It was in Leeds, at this course run by Julie Slater, where a famous doctor cut his teeth.
Think Dr Alister MacKenzie and a former nursery in Georgia, a club that hands out a green jacket every April, springs to mind. Augusta National was the crowning achievement of the ex-surgeon, who carved out an international career as a course architect. Cypress Point, Pasatiempo and Royal Melbourne are among his other most celebrated chievements but it is in Leeds where his design brief first began.
MacKenzie was one of the founder members of The Alwoodley in 1907 and was made honorary secretary. He laid out a course in quick time but it was not without incident that his innovative views would become commonplace.
MacKenzie learned lessons of camouflage during a stint in the Boer War and transferred these to golf – using artificial features to blend in with hollows and mounds already in the natural setting.
It was a golfing illusion. Bunkers looked more fearsome than they were, blind shots altered your perspective. These were visual tricks that put doubt in the mind of the player. But MacKenzie admitted the ‘worry’ his ideas caused among the new Alwoodley fraternity – writing in The Spirit of St Andrews tha “every committee meeting was a dog fight, and on many occasions we nearly came to blows”.
The first medals had already been played when Harry Colt, the most famous designer of the day, came to visit at the end of July 1907. It seems his chief task was to soothe concerns and, given how closely aligned his views on design were with the Dr’s, the latter’s fledgling career received a timely boost. What remains now is a remarkable testament to his talents. The 10th, a sweeping dogleg with a green sitting at the bottom, was an early model for Augusta’s famous 13th. While he became a prolific global designer, his link with Alwoodley remained. He was club captain and stayed on the greens committee until relocating to the US, where he would firmly establish his legacy. But it was in a corner of Leeds where the master of Augusta took his first steps.