(August 30, 1870 – January 6,
1934) was a English surgeon who was internationally known as a golf
course architect. During World War I
also made contributions to military camouflage
, which he saw as closely related to
golf course design (MacKenzie 1920, pp. 128-131; Behrens
was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, England, where he later became a teacher at Queen Elizabeth Grammar
Initially trained as a medical doctor, he served
as a surgeon with the Somerset Regiment in South Africa
during the Second Boer War
During his wartime service, MacKenzie became interested in
camouflage, which was effectively used by the Boers. As a result,
during World War I, when he once again served in the military, he
worked not as a surgeon but as a camoufleur. In a lecture he gave
on the subject, he said that “The brilliant successes of the Boers
[during his service in South Africa] were due to great extent to
their making the best use of natural cover and the construction of
artificial cover indistinguishable from nature” (MacKenzie 1934, p.
Golf course design
World War I, MacKenzie left medicine entirely, and began to work
instead as a golf course designer in the United Kingdom, in association with Harry Shapland Colt and
Charles Alison, with whom he formed the London firm of Colt,
MacKenzie & Alison.
He excelled at golf course planning,
although he himself was not a good golfer. He was one of the first
persons who had not been a leading golfer to become a prominent
course designer (Doak 2001).
By his own admission, he thought he had learned a lot about the
golf course planning from having designed camouflage. There are
references to the latter in his first book on course design, called
Golf Architecture (MacKenzie 1920), such as when he writes that
“there is an extraordinary resemblance between what is now known as
the camouflage of military earthworks and golf-course construction”
(p. 128), or later, when he states that there “are many other
attributes in common between the successful golf architect and the
camoufleur. Both, if not actually artists, must have an artistic
temperament, and have had an education in science” (pp. 129-130).
In that same book, he also writes that “the chief object of every
golf course architect worth his salt is to imitate the beauties of
nature [and presumably also the hazards] so closely as to make his
work indistinguishable from nature itself.” 
MacKenzie worked in an era before large scale earth moving became a
major factor in golf course construction, and his designs are
notable for their sensitivity to the nature of the original site.
He is admired for producing holes that offer an ideal balance of
risk and reward, and for designing golf courses that challenge yet
also accommodate players with a range of skills.
In the 1920s he moved permanently to the United States, which is
where he carried out his most notable work, although he continued
to design courses outside that country as well. Today, he is
remembered as the designer of some of the world’s finest courses,
among them Century Country Club (Purchase, New York), Augusta National Golf Club (Augusta,
Georgia), Cypress Point
Club (Monterey Peninsula,
California), Royal Melbourne Golf Club (Melbourne, Australia), Pasatiempo Golf
Club (Santa Cruz,
Downs Country Club (Frankfort, Michigan), Lahinch Gold Course (Lahinch, Ireland), and Meadow Club (Fairfax, California) [see extended list of his courses
He died in
Discovered after his death was an
unpublished manuscript on golf and golf course design, which was
posthumously published as The Spirit of St. Andrews
- Behrens, Roy R. (2009), CAMOUPEDIA: A Compendium of
Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage. Dysart, Iowa:
Bobolink Books. ISBN 9780971324466.
- Doak, Tom (2001), The Life and Work of Dr. Alister
MacKenzie. New York: John Wiley. ISBN 9781585360185.
- MacKenzie, Alister (1915), “Military Entrenchments” in Golf
Illustrated. Vol 3 No 1, pp. 42-45.
- MacKenzie, Alister [unsigned article, but authorship claimed by
MacKenzie] (1919), “Entrenchments and Camouflage: Lecture by a
British Officer Skilled in Landscape Gardening” in Professional
Memoirs, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army and Engineer Department
at Large. No 47, pp. 574-638.
- MacKenzie, Alister (1920), Golf Architecture: Economy in
Course Construction and Green-Keeping. London UK: Simpkin,
Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Co. Ltd.
- MacKenzie, Alister (1934), “Common Sense of Camouflage Defence”
in The Military Engineer. Vol XXVI No 145
(January-February), pp. 42-44.
- MacKenzie, Alister (1995). The Spirit of St. Andrews.
Sleeping Bear Press. ISBN 1-886947-00-7.
- Muirhead, Desmond (1995), “Symbols in Golf Course Architecture”
in Executive Golfer (July).
- New York Times (1934), “Alister MacKenzie Links
Designer, Dies.” (January 7), p. 31.
Downs Country Club, Frankfort, Michigan (1929 with Perry Maxwell), 10th best Course in
U.S. Golf Digest 2007-08
- Meadow Club,
Fairfax, California (1927): Classic layout overlooking Mt. Tamalpais was MacKenzie's first design in
Country Club, Oakland, California (1929): Located in the Oakland hills.
- Titirangi Golf
Club, Titirangi, Auckland, New Zealand (1926): A true championship course in natural
surrounds. One of the top courses in New Zealand.
Old Course at Lahinch Golf Club in
Ireland (1927): Mackenzie reworked the original layout by
Old Tom Morris layout on a stunning
oceanside site. He left in a blind par 3 just for history's
Portland Course at the Royal Troon Golf Club, in Troon, Scotland. A worthy and challenging companion to the
Old Course, the many-times Open Championship site.
- Rosemont course at Blairgowie Golf Club, Perth and Kinross, Scotland (1927): One of Scotland's top-ranked
courses. An inland parkland layout cut out of dense forests
- The No. 1 course at Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen, Scotland.
- Cypress Point
Club, Monterey Peninsula, California (1928): A beautiful, well-crafted, course with a
famously photogenic 16th hole. Rated the fourth greatest
course in America by Golf
Digest in 2005.
Golf Club, Santa Cruz, California (1929): A beautiful course and a difficult test of
golf, perfectly blended into the northern California coastal
Course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Melbourne, Australia (1931):
Regarded by some as the finest course south of the
- University of Michigan Golf Course University
of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (1931): One of the first and finest on-campus golf
courses in the United States.
- Haggin Oaks Golf Course, Sacramento, California. Popular golf course in northern
California. Site of the California State Fair Championship. Ben
Hogan won his first professional check at Haggin Oaks.
Valley Club of Montecito Santa Barbara, California (1928)
- Northwood Golf Club Monte Rio, California (1928)
Course at The Ohio State University, Columbus,
Ohio (1931): One of the best collegiate golf courses in
the United States.
- Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta,
Bobby Jones chose MacKenzie
ahead of Donald Ross to
co-design the only course in the world which stages The
Masters every year. Rated the greatest course in
America by Golf Digest in
- Green Hills Country Club, Millbrae, California (1930) (The Union League Golf and
Country Club of San Francisco). A magnificent layout, often
called the "gem" of the San Francisco Peninsula.
Park Golf Course, Pacifica, California (1932) Sadly, a backbarrier lagoon wetland system
was destroyed with 14 months of filling in land to create this golf
course, which is constantly threatened with ocean storms and now,
global warming induced sea level rise.
- Tijuana Country Club, Mexico (1929).
- Buenos Aires, Argentina (1931) Jockey Club: The area's most
noteworthy course and the must-play in San Isidro, which hosts two
full-length courses designed in his prime in 1930. The Red is the
- Royal Adelaide Golf Club, Adelaide, Australia
- Cavendish Golf Club, Buxton, Derbyshire, England (1925), whose design has been largely unaltered
Golf Club, Cork, Ireland (1927).
- Teignmouth Golf Club (1924), Devon, England. Situated on top of
Little Haldon, 800 feet above sea level and with views of Dartmoor,
the Teign Estuary and the Exe Estuary
- Sharp Park
- Cavendish Golf Club Website