We take a look at the best work of arguably the greatest golf course designer ever, Harry Colt.
What Courses Has Harry Colt Designed?
Harry Colt is one of the greatest golf course designers of all time, with his layouts from the early 20th century remaining some of our greatest courses still in the modern day.
The Londoner studied law in Cambridge where he was the Golf Club’s captain in 1889 before becoming a solicitor.
However, a mere five years later he laid out his first golf course at Rye and then later became Sunningdale Golf Club’s first captain.
Here we take a look at some of Colt’s finest creations:
Herbert Fowler, James Braid and Harry Colt have all left their mark on this out-and-back links that is nestled beautifully between rolling hills and the railway on one side, and the beach on the other.
On the Suffolk coast, set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Aldeburgh is a historic layout, one that originally dates from the 1880s.
Willie Park Jnr, J.H. Taylor and Harry Colt made alterations in the early part of the 20th century and, more recently, Ken Brown and Ken Moodie have been responsible for some subtle changes to keep the test of golf current.
Colt teamed up with Dr Alister MacKenzie for this layout located on the outskirts of Leeds. The course, which starts off with a delightful-looking opener, is still predominantly MacKenzie’s design, and indeed, the current five-year improvement programme has seen a number of his original bunkers brought back to life.
This totally engaging par 69 in Hampshire celebrated its centenary in 2013 and is the very epitome of flying under the radar. Blessed with five very appealing short holes, its crisp, firm fairways are lined by heather, pine, birch and oak. All but two of Colt’s original holes remain, and you can’t help but think that if this was not far away in the Surrey stockbroker belt and just a little longer, it would be far more widely known.
Running over an undulating and expansive acreage of heathland that could easily accommodate a second course, this charming and extremely varied course was designed by Tom Dunn with major modifications by Harry Colt. Broadstone Golf Club, with 18 holes that are all unique challenges, is one of South England’s premier heathland courses and one of Bournemouth’s Big Three along with Parkstone and Ferndown.
Burnham and Berrow
Generally credited to the genius of Harry Colt, this expansive and challenging Top 100 course has also benefited from the creative input of Herbert Fowler, Hugh Alison, Alister MacKenzie, and the first-ever editor of Golf Monthly, Harold Hilton. Over the last 115 years Burnham & Berrow has played host to more than 50 significant amateur competitions. With tight fairways, impressive sand hills and thick rough, Burnham & Berrow is a daunting prospect. Standing on the first tee straining your eyes to try and make out the fairway, you realise pretty quickly this is a course where accuracy from the tee is paramount.
Climbing away from the clubhouse here you find yourself presented with a tremendous panorama of the course. It’s an incredible setting for golf where you feel encircled by the sea. Designed by Harry Colt this is a classic Irish links.
Formby is a unique course. Predominantly it’s a links with fast-running fairways, deep bunkers and firm greens. Originally it was designed as a nine-hole course for some members before Willie Park Jr made it 18 holes. James Braid and Harry Colt then made alterations in 1922 and 1933 respectively. Donald Steel has also made revisions due to coastal erosion.
Colt remodelled Hankley Common in 1936 which many believe is the reason it has become such an iconic course in England. The surrounding area has been designated a site of specific scientific interest and you’d struggle to find another course sitting in such a large swathe of land. The setting is truly beautiful with birches, rowans, pines and oaks in their thousands. Dating from 1897 with additions by James Braid in 1922, this layout is memorable for its sheer quality as well as its beauty.
The design of Muirfield offers subtle excellence. No single hole will jump out and knock you over, but by the time you’ve finished you can remember the simple beauty and measured presentation of each one. Originally put together by Old Tom Morris, Tom Simpson and Harry Colt made alterations in the 1920’s.
A man called George Crump started putting together the holes at Pine Valley in 1912 before Colt cast his eye over the land in 1914. It truly is one of the finest golf courses in the world and some say the ultimate test.
Royal County Down
Now 125 years old, the course has evolved thanks to the influence of some of golf’s finest architects, including Old Tom Morris and Colt. The Mountains of Mourne provide a glorious backdrop, and when the gorse or heather are in bloom, it’s hard to imagine a lovelier place to play.
Host to The Open Championship on 12 occasions, Royal Liverpool or Hoylake is one of the most historic clubs and courses in the country. It was originally put together by George Morris, Old Tom’s brother, along with Robert Chambers but Colt came in to make alterations to holes like the 11th, 13th and 17th.
Members at Royal Porthcawl can thank both Harry Colt and Tom Simpson for their design genius, but perhaps more than that, they can be grateful for a wonderful tract of land that slopes gently upwards away from the beach creating sea views from start to finish.
The Dunluce Course was designed by the great Colt and even before its recent changes there were plenty who felt it was a contender for the best course in the whole of Ireland. The Dunluce is a very natural links that sits in harmony with its environment.
Founded in 1894 the original layout at Rye was designed by a 25-year-old Harry Colt. Even at that young age his talent for visualising and creating attractive and exciting holes was evident. This is a hugely characterful layout.
Situated to the east of Mansfield, Sherwood Forest has long been one of Nottinghamshire’s premier clubs, but in recent year’s this fine Harry Colt heathland layout, later refined by James Braid, has been catching a far wider eye. Played over springy heathland turf across fairways lined by heathers and a fine variety of trees, Sherwood Forest delivers a supremely attractive setting for golf and terrain that is ideally suited for the game.
St George’s Hill (Red and Blue)
Another stunning Colt creation, the holes run through magnificent pine and over abundant heather, and, as at Sunningdale, you could easily feel like you had stepped back half a century or more. There are gentle but significant elevation changes which add to the visual impact at the same time as questioning club selection, and the unique and instantly recognisable clubhouse is perfectly situated above the greens that close each nine.
Sunningdale (Old and New)
Colt had a big effect on golf at Sunningdale. Not only did he design the New course which opened for play in 1923, but he also was the first captain at the club and helped redesign the Old course too. Both are challenging tracks set across stunning heathland with fairways lined by testing rough and punishing heather.
Imagine the most perfect picture of a beautiful, traditional, pine-clad golf course in the London stockbroker belt, and that picture is Swinley Forest. A sublime balance of fun and variety make this one of Harry Colt’s greatest legacies. Swinley Forest is one of a kind – no captain, no strokeplay competitions – very much its own club. The course appears in many world lists, and is one that lives up to the highest expectations.
The course at Tandridge offers a game of two halves with the flatter and strategic front nine leading to a rollercoaster and scenic ride back home. Colt designed the course at Tandridge which opened for play in 1924
For many the combination of a classic seaside test with the design touches of a master like Harry Colt is hard to beat. His work at Trevose on the north Cornwall coast is a prime example of a course that offers challenge and fairness in equal measure.
Other notable mentions: Barton-on-Sea, Bath, Belvoir Park, Berlin Wannsee, Biarritz Le Phare, Camberley Heath, Cannes-Mandelieu, Castle Golf Club, Castlerock (Mussenden), East Devon, Eindhovensche, Frankfurter, Granville (Links), Hamburger Falkenstein, Hamilton (West & South), Hilversumsche, Isle of Purbeck, Kennemer, Le Touquet (Le Mer), Little Aston, Luffenham Heath, Montrose (Medal), North Hants, Pyle and Kenfig, Real Puerta de Hierro (Arriba), Royal Dublin, Royal Wimbledon, Royal Worlington & Newmarket, Royal Zoute, Saint-Cloud (Vert), Saint Germain (Grand Parcours), Sandiway, Southerndown, Stoke Park, Thorndon Park, Toronto, Wentworth (East and West), Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin), Utrecht de Pan
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