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Charles B. Macdonald

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Charles B. Macdonald
Charles Blair MacDonald 1895.png
Macdonald in 1895
Personal information
Full nameCharles Blair Macdonald
Born(1855-11-14)November 14, 1855
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
DiedApril 21, 1939(1939-04-21) (aged 83)
Nationality United States
Best results in major championships
(wins: 1)
Masters TournamentDNP
PGA ChampionshipDNP
U.S. OpenT11: 1897
The Open ChampionshipDNP
U.S. AmateurWon: 1895
British AmateurR128: 1906
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame2007 (member page)

Charles Blair Macdonald (November 14, 1855 – April 21, 1939) was a major figure in early American golf. He built the first 18-hole course in the United States, was a driving force in the founding of the United States Golf Association, won the first U.S. Amateur championship, and later built some of the most influential golf courses in the United States, to the extent that he is considered the father of American golf course architecture. He is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Early years

Macdonald was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, to naturalized American parents — a Scottish father and Canadian (part Mohawk) mother — and grew up in Chicago. In 1872 at age 16, he was sent to St Andrews University,[1] and while there he took up playing golf with a vengeance. Tutored by Old Tom Morris, Macdonald soon became proficient enough that he played matches on the Old Course at St Andrews against several of the leading golfers of the day, including Young Tom Morris.[2] Macdonald returned to Chicago in 1874 and became a successful stockbroker, but rarely played golf for the next 17 years (a period he termed the "Dark Ages").[3]

United States Golf Association

In 1894, the Newport Country Club and Saint Andrew's Golf Club both held "national championship" tournaments. Macdonald finished second in both, and on both occasions he angrily denounced the manner in which each competition was held, with the result that both tournaments were declared unofficial.[2] That fall, delegates from the Chicago Golf Club (including Macdonald), Saint Andrew's, The Country Club, Newport Country Club, and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club met in New York City to resolve the problem. The result was the formation of the United States Golf Association (USGA), which would administer the official championship. Macdonald was named Vice President of the organization. The first U.S. Amateur was held in 1895 at the Newport Country Club, and this time Macdonald won, beating Charles Sands 12 & 11 in the final (which is still the record winning margin).

Golf course architecture

By the late 1880s, a group of Scottish immigrants had brought the game to the New York City area, playing at the Saint Andrew's Golf Club. In 1892, Macdonald convinced several associates to begin playing. Shortly thereafter, he founded the Chicago Golf Club. At first, Macdonald built nine rudimentary holes in Downers Grove, Illinois; these nine holes comprised the first golf course west of the Allegheny Mountains. In 1893 he expanded the course to 18 holes, creating the first full-length course in the United States. Shortly thereafter, in 1894, the Chicago Golf Club decided to move to a permanent home in nearby Wheaton, Illinois. Macdonald built a new 18-hole course there, a layout which is still the club's home today and has hosted multiple U.S. Opens, routinely continuing to rank as one of the top 50 golf courses in the world (the original 1892 site is now the Downers Grove Golf Course).[4] In 1895 he designed the first nine holes at Onwentsia Club of Lake Forest, Illinois.

In 1900, Macdonald left Chicago to live in New York, becoming a partner in the Wall Street brokerage firm of C.D. Barney (through mergers, now Morgan Stanley Wealth Management).[4] With only a couple of exceptions, most golf courses in the U.S. at that time were laid out in rudimentary fashion, with little strategy required of the golfer. Macdonald, by virtue of his experiences at St Andrews and later trips to Great Britain, was determined (not immodestly) to build the most noteworthy course outside the British Isles. He searched Long Island for a suitable site to emulate the classic seaside links of Scotland, and eventually settled on a site in Southampton, New York (near Shinnecock Hills Golf Club) in 1906.[5] He dubbed the Southampton home at 119 Whites Lane "Ballyshear" and the house was designed by F. Burrall Hoffman. The home was purchased by Michael Bloomberg in 2011.[6]

In 1908, he organized a group of 70 founders to contribute $1,000 each, and the National Golf Links of America opened for play in 1909.[7] Many of the holes were his versions of famous holes from British courses, a pattern he would repeat on later courses. Macdonald would tweak the course for the rest of his life, altering every hole somewhat over the next 30 years. The course hosted the inaugural Walker Cup in 1922, and is considered a landmark of golf architecture even today. In 2005, Golf Digest ranked it the #9 course in the United States.

