Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy & Construction is one of the most comprehensive books on golf course construction and strategy written by one of the leading architects of America’s golden age.
Although it focuses on golf design in America, the principles contained therein should make it mandatory reading for every golfer let alone golf architecture student. It may not read as easily as Harry Colt‘s or Alister MacKenzie’s work, it’s worth the effort to do so. It is a large book with illustrations and drawings from courses across Canada and the USA. George C Thomas covers a plethora of topics. Some abstract, others are definite and absolute.
Thirteen chapters make up this sacred text.
The second chapter is where it gets interesting for the keen architecture student, as Thomas discusses The Strategy of Golf Courses.
The third chapter addresses construction issues involving soil composition, terrain, and essential elements that collectively make up the course.
attention turns to other matters in Chapter Four, where he discusses the essential details like real estate, the clubhouse, and other ancillary properties.
Another must-read chapter is Five, entitled “Beauty and Utility.” Here, Thomas highlights the vital task of harmonising art and utility in copying nature. This theme is nuanced in the following chapter, where the author discusses “Adapting the Course to the Ground.” Perhaps the seventh chapter has more gravity now than ever before due to the advancement of technology.
Before moving onto discussing actual construction, Thomas attempts to explain the “Balance of Area”, a tall order as abstract artistic design theory is what is trying to be conveyed. Construction considerations are discussed before “Arbitrary Values” which discusses par values then onto the question of the modern ball — finally, the topic of drainage is considered at the end.
The first edition of Golf Architecture in America is an impressive book, but it doesn’t come cheap. The USGA republished the book in 1990 (IBSN 9780941774109). Despite publishing another version in 1997, the Sleeping Bear edition can still demand a premium (IBSN 9781886947146). A complimentary title is Geoff Shackelford’s book The Captain which chronicles the life of the man himself.