“His stamp as an architect was naturalness.”
— Jack Nicklaus
Donald Ross was a professional golfer and golf course designer who was born in Dornoch, Scotland, but who became a citizen of (and spent most of his adult life in) the United States. He was involved in designing or redesigning approximately 400 golf courses from 1900–1948, laying the foundation for America’s golf industry.
Ross served an apprenticeship with Old Tom Morris in St. Andrews before investing his life savings in a trip to the U.S. in 1899 with the encouragement and support of Harvard astronomy professor and Massachusetts resident, Robert W. Willson. Willson then helped Ross obtain his first job in America at Oakley Country Club in Watertown, Massachusetts.
In 1900, Ross was appointed golf professional at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, where he began his course design career and eventually designed four courses. He had a successful playing career, winning three North and South Opens (1903, 1905, 1906) and two Massachusetts Opens (1905, 1911) and finishing fifth in the 1903 U.S. Open and eighth in the 1910 Open Championship. His brother Alec won the 1907 U.S. Open.
As his fame grew, he began to teach and play less and to focus on golf course design, running a substantial practice with summer offices in Little Compton, Rhode Island. At its height, Donald J. Ross and Associates, as his practice was known, oversaw the work of thousands of people. However, Ross always kept up his professional golf standing.
In the 1930’s, Ross revolutionized greenskeeping practices in the Southern United States when he oversaw the transition of the putting surfaces at Pinehurst No. 2 from oiled sand to Bermuda grass.
His most famous designs are:
- Pinehurst No. 2
- Oakland Hills
- Oak Hill
- East Lake
- The Homestead
Donald Ross presents Ben Hogan with a medal after one of Hogan’s three victories in the prestigious North & South Open.