In just 25 short years as a golf course designer, Alister MacKenzie put together an incredible portfolio of design work that we still marvel at more than eighty years after his passing.
Several of his most well-known courses (think Augusta National and Cypress Point) are closed to non-members, but all is not lost for those hoping to play a classic MacKenzie gem.
Here are ten fantastic MacKenzie designs that allow non-member play:
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Lahinch (Ireland) -- A quintessential links along Ireland’s west coast, Lahinch has more variety than you will find in many other links designs. The natural setting next to Liscannor Bay provided a perfect canvas for MacKenzie, who made use of massive sand dunes and undulating terrain to created what, upon completion, he described as “the finest course that I, or I believe anyone else, ever constructed.”
Alwoodley (England) -- The club at Alwoodley was actually founded by MacKenzie near his hometown in central England, and the secluded, heathland layout was his first notable design project. The course utilizes punishing heather and tricky green complexes to challenge players throughout. The par three eleventh is probably the signature hole, with a forest of trees and beautiful bunkering surrounding one of the most intimidating greens you will find.
Moortown (Scotland) – Just across the road from Alwoodley, Moortown played host to the first Ryder Cup staged in Europe and was a regular stop on the European Tour in the 1980s. Given the club’s history, there is an aura of distinction that has fortified Moortown’s place among England’s significant courses. Fittingly, the course’s signature hole is called “Gibraltar” and it plays slightly up to a green situated on a rock outcropping.
Royal Melbourne (Australia) – Nestled inside a golfing paradise in Australia’s Sandbelt, the club’s West Course is widely regarded as the country’s best. Blind shots off the tee, treacherous putting surfaces and imposing bunkering are all part of the challenge. Part of MacKenzie’s philosophy was that a golf course should grow on you over time, and nowhere is that more true than at Royal Melbourne.
Pasatiempo (California) – The layout rises and falls in the hills along California’s coast, just an hour up the road from Pebble Beach. The peaceful front nine features majestic views across the Pacific on a clear day, but the difficult back-nine, featuring deep barrancas and forced carries, is most memorable.
Blairgowrie (Scotland) – Several of the 18 holes on the club’s Rosemount Course were designed by MacKenzie. The course is just inland from a few of Scotland’s famous links courses and is worth a visit if you are in the area. Towering trees that frame most of the course help create a beautiful, tranquil setting in which to play golf.
New South Wales (Australia) – Much like MacKenzie’s design at Cypress Point, New South Wales features a series of stunning clifftop holes. The course is built within the confines of the Botany Bay National Park and views across the Tasman Sea are plentiful. A round at New South Wales is quite possibly the most memorable round of golf you can play in Australia.
Cork (Ireland) – It seems that part of Alister MacKenzie’s genius was picking fantastic properties with which to work, and the 130-year old club in Ireland’s second largest city is no exception. Cork Golf Club is absolutely beautiful, with a series of holes along Lough Mahon and a unique stretch that ventures into an old rock quarry.
Kingston Heath (Australia) – The course has, arguably, the best bunkering of any course in the world and that is mostly a credit to Dr. MacKenzie. Dan Soutar actually designed most of the course but MacKenzie was called on to give his input and the result is a brilliant arrangement of bunkered holes that has withstood the test of time.
Titirangi (New Zealand) – MacKenzie’s only design in New Zealand was conceived during his short stint in Auckland in 1926. With several ravines and a rolling terrain, the course feels a lot like Pasatiempo, especially on the par 3s, which are the standout holes. The course has actually been reworked in recent years but it still naturally blends into the landscape, a trademark of every MacKenzie course.
Jonathan Alden is a contributor at Golf News Net and the founder of Worldwide Golf Adventures, a golf travel company based in Austin, TX that offers dream vacations to the world's top golf destinations.