- Top 100
- William Flynn
William Flynn was raised in Milton, outside Boston, where he competed against Francis Ouimet in inter-scholastic golf matches when playing for the school team. Flynn’s career in golf got under way at Merion Cricket Club when he was part of the construction team on what’s now the East course at Merion Golf Club.
He worked under his brother-in-law Frederick Pickering when the course was being built then he later looked after the course as superintendent, assisting Hugh Wilson when he redesigned the layout.
Flynn made Philadelphia his home base and he became the only non-Pennsylvania native in the famous Philadelphia School of Golf Architecture, the group of architects responsible for many of America’s greatest golf courses.
Before the onset of World War I, Flynn was responsible for laying out two fine courses in Pennsylvania – Doylestown Country Club and the Country Club of Harrisburg – but when the war ended he teamed up with Howard Toomey, a railway civil engineer to form the firm of Toomey & Flynn, specialist in golf design and construction.
Throughout the 1920s, the company fashioned dozens of well-regarded golf courses, including Lancaster County Club (1920), Cherry Hills Country Club (1923), Rolling Green Country Club (1926), Huntington Valley Country Club (1927) and Philadelphia Country Club (1927).
Flynn also worked on the redesign of Shinnecock Hills at the end of the 1920s and many consider this to be his finest achievement. He was also among a profusion of architects who shaped the completion of Pine Valley after the death of George Crump.
"Based on his ability to link classic ideals to modern philosophies, Flynn, as a golf architect, was highly innovative. Flynn first drew his layouts using topographic maps, before modifying them in the field. Flynn’s golf courses were built precisely to the architectural plans he developed, with assistance from his partner Howard Toomey. Both men spent a considerable amount of time on-site to ensure every detail was developed to its fullest potential." The Evolution of Golf Course Design by Keith Cutten
“William Flynn was one of golf architecture’s greatest strategists. His routing skill was certainly one strength of his work and varied to working with the land or running intentionally hard against the contour when he wanted to increase the challenge.
He is one of the few architects to really embrace the intentional use of hard cross-slopes and reverse cants to really ratchet up the pressure and difficulty on his courses. While some would dismiss this as a poor choice in the routing, this is far cleverer than most would give him credit for.” Ian Andrew
“He laid out his first course at Hartwellville Vermont in 1909 and was then hired to assist Hugh Wilson with completion of the East Course at Merion GC in Pennsylvania. Flynn found his services as a course architect much in demand as a result of his work at Merion.
He and Wilson had hoped to form a design partnership, but Wilson’s failing health prevented it. Instead, Flynn joined forces after World War I with Wilson’s friend Howard Toomey, a prominent civil engineer. Flynn was responsible for design and construction, Toomey handled business and financial matters and Hugh Wilson continued to collaborate on courses until his death in 1925.
William Gordon, Robert Lawrence and Dick Wilson all started out as assistants with the firm of Toomey and Flynn and later became prominent designers in their own right.” The Golf Course by Geoff Cornish and Ron Whitten
“Flynn was one of the most forward thinking architects, evidenced by how many of his golf courses remain intact today with their original design. Flynn’s strongest skill was his ability to route a golf course and he did is so well, he is possibly the greatest of all-time.
Flynn’s routing came from meticulous mapping, planning and a great understanding of the land for his sites. Flynn’s routing philosophy was rooted in selecting the greens first and building the holes from there. His routings led to dramatic vistas and courses with great variety and unique setups.
Along with routing, Flynn’s forefront skill was his ability to naturally blend heavily engineered areas with their natural landscape. Flynn also loved to use the natural hills and slopes on his courses as a defence to the course. It wasn’t uncommon for Flynn to test players with approach shots that called for the opposite shape shot than the slope of the fairway yielded.
Flynn was also one of the early proponents of having short grass around greens. He believed that it would lead to a greater number of shots that a player would need to possess in their short game.” The Fried Egg (friedegg.co)