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Donald Ross Courses Span the NC Golf Landscape

March 25, 2014 Golf Tourism No Comments Email Email

Scottish immigrant Donald Ross arrived in the fledgling resort village of Pinehurst in 1900 and began shaping the landscape of American golf.

153474_num459456_600x600Crafting strategic challenges into native landscapes, Ross designed about 450 courses in 28 states as well as Scotland, Canada and Cuba. Yet Pinehurst remains the best place on Earth to celebrate his legacy as the dean of American golf course architecture.

That would be true if only for Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 course, which stands as Ross’ masterpiece — “the fairest test of championship golf I have ever designed.” Pros and presidents have helped build its legend, and in June, it makes history as the site of the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open, which have never before been played back to back on the same course. 2014 will mark the third time that the men’s Open has been played on the course, one of eight at Pinehurst.

Ross, a Scottish immigrant, arrived at the fledgling resort village of Pinehurst in 1900 and began shaping the landscape of American golf. Crafting strategic challenges into native terrain, he designed about 450 courses in 28 states as well as Scotland, Canada and Cuba. Yet Pinehurst remains the best place on Earth to celebrate his legacy.

The architect’s 4,500-square-foot home sits off the third fairway, and a Zenos Frudakis statue of Ross overlooks the 18th green. The resort’s No. 1 and No. 3courses also carry his signature, and at the Resort Clubhouse, the Donald Ross Grill reminds players that he also served as Pinehurst’s Grill Manager.

In the Village of Pinehurst, the Tufts Archives houses original field sketches, layouts and blueprints of Ross courses as well as personal letters and correspondence. And the Pine Crest Inn, which Ross purchased in 1921 and owned until his death in 1948, still welcomes golfers, who find a 22-ounce pork chop on the dining room menu and a chipping hole in Mr. B’s Bar. Incidentally, Ben Crenshaw set the record with 10 chip-ins in a row during the 1999 U.S. Open. A decade later, Crenshaw and partner Bill Coore of Thomasville would restore Pinehurst No. 2 at true-to-Ross standards.

Ross’ presence in North Carolina extends beyond America’s golfiest resort. According to research by the Donald Ross Society, he shaped more than 50 courses between Asheville and Wilmington. About 40 of them remain in play with their attribution intact, and the public has access to about half. Here’s a selection of courses that join Pinehurst in honoring Ross’ legacy.

  • The Omni Grove Park Inn, Asheville: The Omni Grove Park Inn is Pinehurst’s only rival in the name-dropping department — for one, President Obama played 18 holes during a 2010 weekend getaway. The course, a regular PGA Tour stop from 1933 through 1951, is a thing of phenomenal beauty with its mountain vistas, tree-lined fairways, meandering stream and the stunning granite inn. Another Ross course you can play while in Asheville: Asheville Municipal Golf Course.
  • Pine Needles, Southern Pines: Pinehurst’s neighbor in North Carolina’s greens-rich Sandhills rises high on the national landscape as the chosen course for three U.S. Women’s Opens, the most recent in 2007. Pine Needlesadds even more stature through the resort’s owner, Peggy Kirk Bell, the player-teacher extraordinaire. At its sister resort, Mid Pines, the Ross-designed course has just undergone a tee-to-green restoration. And nearby Southern Pines Golf Club stands as a classic Ross layout.
  • Linville Golf Club, Linville: North Carolina’s original golf course was built here, but its 14 holes were abandoned in favor of Ross’ handiwork. Having never undergone a major redesign, the Linville Golf Club remains authentically Donald Ross. 
  • Wilmington Municipal Golf Course: Ross designed a links-style course for Wilmington, a port city on the Cape Fear River. A planned greens restoration at the well-respected Wilmington Muni will make the course even more appealing.
  • Raleigh Country Club: The last course designed by Ross opened for play in 1949, a year after his death, and its consummate restoration in 2005 was faithful to his vision. Raleigh Country Club is private, but travelers can get to the greens with a McConnell Golf Trail package. Other options on the trail includeSedgefield Country Club and its Ross-designed course, home of the Wyndham Championship.

Other Donald Ross courses the public can play:

Find more great golf destinations and trip-planning tools at VisitNC.com/golf.

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