(Photo shows; Lahinch 7th 366yds par 4)

The “Course Doctor”

Nicknamed “the Course Doctor”, Alister MacKenzie – a founder member of The Alwoodley Golf Club – was born in Yorkshire to Scottish parents in 1870, and christened Alexander.

He died in January, 1934 in California after a fascinating life, leaving behind a blueprint for future intriguing golf course designs and a legacy of classic golf courses, of which Alwoodley was the first.After graduating from Cambridge and Leeds Universities with degrees in Chemistry, Medicine and Science, he joined his father’s medical practice in Leeds.

Away from work, he was an active member of the Leeds Golf Club, and joined a Territorial Unit of the Somerset Light Infantry.

When serving as a civil Surgeon in the Boer War 1900-01, he saw the defensive value of the concealed trenches and camouflage techniques of the Boers

Early experiences

His experiences in Flanders early in WW1 led him resign his commission as a Major in the Medical Corps to act as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in order to teach camouflage techniques at the Army Camouflage School in London.

These skills were to prove of great value in his subsequent career.MacKenzie took up medicine again after the war but then abandoned his medical practice in favour of golf course architecture.

His decision to do this was in part down to his strong conviction that golf had very real benefits for patients, and he was quoted as saying: “How frequently have I, with great difficulty, persuaded patients who were never off my doorstep to take up golf, and how rarely, if ever, have I seen them in my consulting rooms again!”


Much has been written about Alister MacKenzie, and indeed his own books are well known and still very relevant today.


  • The Life and Work of Dr. Alister MacKenzie by Doak, Scott & Haddock  2001 : Buy on Amazon ››
  • Alister MacKenzie. Playing His Legacy by Robert F Fletcher 2015 : Buy from the author. (robertffletcher@aol.com)
  • Alister MacKenzie. The Spirit of Adventure by Robert F Fletcher 2017 : Buy from the author. (robertffletcher@aol.com)
  • Golf Architecture by Dr. A. Mackenzie 1920, Reprinted 1987 : Buy on Amazon ››
  • The Spirit of St Andrews by Alister MacKenzie. Published Posthumously 1995 : Buy on Amazon ››
  • Masters of Design by Hugh Lord and Peter Pugh 2009 : Buy on Amazon ››
  • Alister MacKenzie’s Cypress Point Club by Geoff Shackleford 2000 : Buy on Amazon ››
  • The Pasatiempo Story by Margaret Koch
  • The Links by Robert Hunter 1926/1999 : Buy on Amazon ››

Also an article in the journal of the British Golf Collectors’ Society ‘Through the Green‘, December 2008. pp50-55, Alister MacKenzie’s Early Professional Life, by Dr. R. A. P. Burt.


We have an interesting diary document about Alister MacKenzie known as the Chronology. It shows what he did and where he was from his birth on August 30th 1870 in Normanton in Yorkshire, through his time at School and University, to his early death on January 6th 1934 in California.

Download the Chronology for a comprehensive account of MacKenzie’s life.