Donald Ross was born and raised in the cradle of golfdom–Dornoch, Scotland. And his tutelage included a stint with Tom Morris Sr. who was the Head Pro and club maker at the old course in St. Andrews. It was Morris who urged Ross to take his unique aptitude and devotion to course maintenance and design to the U.S.
Ross arrived in the U.S. in 1899 and the next year began work on the now famous Pinehurst courses in North Carolina’s sandhills. Thus began his career that spanned nearly 5 decades and resulted in the design of 413 courses throughout the United States including Oconomowoc Golf Club, literally transforming the way golf courses were designed and therefore played. He was, indeed the leader in the Golden Era of golf course design.
Donald seemed to have an intuitive touch for routings that required very little walking from green to the next tee box. In addition to a fondness for elevated greens, other Donald signatures include greens that invite run-up shots to very challenging greens often incorporating fall-away slopes and cross bunkers at or just short of the green.
Perhaps the Donald Ross Society states his design legacy eloquently, “We believe that golf courses designed by Donald Ross are works of art. Open greens allowing a run-up approach shot, a layout following the natural contours of the land, shallow bunkers and greens whose surfaces are perched high above the surroundings are his trademarks.”
Jack Nicklaus states it even more succinctly. “His stamp as an architect was naturalism.” He left golf courses which always seemed to fit into the environment.
Oconomowoc Golf Club is proud of its Donald Ross legacy and is dedicated to maintaining the standards laid down by him. “Make each hole present a difficult problem. Arrange it so that every stroke must be made with full concentration and attention necessary to good golf. Build each hole in such a manner that it wastes none of the ground at my disposal, and takes advantage of every possibility I can see.”