“Dear David… I enclose the Augusta drawings as promised there are two drawings, the par 4 is my finest layout of a par 4 so far. The second is a Par 3 hole design I did for Bob as an alternative to the original design. I don’t anticipate that it will be used so I’m giving it to you as a memento of the Augusta saga…”
The letter, dated October 12, 1931, was to Dr. David Scott-Taylor, Chief Surgeon at the Chester Royal Infirmary in Chester, England. The sender was his dear friend Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who was working at the time with “Bob”—Bobby Jones—on Augusta National.
The drawings are the only renderings of individual holes at Augusta that MacKenzie ever produced (a fact he acknowledged in the same letter). Incredibly, they have sat in a vault in England for the last 80-plus years.
Why are these drawings—which LINKS is showing to the public for the first time—important? Besides being the only individual hole sketches by the architect, they bear the signatures of both MacKenzie and Jones, and are dated October 7, 1931, which, according to contemporary reports, was one day after the two men began laying out the course. So the design was fresh in their minds. Also, each sketch has its own significance, and together they add to the storied history of one of golf’s most famous venues.
Ironically, in this year when Augusta National seeks to acquire land to lengthen the par-five 13th hole, one of the drawings relates to that hole (labeled the 4th in the days before the nines were reversed for the 1935 Masters): MacKenzie’s intent was for the hole to be a 440-yard dogleg par four. He called for three bunkers between the front and right side of the green and Rae’s Creek, large mounds on the other side of the creek, and a large bunker on the right side of the fairway where it turned left.
“The par 4 plan was just his favorite hole on the course,” Scott-Taylor wrote in his journal a few months after receiving the drawings and having lunch with MacKenzie and their wives in London. (The journal and letters were in the vault with the drawings all these years.) “He is so proud of that 4th hole, he expounded on its greatness and merit.”
“Imagine the discussion among MacKenzie, Jones, and Cliff Roberts—who insinuated himself into the design process and who MacKenzie couldn’t stand—when they wanted to lengthen the hole and turn it into a par five,” says historian Philip Young, who was instrumental in locating the drawings and proving their authenticity. “I can just hear MacKenzie saying, ‘Why would you do that when it’s the greatest par four I’ve ever designed?’ The bunkers and mounds in front of the green were never put in, the large fairway bunker was never built, and the hole became a par five. But despite all that, it remains basically the same hole that was played in the first Masters and exists today.”
Speaking of Roberts, Scott-Taylor wrote that MacKenzie thought him “a ‘right pain in the arse’ who was far more in control than Bob Jones was… Jones was the figurehead of the project, Roberts was the financial guru behind it. Roberts also fancied himself as a course designer and couldn’t grasp Mac’s ideas or reasoning behind them.”
While the 13th hole still shows MacKenzie’s design principles—and genius—at work, it is the drawing of what was the 7th hole, now the 16th, that is more noteworthy. It is titled “Alternative Plan,” yet it shows the hole precisely as it exists today. How it came to be raises some questions, particularly about Bobby Jones.
When the course opened, the par-three 16th was a fairly humdrum affair. It played about 145 yards with Rae’s Creek on its right side, two bunkers on the left, and no lake. Competitors in early Masters complained that it was too easy, so in 1947, Jones hired Robert Trent Jones Sr. to create a new hole. Young recently asked Bobby and Rees Jones, Trent’s sons, how their father came up with the design.
“Their dad told them that he was having lunch with Bobby Jones when the subject was brought up,” Young says. “[Bobby] Jones took a napkin and had Trent sketch how he—Bobby—wanted the hole to look after it was rebuilt.” Curiously, it was exactly the same design as MacKenzie’s Alternative Plan.
There can be no question that Bobby Jones knew where the design had come from: In his letter to Scott-Taylor that accompanied the drawings, MacKenzie said it was Jones who requested a second concept and he signed the drawing of it.
Yet Bobby Jones never credited MacKenzie with the idea.
So exactly where have the drawings been all these years? Scott-Taylor died in December, 1933—coincidentally, MacKenzie died a few weeks later—with his estate passing to his widow, Ethel, who died in 1965. Throughout that time, the drawings, along with other golf artifacts, were with the family’s lawyers, where they remained until about 10 years ago when they passed down to Scott-Taylor’s grandson Ian, himself a course architect. Since then, Young has had their provenance and other aspects of the drawings authenticated and has made plans for their sale: As of this writing, the sketches are consigned to Green Jacket Auctions, which is negotiating with a private collector for their purchase.
No matter who buys the two drawings, it is likely this will be the last time the general public will see them. Which is too bad, because along with altering what we know of the history of Augusta National, they might change our perceptions of the men who created one of the game’s best-loved and studied courses. Most significantly, they prove that Alister MacKenzie deserves even more credit.
Give the last word to his close friend Dr. David Scott-Taylor, who wrote in his journal, “The par 4 plan was just his favorite hole on the course which he penned for me. I felt quite honoured he did that for me, even though it shows his vanity… He regaled me on the hole design and the hope that the golf course would someday be world renowned for its strategy and design.”