With the National Golf Links course, Macdonald began collaborating with Seth Raynor, who would later become a famous golf architect (a term coined by Macdonald in about 1910[8]) in his own right. The pair would collaborate on a number of courses over the years. These included the Old White Course at The Greenbrier (1914), St. Louis Country Club (1914), the Shinnecock Hills Golf Course (1916), the Yale University golf course (1926), and the Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda, a course conceived to escape the reach of Prohibition[9] (1921). One of the most famous was the Lido Golf Club (1914), a course which took an enormous amount of effort to construct and had several unique holes, and was considered at least on par with the National Golf Links while it existed (a course by the same name exists near its location today, but it was built by Robert Trent Jones in 1947).[2][10][11]

In 1928, Macdonald published his book Scotland's Gift: Golf, which covers the spread of golf (prominently featuring himself) in the United States from its beginnings in the early 1890s to 1927, when there were some 4,000 courses in the country. It devotes several chapters to four of his courses, and gives his design philosophy. He is often called the "Father of American Golf Architecture".[12]

Macdonald's Template Hole Designs

MacDonald identified 21 different hole designs or templates from the greatest holes in the British Isles that would test a great player's game while allowing mediocre and poor players angles and options to score well. These template holes are typically pretty easy to identify after a little schooling. While these holes are similar from course to course, they are not duplicates. Each hole was designed specifically for the site to create a unique twist for players. Several of MacDonald's classic templates are:

Course listing

The list of courses that Macdonald either designed alone or co-designed are listed below. Some courses are defunct (Lido Golf Club), some have been substantially redesigned (Shinnecock Hills Golf Club), and others have not been substantially altered (St. Louis Country Club).





  • Downers Grove Golf Course – Downers Grove (1892)
  • Chicago Golf Club – Wheaton (1895)
  • Onwentsia Club – Lake Forest (1896)
  • Exmoor Country Club (first 9 holes) - Highland Park (1897)


  • Gibson Island Club – Gibson Island (1922)


New York

West Virginia


In 2007, Macdonald was elected as a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, in the Lifetime Achievement category.[3]

Major championships

Amateur wins (1)

Year Championship Winning Score Runner-up
1895 U.S. Amateur 12 & 11 United States Charles Sands

Results timeline

Tournament 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899
U.S. Amateur 1 R16 SF M SF SF M
The Amateur Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Tournament 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909
The Amateur Championship DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP R128 DNP DNP DNP
Tournament 1910 1911 1912
U.S. Amateur DNQ DNP DNQ
The Amateur Championship DNP DNP DNP

M = Medalist
DNP = Did not play
WD = Withdrew
"T" indicates a tie for a place
DNQ = Did not qualify for match play portion
R256, R128, R64, R32, R16, QF, SF = Round in which player lost in match play
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10

Source for U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur: USGA Championship Database

Source for 1906 British Amateur: Golf, July 1906, pg. 29.

Further reading

  • Macdonald, Charles Blair (June 25, 2003) [1928]. Scotland's Gift: Golf. Tatra Press. ISBN 978-0-9661847-6-1.
  • Bahto, George (November 9, 2002). Evangelist of Golf: The Story of Charles Blair MacDonald. Wiley. ISBN 978-1-886947-20-7.


  1. ^ Robert Sommers (October 1, 2010). "From The Golf Journal Archives - Charles Blair Macdonald". United States Golf Association. Archived from the original on January 14, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Weisgerber, Bob (September 2003). "Charles Blair Macdonald: The Evangelist of Golf, a Review". Golf Today Magazine. Archived from the original on July 5, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Charles Blair Macdonald Enters World Golf Hall of Fame". World Golf Hall of Fame. June 13, 2007. Archived from the original on November 21, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Downer's Grove Golf Course History". Downer's Grove Park District. Archived from the original on February 14, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  5. ^ "National Golf Links of America". Golf Club Atlas. 2003. Archived from the original on April 16, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  6. ^ "Mike's fore! score". New York Post. July 20, 2011.
  7. ^ English, John P. (September 1957). "Findlay S. Douglas – A Record in Service" (PDF). USGA Journal and Turf Management. USGA. pp. 5–8. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  8. ^ "Golf Club Atlas front page". Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  9. ^ Schranck, Frederick (July 6, 2003). "Scotland's Gift: Virtual Bookstore Review". Hole by Hole. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  10. ^ Klein, Bradley S. "Charles Blair Macdonald: Golf Course Architect". Golf Magazine. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  11. ^ Quinn, Dr. William. "Back to the Links". Metropolitan Golf Association. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  12. ^ "Charles B. Macdonald". USGA. Archived from the original on January 16, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  13. ^ Johnson, Andy (September 27, 2016). "The Templates: Alps". The Fried Egg.
  14. ^ Johnson, Andy (August 28, 2016). "The Templates: Double Plateau". The Fried Egg.
  15. ^ Johnson, Andy (August 10, 2016). "The Templates: Road Hole". The Fried Egg.
  16. ^ Johnson, Andy (July 10, 2016). "The Templates: Eden". The Fried Egg.
  17. ^ Johnson, Andy (July 7, 2016). "The Templates: Biarritz". The Fried Egg.
  18. ^ Johnson, Andy (July 28, 2016). "The Templates: Cape". The Fried Egg.
  19. ^ Johnson, Andy (July 4, 2016). "The Templates: The Redans of Macdonald, Raynor, and Banks". The Fried Egg.
  20. ^ Johnson, Andy (July 5, 2016). "The Templates: Short". The Fried Egg.

External links

This page was last edited on 13 January 2021, at 19:11
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