Golf Australia

THE MAN WHO MADE AMERICA CHARLES BLAIR MACDONALD

Back in 1901, Golf Illustrated magazine asked the leading golfers of the day to give their opinion on the best holes in Great Britain. It was a poll intended to provoke interest, debate and perhaps a little controversy; it ended up inspiring the golf course architecture of an entire continent.

Each of the Great Triumvirate of Vardon, Taylor and Braid threw in their two-penn’orth; so did leading amateurs like Horace Hutchinson, Harold Hilton, Herbert Fowler and John Low. Despite the fact there were only about 400 courses to choose from, there was much variation in the responses. However, certain themes emerged. For the one-shotters, the Eden 11th at St Andrews Old and North Berwick West’s Redan 15th emerged as front-runners. Prestwick’s blind-approach Alps hole was a favoured two-shotter, while the Old Course’s 14th and 17th were the most popular three-shot options.

Following the debate with a keen eye from his home town of Chicago was a 46-year-old naturalised American named Charles Blair Macdonald. Wealthy, well-connected and forthright, Macdonald was a dominant force in the nascent American golf scene. He had been instrumental in setting up the United States Golf Association some seven years earlier. Smitten by the game after attending the University of St Andrews, he had had an illustrious career as an amateur player, even winning the first ever US Amateur in 1895. But as the years crept up on him, he found his mind increasingly turning to how he could become, in his own words, “not the game’s master but its servant”. poll would give him his direction.

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