Probably the greatest designer you have never heard of, we take a look at Simpson's work.
What Courses Has Tom Simpson Designed?
His name in the history of golf design may get lost because of the giants Old Tom Morris and Harry Colt, but Tom Simpson has produced an incredible resume of courses that deserve recognition. Lets take a look at some of his finest pieces of work.
Situated on the Atlantic coast in County Kerry, Ballybunion Old has been presenting a considerable challenge to golfers since the links was first laid out in 1892. The original layout is believed to have been done by Jo McKenna, slightly altered by Lionel Hewson before Simpson and Molly Gourlay got their hands on it. It has remained largely unchanged since then.
A Tom Simpson design with more recent work by Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie, the course is set amongst sand dunes with the wind and the noise of the sea ever-present. The four strong short holes and the excellent putting surfaces stand out. What you see is what you get; 18 strong links holes presented in tip-top condition, with some of the finest greens in Ireland.
Cruden Bay (Championship)
Old Tom Morris and Archie Simpson put together the original layout before Tim Simpson and Herbert Fowler redeveloped the layout during the 1920’s.
Looking out over the links from the elevated clubhouse, the dune-land here looks as though it was designed for golf. This is a rugged and natural links where the golfing test has remained consistent for the past 100 years.
Set amongst the beautiful Fontainbleau forest, the 18-hole course was originally put together by Julien Chantepie before Simpson made changes to it 10 years later.
Nearly every bygone golfing great lending a design hand over the years, including Harry Vardon (club professional from 1896 to 1903), James Braid, JH Taylor, Harry Colt, Dr Alister MacKenzie and Tom Simpson. The heathland layout in the Vale of Pickering boasts deep bunkers to that rival and match Woodhall Spa’s, and swathes of gorse courtesy of a planting programme in the 1930s, so it can defend itself admirably when the wind sweeps in as it often does.
Hardelot (Les Pins)
The club was formed in 1905 but Simpson’s course hit the golfing world in 1931 and has been amazing all before it since then. It has many similarities to English courses in the Surrey area, The Berkshire’s for example.
After J.H. Taylor had done his work in the early 20th century, Simpson reconstructed Hayling in the 1930’s reducing the number of blind shots, instead looking to route the course through the dunes.
Morfontaine (Grand Parcours)
Widely regarded as one of Simpson’s finest courses, the 18-holes at Morfontaine came about in 1927 and has remained one of Europe’s top destinations ever since.
Old Tom Morris laid out Muirfield as a 16-holer in 1891 before Simpson and Harry Colt made alterations during the 1920’s. Their design and work has stood the test of time as Muirfield has become one of the key courses on the Open rota and is often regarded as the fairest test by professionals.
The course was originally laid out by Archie and Robert Simpson of Carnoustie, before Tom Simpson, J.H. Taylor and James Braid had their input too. This is a classic out-and-back Scottish links with narrow and rumpled fairways, sloping greens, testing run-off areas and perilous bunkers. The front nine delivers one of the finest stretches of links holes to be found anywhere in the world and the back nine provides a thorough test of strategy and ball striking.
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. One of the real joys of Royal Porthcawl is that rather than one or two standout holes, there are eighteen fresh and different challenges.
Founded in 1894 the original layout at Rye was designed by a 25-year-old Harry Colt before Simpson and Sir Guy Campbell got involved. This is historic golf over fast-running turf the way it was designed to be played. There are some excellent long par 4s, and each of the five, delightful short holes is that perfect, but usually elusive, mix of golfing test and visual treat.
Other notable mentions: Ashridge, Blackwell, Carlow (Deerpark), Chantilly (Vineuil), Chiberta, Cowdray Park, Jakarta, Lys Chantilly (Les Chenes), Malaga, New Zealand, North Hants, Royal Antwerp, Royal Belgium, Zurich
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