The New Sitwell: Are the Alister MacKenzie and Willie Park Greens of Yore Possible in 2021?

At some point in your life as a golf course architecture aficionado, you’ll stumble across a photograph of the No. 12 green at Sitwell Park Golf Club, a Sheffield-area course that doesn’t attract as much international attention these days, despite the name “Alister MacKenzie” on the marquee. You, if anything like me at that point in my understanding of golf course design and construction, will squint your eyes and grin in the “you gotta be kidding me” method.

What is now known on message boards simply as the “Sitwell Park green” was created to combat a routing problem struck by MacKenzie during 1913. The routing required two greens, nos. 12 and 18, sit next to each other while requiring an uphill approach. If he had performed a common “cut and fill” to build the greens atop the hill, the putting surfaces would be both blind and punished but the newly-steepened slope. MacKenzie chose to create a large green that poured down from the top of the hill, full of roll almost unimaginable to the modern player (which you can see below).

Even at the time, local players were scandalized and the green disappeared, replaced with a far more pedestrian model.

The Sitwell Green remains celebrated online. Tom Doak, a proponent, built No. 13 at Barnbougle Dunes as a tribute to the lost putting surface. But even that, one of the funkiest greens on the planet, seems a bit watered down compared to the inspiration.

I began to wonder…with minimalist golf being all the rage, what’s preventing the creation of Sitwell-level green slopes?

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