Nowadays we are used to a course having 18-holes, but this was not always the case. Many started out with nine, or even less – St Andrews is a prominent example. It originally had twelve and the course was generally played twice.
Definition to the game and its architecture can mainly be attributed to the three great architects of golf, Harry Colt, Alister Mackenzie and James Braid. The three men designed courses and modified existing courses, setting down the blue print of the architecture we see on most golf courses today.
Colt worked predominantly with Alister Mackenzie as a partnership for many years. MacKenzie went to Australia on Colt’s behalf, whilst Colt saw to enquiries from the mainland of Europe, North America, and the Far East. These great architects produced impressive results, but tension between the two eventually saw Mackenzie’s departure. Colt later formed Colt Alison & Morrison in 1928 with Charles Alison and John Morrison, with the partnership designing or redisigning some 300 courses.
Whilst MacKenzie and Harry Colt were drawn to other countries, James Braid's fear of flying limited his ventures. Having designed only one course in the United States, he never actually visited the site. Instead, Braid travelled the length and breadth of Britain constructing golf courses after his playing career began to subside. He created over 250 courses in the United Kingdom, the best of them in his homeland. Braid is remembered for his inland courses in the UK, most noteably The Kings Course at Gleneagles.
Colt himself was the key influence to Belgium and Holland, whereas Mackenzie on the other hand, whilst notching up several designs in the UK, is mainly recognised for his brilliance in the design of Augusta National.
Designs tended to follow trends, with the dogleg becomming a feature from these early 20th century designers. This type of design was unusual on links courses favoured by Colt as they mainly follow coastline. However, Braid made plentiful use for them on inland layouts as holes often wound their way through trees and hillsides.
Bunkers in particular pulled everything together, Colt, perhaps staying closer to what he saw on the coast, preferred a small but deep punishment for error, not the shallow pits that so many modern designers now favour, MacKenzie preferred flourishes of sand in strategic places warning the player of pending danger, whereas Braid favoured bunkers that defended the green.
In essence, the three designers loosely followed the same three rules, being that firstly, early holes should ease you into the round, secondly, routing of the course would be determined by the land, and thirdly, ideal courses would make use of every club in the bag. Advances in technology and design have since dispensed of these loose rules, as courses have become increasingly challenging to suit the modern day player and equipment. Augusta as an example, is far departed from its original design.