Alwoodley and Augusta National
What the most famous course in the world has in common with Alwoodley
Dr Alister MacKenzie, the man responsible for designing the most photographed golf course in the world, never actually got to see Augusta National host the Masters.
He sadly died, pleading poverty, in the January of 1934, just two months before the first tournament was played that spring.
His design career had begun some 27 years earlier when he laid out a new course to the north of Leeds – it was called Alwoodley.
A founder member and the first secretary of Alwoodley, MacKenzie, who was born in Wakefield to Scottish parents, studied at Cambridge and practised as a surgeon. He also served in the Boer War at the turn of the century – but as a camofleur rather than as a doctor.
His experiences in South Africa were to provide him with inspiration for his golf course designs: specifically the way in which the native Boers made “the best use of natural cover and the construction of artificial cover indistinguishable from nature”.
These are features of MacKenzie courses around the world – from Augusta National in Georgia to Royal Melbourne in Australia.
And it was at Alwoodley that his first had the chance to put his theories into practice.
“It was at Alwoodley that MacKenzie first had the chance to put his theories into practice”
By the time that he was approached by the great amateur, Bobby Jones, to help him create a defining venue for championships in America, MacKenzie had become, along with Harry Colt, the most sought-after architect in golf.
Jones had just announced his retirement, at the age of just 28, having completed the Impregnable Quadrilateral in 1930. This involved winning each of that year’s biggest four events: the US Amateur and US Open, along with the British Amateur and the Open Championship.
Augusta National would, he hoped, offer him respite from the demands of his fame and also prove a sound investment.
Unfortunately for MacKenzie, in the era of the Great Depression, even Augusta was suffering from financial difficulties and he died without receiving his due fee. Nevertheless, by then what was previously a fruit plantation had been transformed into a golfing cathedral.
Getting on for a century later, the good doctor would be hugely proud of his legacy to the game.
To this day, Augusta, Cypress Point and Royal Melbourne are widely regarded to be among the best 10 golf courses in the world. In total, there are over 100 courses that bear his name.
Back here at Alwoodley, where it all began, a portrait of the great architect still hangs proudly in the clubhouse.
And the course is still relatively unaltered from what he left over a century ago.