Geoffrey Cornish, the last surviving direct link to golf architecture’s pre-war Golden Age, died today at the age of 97, at his home in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Cornish, who got his start in the golf business working for Stanley Thompson – there is an iconic photo of him as a young man with the large crew that built Highlands Links in Cape Breton – later moved to New England, and left an indelible mark on the region’s golf community. Architects such as Brian Silva and Mark Mungeam, for many years his partners, got their start with him, and others, notably Tom Doak, first learned the game on one of his courses.
Cornish wrote many books, including the landmark reference work The Architects of Golf, with Ron Whitten, who, on hearing the news of his death, reflected: “I'm still not as old as Geoff was when we started our first book together. I guess I thought he'd last forever.”
Cornish served overseas with the Canadian Army during World War II, but rejoined Thompson in 1946. He left for a five-year association with turfgrass scientist Lawrence Dickinson at the University of Massachusetts before opening his own practice in 1952. Cornish joined the American Society of Golf Course Architects in 1967 and served as ASGCA president in 1975-76.
GCA was fortunate enough to conduct Cornish's last detailed interview, two years ago. Our reporter Anthony Pioppi described him as ‘a bit frail’, but said ‘The Cornish mind is still sharp and his wit remains’. As did his appetite for life: he took Pioppi out to lunch, with which he consumed two martinis! A teacher all his life, he knew the value of that work. “I guess teaching is the noblest calling of them all,” he told Pioppi.
Cornish was predeceased by his wife Carol. No formal funeral services are planned.
Read our interview with Geoffrey Cornish, the last detailed one he gave, from 2010