Would Pinehurst be what it is today had James W. Tufts never known of Donald J. Ross? How might the fledgling game of golf have evolved in the United States without his course designs?
Thankfully, we will never know. Ross is entwined in the history of both, an individual as fundamental to the game as George Halas to football or Connie Mack to baseball. He made Pinehurst what it is today. He is a critical component of golf’s history, a talent whose legacy has stood the test of time and been emulated the world over.
And so it seems fitting that, on the 150th anniversary of his birth in 2022, the U.S. Postal Service should honor Ross by adding him to its inventory of stamps.
That is the one-man mission for Paul Dunn, a Pinehurst resident, author and researcher of golf courses, a Donald Ross expert and philatelist, to boot. Dunn wants Ross to be the fourth golfer to have his visage grace a stamp. So far, that honor belongs only to Bobby Jones, women’s golf legend Babe Zaharias and 1913 U.S. Open champion Francis Ouimet.
The Case for Ross
“My friends laughed at me,” Ross once said. “They said it was folly to try to make a winter golf colony down in the jack pines and sand of Carolina.”
And yet, that was his commission from Tufts early in the 20th century, early in the history of Pinehurst, early in the game of golf. Tufts hired Ross, a recent immigrant from Scotland, to design his young resort’s first four golf courses, land that was little more than cow pastures and pine scrub.
Ross was so much more to the game than designing courses. As a competitor, he was tenacious. As a businessman, he knew the game and what amateur golfers wanted.
“His philosophy was that ‘every hole must present a very different problem for the golfer. Each hole must be built so it wastes none of the precious ground at my disposal and takes advantage of every possibility I can see,’” Dunn wrote in his letter to the Postal Service making the case for Ross on a stamp.
Here in Pinehurst, on Pinehurst No. 2, he made as his trademark the crowned green — known as a turtle-back to some, torture to others.
Over time, from his home base in Pinehurst, he would go on to design approximately 400 courses in his lifetime, of which more than 300 are still open to play. His courses at Pine Needles, Mid Pines and Southern Pines Golf Club are still sought after for playing time.
Support Grows for the Cause
“He was self-taught,” Dunn says of Ross. “He never had the luxury of Golf Design 101, or Grass 102; he invented as he went along. At his peak he had over 3,000 men working for him, building the courses he designed. It is believed that he may have completed as many as 400 or more.”
So far, the Pinehurst Village Council and Moore County Board of Commissioners have pledged their support, and the U.S. Golf Association is mulling a response for the U.S. Postal Service.
Dunn has also sent an email to the managers and golf pros at 325 Donald Ross-designed courses, asking them to write letters to the Post Office supporting a Ross stamp.
“Clearly golfers have been short-changed by the Post Office,” Dunn wrote in his email.
In the overall scheme of things, a Donald Ross stamp is a small matter. But it’s clear that, of the couple dozen sports-themed stamps the Postal Service has issued over the years, it has failed to recognize one of the signature personalities of the game of golf.
As a competitor, a course designer, an innovator, Donald Ross is entwined with the game of golf. It is only fitting he be recognized with the Postal Service’s stamp of approval.