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Year of Birth1869
Year of Death1951 (aged 82)
Place of BirthHighgate, London, England

Harry Colt was the youngest of six children born to a solicitor father who died when he was only two years old. His mother then moved the family from London to Malvern, where he played golf at Worcestershire Golf Club’s original course on the common, becoming a proficient, plus-handicap player.

After attending Monkton Combe School in Bath, Colt studied law at Clare College, Cambridge. Twelve months after his 1887 enrolment, he joined the committee of the Cambridge University Golf Club and in 1889 became the club's first captain. After graduation he was admitted to the bar, becoming a solicitor and partner in the Hastings law firm of Sayer & Colt.

In 1894 he laid out the new course at Rye with Scottish professional Douglas Rolland and in 1895 was appointed Honorary Secretary of Rye Golf Club with Rolland becoming the club’s first professional. Between 1901 and 1913, Colt served as Sunningdale Golf Club’s first Secretary. Interestingly, when he first took up his appointment at Sunningdale his annual salary was £150.00, about a tenth of what he would have earned had he remained in the legal profession.

In 1907, twelve months after he reached the semi-final of the Amateur Championship, Dr Alister MacKenzie (the first Honorary Secretary at Alwoodley Golf Club) called upon Colt to help him design a new course on the outskirts of Leeds, and the doctor later joined C.H. Alison becoming Colt’s second business partner. Two years later, Colt’s new course opened at Stoke Park, framed by the iconic backdrop of the 18th century mansion house, designed by James Wyatt, architect to King George III.

His “least bad course”, Swinley Forest, quietly opened for play in 1911. Authors Henry Lord and Peter Pugh, commented in Masters of Design – Great Courses of Colt, MacKenzie, Alison & Morrison as follows: “One of the most astonishing things about Colt’s routing was that it was mapped out in his mind’s eye before any of the thousands of pine trees covering the site were removed.”

Already within his portfolio were Blackmoor, St George’s Hill and Camberley Heath. Colt had also visited France and laid out Golf de Saint-Cloud in Paris. He had also sailed to North America and designed new courses for the Toronto Golf Club and the Country Club of Detroit. Additionally, Colt worked with Donald Ross at Old Elm Club and routed Pine Valley with Philadelphian hotelier, George Crump.

In 1913, prior to the outbreak of the First World War, unable to remain committed to his duties at Sunningdale, Colt resigned as Secretary, having now established himself as one of the world’s leading golf course architects. He was now utilising the services of Suttons Seeds, along with George Franks and Claude Harris, who had formed the first golf construction firm, Franks Harris.

“When peace returned at the end of 1918”, remarked Henry Lord and Peter Pugh, “Colt wrote to all his old golfing contacts offering the services of Colt, Alison and MacKenzie… in 1920, [MacKenzie] was increasingly keen to branch out on his own, following Alison to North America and the prestigious commissions he so craved.” MacKenzie left the Colt and Alison partnership in 1923 so “Colt brought a new assistant, the 30-year-old John Stanton Fleming Morrison, into the fold… In 1922 he began helping Colt with the building of Sunningdale’s New course… In 1928 Morrison was made an official partner and the new company of Colt, Alison & Morrison was formed.”

“Colt had really stopped designing courses in 1939, happy to let his two partners stand out on their own while he remained in the peaceful seclusion of East Hendred with his wife, Laura, until she passed away in 1948.” Henry Shapland "Harry" Colt died three years later in 1951.


Thin End of the Wedge by Donald Steel: “He was the first captain of Rye in 1894, a mere five years after holding office as captain of Cambridge University. His is the first name to be shown on the Honours Board in the dining room at Worlington, although Colt’s Cambridge days preceded the club’s foundation in 1893.

Colt courses are always eminently playable, not heavily-bunkered and with no long carries. Denham is a good example of his handiwork; a stiff enough test to make good players think without posing too much of a handful for the rank and file.

Donald Ross may have had Colt in mind in his general reference to ‘golf as it was meant to be played’. Both were pioneers of a new art whereby great thoughts went into the process of providing a coherent sequence to the layout with interesting green design as a separate study.”

The Golf Course by Cornish & Whitten: “Several firsts in golf course design are generally attributed to H.S. Colt. He was the first to consistently use a drawing board in preparing his course designs. He was the first to prepare tree-planting plans for his layouts.”

The Complete Book of Golf: “In Britain, Harry Colt was the first amateur golfer – rather than professional – to earn a reputation as an architect. Some say he is still the greatest of them all.”

The Colt Oeuvre by Bruce Critchley:

“Colt had a few simple dictums. The early holes should ease you into the round; nothing too demanding at the start. Ideally, every club in the bag should be used, regardless of skill. The routing of the course would be determined by the land, and there would be no hard and fast rule about the numbers of par threes or fives on any given nine… Colt had no peer as a designer of short holes.”

World Golf Hall of Fame – such is the capricious nature of ceremonial awards Harry Colt is shamefully absent from the Hall of Fame despite the inclusion of a number of Colt’s contemporaries.


Creating Classics: The golf courses of Harry Colt by Peter Pugh and Henry Lord (2008)

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