The year 2022 will be the 150th anniversary of the birth of Donald Ross. As the author of two books about Ross and the golf courses he designed, I believe the golf world would welcome a sesquicentennial celebration of his life.
Donald Ross, widely acclaimed as America’s foremost pioneer golf course architect, was born in Dornoch, Scotland, on Nov. 23, 1872. (He died in 1948.)
Ross came to America in 1899, and after working briefly at the Oakley Country Club in Watertown, Mass., he took a position as the golf professional at Pinehurst, where he spent the rest of his life.
A champion golfer, he had participated in the British Open several times and won three North & South Opens at Pinehurst and two Massachusetts Opens. He finished fifth in the 1903 U.S. Open and eighth in the 1910 Open. His brother Alec won the 1907 Open.
He is believed to have designed about 400 golf courses in the United States and Canada, and two in Cuba that were closed after Fidel Castro seized power. Today his courses are still in operation at 306 venues, occasionally including more than one course.
In this immediate area, his courses are located at Pinehurst Country Club, Mid Pines and Pine Needles Golf Clubs, and Southern Pines Golf Club. At 99 locations in the United States, his courses are open to public play as resort, semi-private and public courses.
One reason Pinehurst was granted National Landmark status by the federal government was due to the significant role that Donald Ross played here, under the aegis of the Tufts family in the development of Pinehurst as America’s first and foremost golf resort community.
Since 1999, I have been in contact with owners, managers and golf professionals at Ross courses in America and Canada. They are all proud to be associated with the unique courses he created. I have no doubt that they would be enthusiastic about a sesquicentennial celebration. The question is: How might such an event be arranged?
Because Ross courses have hosted over 20 percent of all top U.S. Golf Association (USGA) and Professional Golf Association (PGA) tournaments, one can envision both organizations backing a celebration honoring Ross. There are over 700,000 members of the USGA and over 26,000 members of the PGA.
The 175 members of The American Society of Golf Course Architects should be on board, too.
Ross was a founder of the organization, whose highest honor, The Donald Ross Award, is awarded for significant and lasting contributions to the profession of golf course architecture. The first recipient in 1976 was Robert Trent Jones.
The Donald Ross Society, which is dedicated to the preservation and careful restoration of Ross courses, would probably wish to participate in a plan that honors Ross and the thousands of golfers who play the golf courses he designed.
Even the U.S. Postal Service might wish to get in on the act. It has honored on postage stamps golfers in the past: Francis Ouimet (1988), Bobby Jones (1981) and Babe Zaharias (1981), so why not Ross?
Because Ross spent his professional career in Pinehurst (summering in Little Compton, R.I.), I would expect that if a golf tournament were part of a sesquicentennial event, it would played in the Sandhills, on courses he designed here.
One approach might be for the sponsors of such an event to invite players from all Ross-designed courses in the United States and Canada to send teams of men and women golfers to participate.
Such a tournament might commence play on the anniversary of his birth, Nov. 23, 2022. The Golf Channel might find the final round of such a historic celebration worthy of coverage.
A Ross sesquicentennial event would stimulate greater interest in the sport of golf, create new awareness of Ross’ role in the history of the game, and focus attention on all participating Ross courses. It would also provide substantial financial benefits to the local communities involved.