Who Was Donald Ross?

Oct 04, 2010 No Comments by

Donald James Ross was born in 1872 in Dornoch, Scotland.  He served an apprenticeship with Old Tom Morris at St Andrews and became a fine golfer and club-maker.  At 27 he traveled to the United States where he spent most of his adult life and became a citizen.

As the golf professional at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina from 1900, he played, taught and began his course design career.  By 1919, Ross had completed four courses for the Resort and in 1921 and 1927 he designed Mid-Pines and then Pine Needles, in Southern Pines, just a few miles east of Pinehurst.

He had a successful playing career, winning three North and South Opens (1903, 1905, 1906) and two Massachusetts Opens (1905, 1911), and finishing fifth in the 1903 U.S. Open and eighth in the 1910 British Open.

By many accounts Donald Ross is unmatched in the quantity and quality of courses he completed. He designed or re-designed 600 golf courses including such notables as Seminole, Pinehurst No. 2, Aronimink, Plainfield, Pine Needles, Oak Hill, Oakland Hills and Inverness.  At its height, Donald J. Ross and Associates, as his practice was known, oversaw the work of thousands of people and literally built the foundation for America’s golf industry.

Ross’s courses generally share some traits that have stood well the test of time; they fit the site’s natural topography perfectly and require only short walks from greens to the next tees.  His green complexes often feature domed greens which will allow run-up shots, but have severe run-offs down into challenging grass and sand bunkers.

In the 1930s he revolutionized greens-keeping practices in the United States when he oversaw the transition of the putting surfaces at Pinehurst No. 2 from oiled sand to Bermuda grass.

Donald Ross was a founding member and the first president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.  In 1977 he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, an honor rarely awarded for anything other than successful tournament play.  He died in 1948.


About the author

Randy Cavanaugh, co-founder of The Avid Sportsman, became a Quarter Century Club Member of the PGA of America in 2007. Randy has USA, European, Asian and South American PGA Tours experience and has taught thousands of lessons. When not on the course, he often can be found fly-fishing in shallow saltwater.
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