Although christened Henry Shapland, Colt was known throughout his life as "Harry". Born at Highgate, he was educated not far from Bath Golf Club at Monkton Combe School where he excelled at cricket, rugby and rowing. He took a law degree at Clare College, Cambridge and captained the University Golf Club in 1889.
Colt first became renowned in golfing circles as a fine player, most notably as twice a winner of the Jubilee Vase on the Old Course at St. Andrews. In 1897 he became a founder member of the Royal & Ancient Rules of Golf Committee.
His work at Rye Golf Club was his first foray into golf course architecture after leaving his post as Secretary at Sunningdale. He participated in the design of over 300 golf courses in the UK (115 on his own), and many others in Europe, North and South America, Australia, Asia and Africa. His courses of note in the UK include Rye (where he was one of the founders), Sunningdale (New Course), Wentworth (East and West), Royal Portrush, Goring & Streatley, Stoke Park and Calcot Park. He extensively redesigned Sunningdale (Old Course), Muirfield and Royal Liverpool (Hoylake).
Golf courses had traditionally featured straight lines and sharp angles. Colt softened these lines, introducing curves and creating visual challenges to tease and intrigue the golfer. Above all, he appreciated how golf could be a delightful walk through beautiful countryside. One of his eight surviving Dutch courses, Kennemer, boasted 122 German bunkers from WW2, most now covered by sand dunes, a few still in use as shelters.
By the time Colt returned to his beloved city in 1937, the course at Bath Golf Club was already a very sporting layout. On his advice, the club carried out a major redesign of the course including the construction of the current 10th and 11th holes. This layout has largely remained to the present day, and the quality and imagination of Colt's work here has made an outstanding contribution to members’ enjoyment of the course.