Architects rank MacKenzie’s theories


Sean Dudley

A new survey of present-day golf architects has shown their views on Dr Alister MacKenzie’s ‘13 General Principles of Architecture’, originally published in his book The Spirit of St Andrews.

The study, which was completed by Sports Psychology Limited and Golden Golf Courses, asked golf architects to rank each of the 13 principles to give a general indication as to how important they are in a modern context.

The results, which were taken from the answers of over 500 industry experts, were surprising in how little the psychology of the golf architect has altered.

“Nearly a century may have passed since Dr MacKenzie laid down his treatise on how to design a golf course but very little seems to have changed a decade into the 21st century,” the report’s writers say. “This came as quite a surprise to the authors who had expected to see quite a different pattern of results as a direct result of the development of large land moving equipment that was not available in the early part of the twentieth century.”

Among MacKenzie’s criteria, principles such as: ‘There should be little walking between greens and tees’ and ‘The course should be so arranged that all levels of play can enjoy the round’ were especially popular among the answers given. However, ranked bottom of the list was MacKenzie’s eighth rule: ‘There should be a sufficient number of heroic carries’ – something that the report concluded was down to a sea change toward “strategy and enjoyment over length.”

The authors also invited respondents to name a fourteenth rule. The overall consensus was on the importance of safety within design, something which would not have been a major concern of past architects.