Golf in Northern Ireland – Royal Portrush Colt Design

The 2019 Open Championship has been allocated to Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.

Read about the famous Golf Architect who designed the Dunluce course in 1929 and Valley course in 1932 at Royal Portrush.

He died in November 1951 about 4 months after Royal Portrush hosted its its first Open Championship. The Open will return to these famous links in for only the second time after 68 years.

Harry Colt Golf Architect (1869 to 1951)

Harry Colt had a tremendous influence on British golf course design along with James Braid and Alister MacKenzie. He came on the scene in 1894 at the age of 25. At this time seaside courses were well-regarded and inland courses were poor by comparison. Courses built inland did not merge with the landscape and no creativity was applied to building each course. Colt totally changed the construction of inland courses and was also involved with improving linksland designs such as Royal Lytham & St Annes and Royal Portrush. Inland he built many top ranked courses such as The New Course at Sunningdale, Swinley Forest, Wentworth and a host of lesser known but delightful courses that still admire and play to his design some 100 years later. Some modern golf course architects specialize in restoring Colt courses.

Colt admired linksland courses for their beauty and their natural regularity, he set out to replicate it on heathland, moorland, parkland and downland. He developed principles which he applied consistently.

Harry Colt Principles

  1. Work with the natural features of the site and any landscape changes should look natural. He believed that for an attractive piece of ground to be made into a pleasing golf course the designer should utilize its natural features and not overdevelop them.
  2. Apply links playing characteristics and conditions on inland courses. His layouts would have undulations on fairways and on greens and the routing would  
  1. Systematically route the course, whilst presenting the player with infinite variety
  2. Stimulate the player to think strategically with his (tee) shots
  3. Defend the green by its location, size and surrounding hazards rather than through an extreme putting surface
  4. Design severe for the scratch player, but sympathetic for the bogey player

Colt’s designed his courses for all standards of golfer but he wanted them to be “thinkers”, players who could plot their way over eighteen holes. He planned his first hole to be fairly comfortable so that all players could get away easily and there was no congestion early in the round. He designed courses to take advantage of the natural contours of the land, so hills, valleys, ditches, trees, etc. we’re incorporated into the design. He believed that “a good shot should be rewarded and a poor shot punished”.

On bunkers he stated “some bunkers are necessary for defining the manner the various holes should be played”. He appreciated that bunkers could set a different challenge for the high handicapper and the scratch player. Most important was his approach to greens. Colt thought that they should, for the most part, follow the natural contours of the land, should not be too big and maximum use should be made of the putting area. 

Learn more about Northern Ireland Golf Tours here.

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