There was an exhibition of some of the works of Marcel Duchamp at London’s Royal Academy recently. I’m not entirely sure why I went along (OK, it was because the exhibition also included paintings by Salvador Dali) but one of the Duchamp pieces in particular did catch my eye.

Duchamp was an American/French painter and sculptor who was born in 1888 and died 50 years ago. It says here (that is, on Wikipedia) that his work is largely associated with cubism and conceptual art and that he had a huge impact on 20th and 21st century art and a seminal influence on the development of conceptual art. I am sure that all this is true. I am just not sure that he would have got a job in golf course architecture.


Marcel Duchamp was an excellent painter and sculptor but Harry Colt would have had nothing to fear

Shown here is a piece called Network of Stoppages. Of course, at first sight, being a golfer like me (well, probably a better one, but you know what I mean), you may well have thought ‘Goodness, one of his pieces is based on the design of a golf course!’ A bit quirky, granted, but perhaps an intriguing first draft of a layout?

Indeed it does somewhat resemble the plan of a 9-hole golf course, but a misdesigned 9-hole course. Most egregiously, while the 9th does go back to the clubhouse (the 5th along with it!), the 1st is nowhere close to it. I guess one could perhaps drive a buggy out to the start, as is sometimes the case for golf-society outings when half the group have to tee-off from the 10th which is out in the country, but I think you would agree this would be far from ideal. Marcel Duchamp may have been a leading light in his chosen professions but when it might have come down to getting a commission ahead of his prospective golfing peers of the time, say such as Harry Colt, then I think that for Marcel it would have definitely been a case of getting back to the drawing board.

BTW, if you’re still interested, Network of Stoppages was apparently based on a previous concept called 3 Standard Stoppages. In this revamp, Duchamp sought to contrast three representational systems: “traditional figuration, chance operations and the diagram which maps the world without picturing it”. Pretty obvious when you look at it, don’t you think?

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