The 18 holes which now make up the Old Course at Seaton Carew were designed by the man who created the home of the Masters Championship at Augusta National, Dr Alister MacKenzie.

Although the golf course at Seaton Carew has undergone a number of changes over the past one hundred and fifty years, it's actual location has only moved a few yards to the East. The outward part of the original 14-hole course was built on what was essentially meadow land, which over the years became more and more difficult to drain. By the end of the 19th century that course was extended to 18 holes, but by the mid-1920's equipment had improved and the shoreline had retreated Eastward, providing a new area of dunes. With this in mind the members decided that Seaton Links needed an extensive revamp and so they contacted one of the great golf architects of the day, Dr Alister MacKenzie.
Much of the original correspondence between MacKenzie and the Club still remains, although sadly his actual plans for the course have never been found. Initial contact was made in the Summer of 1924, but it wasn't until Thursday the 11th of December that MacKenzie paid a preliminary visit to the Club. A letter, dated the 13th of July 1924, shows he already had some knowledge of the course, having been to Seaton Carew during the First World War, and he described it as a "fine piece of golfing country". He also pointed out that, at that time, there were only two other links courses in East England, north of the Humber, they were Redcar and Goswick and both were described by MacKenzie as "very poor". He concluded that reconstruction at Seaton could make it "by far the finest on the North East coast". A further letter, dated the 15th of July 1924, shows MacKenzie charged a maximum of twenty guineas for his preliminary visit, which included a report and course plan, and that he expected to take two days in drawing that all together. It's interesting to note a post script to that letter which shows how much his services were in demand. It states: "My work at the present moment is very scattered as I am doing jobs as far north as Aberdeen, Banffshire and Ross-shire, as far south as Devon, Kent and Middlesex, and also in the Midlands and Ireland".
Whilst MacKenzie's plans for Seaton Carew no longer exist a copy of his report does. In it he notes  “a difference of opinion as to whether the inland holes should be retained; improved, and thoroughly drained; or new holes constructed nearer the sea on the ground which has within recent years become available owing to the sea having receded”. He recommended the latter option along with a series of other fairly radical changes. There would be new tees and bunkers on most holes, others would be re-routed to existing greens, and five brand new holes would be created to replace the 11th, 12th, 13th 14th & 15th. Perhaps his best piece of work was on the 17th, where he recommended “altering the approach to the green, so that the tee shot be played to the right”. It resulted in what is now widely recognised as the Signature Hole at Seaton Carew. He estimated that “£2,000 would be a reasonable amount to expend” on the re-design, and eventually the work was carried out by the British Golf Course Construction Company, owned by Major C A MacKenzie, the architect's brother.
Much of MacKenzie's original design for Seaton Carew is still in play today as the Old Course, although over the years many holes have been lengthened by the introduction of new tees. The only major changes were made within a few years of the re-construction, and they consisted of removing MacKenzie's 8th, and replacing it with what is now the 12th; and the extension and re-routing of his 11th to become the new 13th. So next time you play a round at Seaton Carew you'll know you're experiencing the work of one of the great golf course designers.
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