Loosely modeled after the Old Course at St. Andrews (Jones' and Mackenzie's favourite course), ANGC was designed to achieve what remains the 'ideal in golf architecture' - that is to present a course that challenges the world's best golfers but, at the same time, provides an enjoyable round for all caliber of players. When Augusta National opened for play, during the early 1930s, there was essentially no rough and only 22 bunkers (today there are 44). ANGC was geniusly designed around inherent slope and manufactured contour (greens) without reliance on artifical hazards. Legendary Canadian golf architect Vernon Macan once said (I'm paraphrasing, here): If you want to learn about golf course architecture, all you have to do is read the chapter in Bobby Jones' autobiography on the making of Augusta National.
Essentially, the same principles and concepts established and employed by the likes of Willie Park Jr., C.B. Macdonald, Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie remain the foundation of what we understand to be sound golf architecture.