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Hole #9: In the Style of Donald Ross (1872-1948)


Scotsman Donald Ross grew up in Dornoch, but went to St. Andrews to study golf under several tutors, including Old Tom Morris. In 1893, he returned to Dornoch and became its greenskeeper. In 1898, he moved to America, became pro-greenskeeper at Oakley Country Club in Boston, and soon rebuilt its 9-hole layout into at full 18. At Oakley, he met members of the wealthy Tufts family, who persuaded him to become the winter golf professional at a resort they were developing in Pinehurst, North Carolina. His designs and refinement of the Pinehurst courses brought Donald Ross national fame. His services as a golf architect were soon in demand and, from 1912 until his death in 1948, Ross was America’s best-known and most active course architect. His best works include Pinehurst No. 2, Oakland Hills in Michigan, Oak Hill in Rochester, Scioto in Columbus, East Lake in Atlanta, Beverly in Chicago, Brae Burn in Boston, Seminole in Florida, Oyster Harbors on Cape Cod, Salem near Boston, Interlachen in Minnesota, Plainfield in New Jersey, and Wannamoisett in Rhode Island.

To appreciate Ross architecture is to appreciate illusions and deceptions. The flanking fairway bunkers on our 9th would have actually been in play back in the Twenties, when drives were bounced along unirrigated fairways. Today, they simply play depth-perception tricks off the tee. The pond short and left of the green can also pose mind games. Is it as close to the green as it seems? Does it really reach into the fairway that much? Ross, by the way, was among the first architects to boldly use lakes and ponds as hazards protecting greens. The putting surface on the 9th is patterned on a genuine Ross diagram of a green. The deep trench through its center disproves the notion that Donald Ross was strictly conservative and subtle in his work.