The golfing boom towards the end of the 19th century spawned many new courses, including Willingdon. The history of our club really begins in 1898 when a group of local worthies, including the Marquess of Willingdon, put together a simple 9-hole layout with a corrugated iron hut as their Clubhouse.This course survived seven years or so until 1905, when the legendary J.H. Taylor was commissioned to redesign the layout to a more traditional 18 holes.
In 1925, the celebrated Dr. Alister MacKenzie was called in to expand the layout and make more sense of the natural features of the land, and it is his course, largely unchanged, that we play today.
The new course bears the particular hallmark of MacKenzie's growing genius, the two tier greens, which feature on the 8th, 9th, 12th and 18th holes. With the exception of just three holes, the entire course was remodelled bringing much more of the natural contours into play.
Dr. Alister MacKenzie
Designer of Augusta National and Willingdon
Nicknamed “the Course Doctor”, Alister MacKenzie, christened Alexander, was born in 1870 to Scottish parents in Yorkshire and died in January 1934 in California. He left behind a blueprint of intriguing golf course designs and a legacy of classic golf courses. Willingdon is proud to be one of the golf courses he re-designed and our two tier greens are evidence of his influence.
MacKenzie was a graduate of Cambridge and Leeds Universities and had degrees in chemistry, medicine and natural science. He joined his father’s medical practice, but was then called away to serve in the Boer War. Ironically, it was the concealed trenches and camouflage techniques of the Boers that fascinated him and nurturred his design idea for golf courses.
Mackenzie took up medicine again after the war but then abandoned his medical practice in favour of golf course architecture. His decision to do so was, in part, down to his strong conviction that golf had very real benefits for patients.
He devised some of the world’s most interesting courses, including Royal Melbourne in Australia, Buenos Aires in Argentina, Cypress Point and Augusta National in America, as well as Littlestone, Burnham and Berrow and Moortown in England.