Donald Ross – Forever Green
In North Carolina, so the old joke goes, every golf course is a Donald Ross course. While the other famous architects who have come here to create their own timeless masterpieces – Maples, Fazio, Nicklaus, Dye, Palmer, Jones and many more – might beg to differ, they'd probably admit there's a kernel of truth in this time-honored chestnut.
Ross's seminal ideas, his vision of the way the game should be played, the elegant aesthetic he created here, remain that dominant an influence on the North Carolina golfing landscape – even today, more than 60 years after his death.
As golf history buffs are aware, Ross found particularly fertile soil for expressing his genius in the quiet, stately little village of Pinehurst, located in the area of the North Carolina known as the Sandhills. Today, four courses in Pinehurst bear his signature, including, of course, his masterpiece, Pinehurst No.2.
The esteem in which Ross is held by golfers and architects is beautifully summed up in this statement from no less an authority than Jack Nicklaus:
"I [consider] Ross to be a creative genius, and his design work reflects that. Ross had a way of creating subtle difficulties on a golf course, minus such strategic hazards as water or trees. Take Pinehurst No. 2, which is one of my favorite courses from a design perspective. At first glance, Pinehurst doesn't appear intimidating. Yet when you play it, you see how Ross put such a premium on the balance of power and accuracy. All his shots require a great deal of thought and planning."
Following in Ross's footsteps, other renowned architects – Nicklaus among them – have created 38 other courses in the Pinehurst/Southern Pines/Aberdeen area alone. From this home base, Ross ultimately went on to create more than 35 courses in North Carolina – 17 of which provide public access.
And today, other designers have added more than 530 to that total – all spread across North Carolina's mountain, piedmont and coastal regions, some of the most varied and spectacular topography on the face of the earth.
All of which means that above and beyond the sheer number and diversity of courses, there's an intangible quality that makes North Carolina golf unique in the world, one which no amount of money could ever buy: tradition.
The quiet Scotsman may be gone from our midst today. But in the pure, unhurried style of golf that still prevails in every part of North Carolina, his spirit lives on.
added: December 22, 2010
updated: January 3, 2011