The world of golf has many pioneers who have left their mark on the game we so enjoy. Whether this is Alister MacKenzie sculpting out landmarks in the iconic golf courses of Augusta National and Cypress Point or 18-time Major Champion Jack Nicklaus taking his legendary on-the-course experience into creating memorable playing tests at Monte Rei, Gleneagles and St Mellion, designers both new and old are leaving an indelible impression across the golfing world.
We’re going to take a look at the designs of many famous golf course architects, from Colt to Player and almost everyone in-between. Whether new or old, Championship monster or local municipal, the great layouts that have been left for us golfers to enjoy are a great talking point and a key reason in where and why we decide to go on our next golfing trip.
The Golden Bear. Holder of a record 18-major titles and a designer of dozens of golf courses across the world. Mr Nicklaus’ playing style and desire to test the best is clear to see across many of his golf courses in the UK and Europe.
Nicklaus’ designs in the UK and Ireland include Cornwall’s St Mellion. An utterly unique design which utilises the undulating and mature terrain to create a golf course that is regarded as one of the toughest in England. As a past host to the European Tour on no less than 7 occasions, St Mellion’s quality is underlined by the golfers who have triumphed here. 1990 saw Jose Maria Olazabal win with a -9 72 hole total, beating Ian Woosnam by just 1 shot. The 1991 Champion was Bernhard Langer who managed to hold off Vijay Singh with a 4-round total of -2. 1994’s Champion was Seve Ballesteros who finished 3 shots ahead of Sir Nick Faldo to win 1 of his 50 record European Tour Titles.
Nicklaus’ championship credentials can be seen in Perthshire at The PGA Centenary Course, the jewel in the golfing crown at Gleneagles. As the host of The 2014 Ryder Cup, the Nicklaus designed course at Gleneagles was the scene of a memorable European victory. The PGA Centenary golf course is revered as one of the most testing driving golf courses anywhere in the world with precision off the tee required as well as accuracy to ensure you can get the best angles into the large greens.
Additional Jack Nicklaus designs can be found in Murcia with numerous golf courses on offer including the hugely impressive Alhama Golf Course. Alhama is considered to be one of the best in the region with fast and tricky greens complemented by numerous water hazards. Those heading slightly north from here are sure to enjoy the resort golf on offer at the very popular Melia Villaitana near Benidorm, Alicante. Whilst the Levante is perfectly suitable for mixed handicap groups, it can provide an amazing test of the championship markers for even the very best of golfers.
One of Nicklaus’ designs that has received the most acclaim in recent times was that done at Monte Rei. This luxury resort provides the very highest quality of accommodation and food which is more than matched by what’s on offer on the golf course. Set through mature Portuguese countryside, the course takes advantage of natural valleys and provides an excellent challenge off the tee. The final hole is a great example of risk and reward. The par-5 18th hole provides a great opportunity of a birdie but the risk is clear with a large water hazard in play on the majority of the right-hand side of the hole.
Colt could easily be considered to be the world’s great golf course architect. As the designer of not only Sunningdale’s New Golf Course, he was also the club’s 1st secretary, but also of Pine Valley in New Jersey, a club that has been considered 1 of the best golf courses in the world since such rankings began, Colt’s quality and achievements are absolutely without question.
Colt’s work also extends to The Open Championship as the designer of the 2019 Open Championship venue, Royal Portrush. The Dunluce Golf Course at Portrush is noted as being one of the most dramatic links golf courses anywhere in the world with a stunning setting and incredible dunes framing much of the front 9.
Another Open Championship golf course with Colt’s work on it is the only course on The Open Rota which starts with a par-3. Royal Lytham and St Anne’s can boast Open Champions such as Bobby Jones and Gary Player so the quality of course of there for all to see.
Considered by many to be the pioneer of modern golf. Arnold Palmer left a great legacy both on and off the course. His annual event at Bay Hill on The PGA Tour, 7 Major Championships and 90 professional wins show a legend of the game who will be remembered for his professionalism, incredible golf and charity work off the course.
Golfer’s wanting to experience an Arnold Palmer designed golf course can head to some of Europe’s top golf courses. Whether it is at the incredibly popular South Course at La Manga Club which has held the Spanish Open and also entertains thousands of golfers taking holidays in Murcia each year, the testing Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course in The Algarve which is a staple on The European Tour as host of The Portuguese Masters where winners have included Lee Westwood, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington.
Palmer’s work is also praised in Ireland as the designer of an incredibly spectacular links layout in the South West at Tralee. Palmer’s work at The K Club has become one of Europe’s top golf courses. As a regular stop on The European Tour (more than 10 times) as well as host to The 2006 Ryder Cup, The K Club is a lush green parkland layout that provides a thoroughly rewarding round of golf, regardless of the standard of play.
With numerous other greats of the game from Gary Player to Alister MacKenzie having created memorable golf courses, it’s easy to see why so many want to play these type of golf courses year after year as they’re guaranteed to provide a great golf experience.