Charles Blair MacDonald was the father of golf in America.
He won the inaugural U.S. Amateur in 1895, was instrumental in founding the USGA, and helped bring the Scottish game to the U.S.A.
He will be best remembered however for his contribution as a golf course architect.
His resume, along with protege Seth Raynor, who kept the business going after MacDonald's demise- is impressive.
He built the country's first course in 1893, and built noted courses such as Chicago GC, Yale, The Creek Club, Sleepy Hollow and The Old White at Greenbrier.
C.B. MacDonald dreamed of building the definitive golf course, and after purchasing land on Long Island near Shinnecock Hills he set about making it happen, opening National Golf Links of America in 1909.
MacDonald had done his research on the classic links courses in the U.K., and had come up with a formula which he and Raynor applied to all the courses they built.
Effectively they took the strategy from the great links holes, and either copied the holes themselves, or built holes that used the same strategies.
When you play a MacDonald/Raynor course you will be able to readily identify template holes such as Redan, Short, Eden, Long, The Alps etc- copies of holes in St Andrews, Nth Berwick etc.
You will also find original holes that have the same look and feel as the template holes, but are either originals, or hybrids..
The National Golf Links was C.B. MacDonalds's crowning glory and he continued to refine the course and oversee the club he had formed for some 25 years...
We were fortunate enough a few years back to play National Golf Links with some very knowledgeable locals who guided us around the links and educated us at the same time.
Having played a lot of links golf in the UK we understood the significance of the template holes.
It was quite fun to recognise the template holes and their origin.
The holes at National Golf Links are (with replica or template holes referenced with the original):
2. Sahara (Royal St Georges)
3. Alps (Prestwick)
4. Redan (Nth Berwick)
5. Hog's back
6. Short (The Old Course at St Andrews)
7. St Andrews (Road hole from The Old Course at St Andrews)
8. Bottle (The Old Course at Sunningdale)
9. Long (The Old Course at St Andrews)
13. Eden (The Old Course at St Andrews)
My favourite holes include:
- the rollicking Alps hole with it's blind second shot to a wild green.
- the Redan hole is possibly the best Redan I have seen.
- The National version of Short is also impressive, and I loved the front right pin position.
- Cape is a picturesque and challenging hole, and with water on the right all the way one has to be careful of fairway contours kicking your drive the wrong way.
It's a lovely second shot, when you are succesful.
- I always enjoy Punchbowl greens, and hole 16 at National Golf Links is a beauty- perhaps the setting adds to the overall majesty of the hole with the windmill standing guard, and Peconic Bay as the backdrop...
Finally I enjoyed the home hole with glorious views of the Bay to the right. This par 5 climbs up past the wonderful old clubhouse, and past what appears to be the biggest flagpole in the world! The approach can be blind, but it is a quality green complex and a nice hole to finish.
National Golf Links has been consistently regarded as one of the best 15 courses in the world by different rating agencies, and has clearly stood the test of time.
Although no major championship have been held there, National has hosted the Walker Cup and a number of top amateur events.
When the greens are quick it would be a fearsome prospect!
The first green in particular has some wild contours, and I could imagine it would be quite entertaining to watch the professionals play if greens were fast!
National Golf Links of America is a private members club.
The Travelling Golfer offers group tours to the great golfing destinations of the world.
For further information see Golf Tours USA
Please enquire here: