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Royal Liverpool, the British Open site better known as Hoylake, doesn't look like one of the epic seaside British courses we've come to know. It doesn't have the towering dunes of a Royal St. Georges or Royal Birkdale. Your golf ball isn't on a swooping roller-coaster ride as it is at St. Andrews or Turnberry. Hoylake--which last held the Open in 1967, with Roberto De Vicenzo the winner--is all humps and hollows, subtle to the point of languidness. It's the opposite of Winged Foot. The dusty fingerprints of H.S. Colt are all over it. The man who wins there will be another De Vicenzo--a Jos� Mar�a Olaz�bal, a Geoff Ogilvy, a David Howell. A craftsman.
Colt, a lanky and unassuming Englishman who worked mostly in the British Isles while his prot�g� Alister MacKenzie ( Augusta National, Cypress Point) was making a big Stateside splash, didn't design Hoylake, but he reworked it and made it the course it is today. Long before Rees Jones was even born (1941), Colt was the first Open Doctor. He revised the British Open courses Muirfield and Royal Lytham and scores of other layouts.
Colt, a lawyer and, as a young man, a scratch golfer, is a historic figure in the game. He started building courses, from scratch, in the late 19th century. Old Tom Morris routed dozens of courses, but Colt was the world's first true golf architect. Among his gems are Rye, in southeastern England; Sunningdale New, outside London; and Century, in the shadows of Winged Foot in suburban New York City. You don't hear a lot about them. His courses don't scream, they endure.
In selecting an H.S. Colt Dream 18, our panel of Coltanistas came up with a par-69 course, nicely playable at 6,535 yards, with six par-3 holes. Many would argue that no architect created better one-shotters, mixing lengths and wind directions, demanding that you commit to a line on your tee shot and your putts. A true Colt green has no flat spots but innumerable hole positions, and often yawning, steep-faced bunkers that spill right onto the putting surface. Colt was the first architect to build courses away from the sea, in the heathland and the forests, but he never forgot the game's brackish roots.
American golfers can see traces of Colt's gifts at a mangled Long Island muni called Timber Point, with its low, windswept trees. It's all golf course, the tees and fairways and greens all tumbling into one another. His genius is most particularly on display at Pine Valley in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, where he routed the course with George Crump, laying out 18 separate, unique holes that play like a journey. Upon seeing Pine Valley for the first time, the Englishman Nick Faldo described it as "more British than the British." Unwittingly, he was paying a great compliment to H.S. Colt.
The 2nd hole at this year's Open, it once featured a Colt-designed green, perched on a road a la St. Andrews's Road Hole, but that green was removed years ago in favor of today's forgettable Donald Steel putting surface.
"Many of Colt's home holes fall in the 360- to 400-yard range. In his day
the lessons of the Old Course were still appreciated by architects, and the
home hole offered the chance to finish on a positive note."
Turner: "Calamity--enough said!"
Morrissett: "Played around the rim of a dune that drops 70 feet to Colt's Valley course, a chasm that's described as 'an opening to hell' by Patrick Dickinson. The rich natural features on this hole meant that no bunkers were required."