Ross’ Fantastic Four
Before there was Pete Dye, Robert Trent Jones, Tom Fazio and even Jack Nicklaus there was Donald Ross.
The influential Scotsman was involved in designing or redesigning around 400 courses from 1900–1948, laying the foundation for America’s golf industry. While he has designed courses all over the country, his major concentration of work can be found in Florida, Massachusetts and North Carolina. He was also influential in the design of nine courses across Canada.
The one thing that set Ross apart from other designers/architects was how “he displayed great attention to detail,” and how “he often created challenging courses with very little earth moving,” according to Jack Nicklaus. “His stamp as an architect was naturalness.”
Here’s a look at four courses that illustrate how unique Ross was as a designer and how he was a visionary well ahead of his time.
Hyde Park Golf Club – Jacksonville, FL
Hyde Park Golf Club in Jacksonville, Fla., was a tour stop for both the PGA and PGA Women in the 1940s and 1950s, hosting such notables as Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Babe Zaharias, Patty Berg, Louise Suggs and Mickey Wright, who won her first professional tournament here in 1956. Hyde Park preceded the Greater Jacksonville Open and The Players Championship in making Northeast Florida a historic and memorable total golf “experience.”
A very comfortable walking course, Hyde Park features tees and greens that are in close relation to each other. While the majority of the course is considered flat, there are holes that play downhill, which can present challenges for the novice and the weekend hacker.
Bacon Park Golf Course – Savannah, GA
Right off the bat, you know how important Donald Ross is to this beautiful course design, as it is tucked right in the heart of historic Midtown Savannah. Built in 1926, Bacon Park Golf Course waited nearly 60 years before adding an additional nine holes in 1985.
With three courses to choose from, there are plenty of ways to enjoy golf in one of these gems of coastal Georgia. Actually 27 reasons as there are three 9-hole courses to choose from.
The Live Oak course, which opened in 1926, offers 3,423 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 36.
The Magnolia course, which opened in 1985, is 3,317 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 36 . It is the newest of the three courses offered on the grounds.
The Cypress was also opened in 1926, and features 3,256 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 36.
While all three may be considered “executive” courses by definition, they present challenges unique to each course design.
Triggs Memorial Golf Course – Providence, RI
What makes the Triggs Memorial Golf Course different than others in the Rhode Island is the way Ross designed the greens and the fairways with the local golfer in mind.
Triggs’ “exceptional layout” features long difficult par 4s, “reachable” par 5s, and spectacular par 3s. The design follows the natural contours of the site with moderate and relatively gentle changes in elevation and small strategically bunkered greens. In typical Ross fashion, he brilliantly used the existing topography to create a masterpiece that requires golfers to use strategy during their round.
The course also lends to the historical area it lies within. Originally it was built on a 140-acre Obadiah farm in the Mt. Pleasant area, the front nine are relatively flat along the course and then the elevation changes heading to the back nine.
Mount Washington Course – Bretton Woods, NH
The 18-hole Mount Washington Course, with New Hampshire’s spectacular Presidential Mountain Range as a backdrop, was completed in 1915 and may be one of Ross’ oldest and most-spectacular designs. This Par 72, 7004-yard course has hosted four New Hampshire Opens and the prestigious New England Open Championship in September 2010.
In August of 2008, the course was restored to capture much of the flair in Ross’ original design. Golf architect Brian Silva crafted bunkers to add a flair for recovery shots along the 18 holes, mainly long putting greens that have been closely cropped.
The 11th hole is unique in that the par 5 allows for a great view of the Omni Mount Washington Hotel and the mountainous region.
Featured image of Hyde Park Golf Club courtesy of Hyde Park.