- Top 100
- Martin Hawtree
Hawtree is the longest continuous practice of golf course construction and design on record. Currently, Martin Hawtree is the third generation practitioner in a business started by his grandfather, Frederick George Hawtree, more than a hundred years ago. His father, Frederick William Hawtree, ran the firm after World War II before passing on the baton to Martin.
Grandfather Fred Hawtree’s involvement with golf saw him start out as a greenkeeper at Sundridge Park before forming his own construction company in 1912, working mainly with James Braid, with whom he had worked with at Sundridge Park. After serving with the Army during World War I, he resumed his construction business then teamed up with with J. H. Taylor, another of the “Great Triumvirate” in 1922.
Hawtree looked after the technical aspects of the jobs, whilst Taylor handled early meetings with clients and official openings. They had a team of Irish foreman who worked on the construction side of things and, all told, around fifty new layouts were built and another fifty redesigned up until the end of the 1930s.
Hawtree’s son, Frederick William Hawtree, was born in 1916 and educated at Tonbridge School then at Queen’s College, Oxford 1935-38, reading modern languages. During World War II, he served in the Royal Artillery and was held as a Prisoner of War by the Japanese when Java fell in 1942.
The construction part of the Hawtree company was closed when Fred Sr. passed away in 1955, allowing his son to concentrate on golf course design. During the next twenty-five years, around eighty new courses were completed by the company across four continents. Perhaps Fred Jr.’s most famous work was the re-modelling of Royal Birkdale in 1967 and 1974.
Martin Grant Hawtree joined the family firm in 1973, having secured a BA Hons degree at the University of East Anglia then a Masters and later a Doctorate at the University of Liverpool. As his father Fred wound down his involvement in the company to concentrate on writing, Martin took more control of the business.
Simon Gidman was an early associate – co-designing courses at the likes of Brampton Park, Ramsdale Park and Thornbury – and several other designers have been employed by the practice down the years, including Stephen McFarlane, Caspar Grauballe and (currently) Russell Talley.
Martin has worked as a consultant for the R&A since 2006 and has been involved in renovation work at Open venues such as St Andrews, Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool, Carnoustie and Muirfield. He’s also carried out remedial work on classic courses at venerable establishments like Royal Aberdeen and Sunningdale.
Before Martin’s arrival, the Hawtree name was well known in Great Britain & Ireland and on the continent of Europe in France and Belgium and he set out to consolidate this position.
Several new courses were built in France but it’s the new millennium renovation work at Chantilly (three holes on the Vineuil course), Fontainebleau (new greens, tees and bunkers) and Les Aisses (a total revamp of the 18-hole Les Aisses layout) that really stands out in this country.
Next door in Belgium, Martin has worked on upgrading the courses at Rinkven, Royal Ostend, Royal Haiunaut and Royal Belgium and he’s recently laid out a modern 30-hole golf facility at Naxhelet, overlooking the Mehaigne and Meuse valleys, which is built around a very chic 35-bedroomed hotel.
Elsewhere within Europe, Hawtree has worked on projects in the following countries: Denmark (Simon’s in 1993); Turkey (Titanic in 1997); Portugal (Vilamoura (Old) remodel in 1997); Poland (Mazury in 2002); and Sweden (Elisefarm in 2005) – interestingly, the Swedish design was the first undertaken in that nation since Martin’s grandfather completed the Old course at Bastad in 1929.
Nearer to home, he has rejuvenated a number of Ireland’s finest links layouts: several greens on the Championship course at Portmarnock have been reworked; the Old course at Lahinch (host venue for the 2019 Irish Open) was restored at the end of the 1990s; and there have been more recent alterations made to Dooks, Royal Dublin and The Island.
Further afield in the English-speaking world, Martin has undertaken a couple of Canadian assignments. The first of these was a new course in Springfield, Ontario for Tarandowah Golfer Club in 2006 and this was followed up shortly after with a total restoration of the old Harry Colt layout at Toronto Golf Club in Mississauga, Ontario.
The architect has also operated in Australia, acting as a consultant for Huntingdale, Kooyonga, Royal Melbourne and Yarra Yarra.
Hawtree has occasionally set off at a bit of a tangent into other markets – Golden Greens in India (1992), Djerba in Tunisia (1995) and Royal Kiev in Ukraine (2008) spring to mind – but much of his architectural effort is still concentrated closer to the firm’s base in Oxfordshire.
Some of Martin’s work has been controversial, to say the least. The changes made to Royal Birkdale (and the new 17th green in particular) prior to the 2008 Open got tongues wagging but that was nothing compared to the howls of derision aimed in his direction when he made alterations to the Old course at St Andrews (including modifying the 11th green) in 2012/13.
If Hawtree felt those jobs with the R&A were high profile, then they were small potatoes compared to working for Donald Trump at two of his most prized golfing assets. His first commission was to construct the owner’s new links outside Aberdeen in 2011/12 and the second project two years later involved the redesign of the Greg Norman links at Doonbeg.
Planetgolf.com: “Hawtree Junior is best known for renovation work at venerable classics such as Royal Birkdale and Royal Liverpool in England, Lahinch and Portmarnock in Ireland, Fontainebleau in France, Yarra Yarra in Australia and the Toronto Golf Club in Canada.
His work at Lahinch was quite wide reaching, and involved restoring some lost MacKenzie design features as well as building a couple of new holes.
Hawtree is an interesting architect, he clearly has great design pedigree and the quality of some of his renovation work is first-rate – such as Portmarnock, Lahinch and Toronto.”