When Frank Pont paid a visit to the United States two years ago, he made a point to visit as many golf courses as he could that were designed by Colt and Alison.
Pont, who lives in the Netherlands and owns a firm called Infinite Variety Golf Design, is among the world’s foremost experts on Colt and Alison designs, and he was appearing at the centennial celebration of one of their earliest works, Old Elm Golf Club in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.
He decided he’d also drive out and look over the Davenport Country Club layout that Charles Alison masterminded in 1924.
“I recall that it was about a three-hour drive and it was all flat prairie land until I got to the river,’’ Pont said. “Then it changed completely. The site of that golf course is quite exciting.
“Of all the properties I saw on that trip, including Milwaukee (Country Club), I’d say Davenport was my favorite.’’
Bear in mind that Pont saw the course even before it underwent $3 million in improvements to return it to Alison’s original vision.
“I just went out and walked the course and at the end of the walk, it was pretty obvious what needed to be done,’’ he said. “I looked at the plans that they had and it all seemed pretty logical.’’
Davenport Country Club is one of more than 200 courses worldwide that was designed by Harry Colt and various partners in the early stages of the 20th century.
Colt began the company around 1905 and initially focused mostly on courses in his native England. He had three different partners through the years, including Alison, John S.F. Morrison and Dr. Alister MacKenzie. After World War I, the company went worldwide with Alison being primarily responsible for designing courses in North America.
Included among his works are the Milwaukee Country Club, the Country Club of Detroit, Sea Island in Georgia and many more.
Pont said most of the Colt and Alison courses are “monuments.’’ He regards them as works of art.
“Colt was almost boringly consistent in what he did with courses,’’ Pont said. “He had a number of rules that he applied to every course. Alison and Morrison kept to those rules although they were slightly different. On Alison courses in the U.S., it seems like everything is bigger. Bigger bunkers, bigger everything.’’
At the core of the Colt rules is an insistence upon designing the course around what nature provides rather than creating artificial hazards. The undulating land upon which Davenport Country Club was built was almost perfect for those tenets because of the natural obstacles it provided.
Pont feels the course would be even better known nationwide if it wasn’t tucked into a little corner of eastern Iowa.
“If that course was in New York,’’ he said, “I think it would be considered one of the top 100 courses in America.’’