It’s no surprise that playing an
Alister MacKenzie course usually
feels like a battle between man and
nature — it was while serving as a civil
surgeon in South Africa’s Boer War
that MacKenzie learned the tricks of
his trade. The good doctor became
intrigued by the Boers’ strategic use
of camouflage. It was a lesson he
passed on to us as an architect.
MacKenzie designed some of
the world’s best courses — including
Cypress Point, Royal Melbourne and
of course, Augusta National. His
legacy includes precious few public-
access courses, but there are still a
some choice locations where you
can sample the doctor’s medicine.
Here’s where to start.
Pasatiempo Golf Club
Santa Cruz, Calif.
6,439 yards, par 70; Greens fees:
In the early 1930s, MacKenzie
said, “I have always wanted to live
where one could practice shots in
one’s pajamas before breakfast.”
He promptly retired to a home off
the sixth fairway on his greatest
public-access course, which made
its debut in 1929. Don’t be fooled
by Pasatiempo’s lack of length.
Rolling terrain, slender fairways,
bold bunkering and quick, canted
greens make for a relentless test.
Lahinch Golf Club
County Clare, Ireland
6,882 yards, par 72; Greens fees:
Old Tom Morris gets credit for
Lahinch, but MacKenzie created
14 new holes in 1927, so give the
doctor his due. MacKenzie infused
the layout with his brand of drama
and beauty, managing to make them
vexing tests for scratch golfers while
still giving middle handicappers a
Northwood Golf Club
Monte Rio, Calif.
2,893 yards, par 36; Greens fees:
$27-$42 (18 holes); 707-865-1116,
Playing golf amid towering red-
woods is like flaunting a fur coat at a
PETA rally — you know you shouldn’t
do it, but it’s just so much fun. Many
of the strategic features of this 1928
nine-holer have eroded over time,
but it still exudes a MacKenzie aura.
Royal Melbourne (West Course)
Black Rock, Victoria, Australia
6,589 yards, par 72; Greens fees:
The West Course has some of the
most brilliant bunkering anywhere.
Without water hazards or gimmicks,
this MacKenzie course could be the
game’s purest great design.