Why Don't They Route 'Em Like Donald Ross Anymore?

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Tim Passalacqua 5 years ago.

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    Tim Passalacqua

    I have been fortunate in the last 6-7 years to play quite a few Donald Ross courses. And every time I walk off, I am thinking, “What a great course! Every hole was solid! No weak holes! Perfect routing!……..and a PERFECT WALK!” Donald Ross produced excellent courses and he is slowly becoming my favorite because he always seemed to maximize the given terrain, route great holes over that terrain, create an awesome course with an enjoyable walk. His green to tee transfers are the best I have ever seen. How many Donald Ross courses have you walked off a green and stumbled right onto the next tee? Or the short cut around the green slowly turned into a tee box? Not only does it make the walk more enjoyable and easier, it makes your round so much QUICKER! I have played a few C&C, Doak, Kidd, and Hanse courses. These gentlemen have been given better property and probably more freedom than most of their fellow architects. Also, they have created my favorite golf courses, but it seems that none of them consistently route their courses as tightly as Ross…..WHY? Everyone appreciates Mr. Ross’s routings and praises his genius. So why not emulate him more? What modern architect does as good a job as Ross? I will say that Old MacDonald is excellent….


    Ben Cowan


    Why aren’t there more Ross Volcano template holes made by modern day Archies? How many MacRaynors do we need to endure?


    Craig Moore

    Ross was indeed a master router.
    A major focal point in the Ross design days was walking, as carts were not a part of our great game yet. It was a priority to have an easy flow and transition from tee to green. Unfortunately Design pulled away from this for years as carts began to dominate the links landscape. It is refreshing to see a resurgence in tee to green flow…. it should always be a priority so the game can stay healthful.


    Phil Hensley

    At Mid Pines the green to tee flow is so close you are likely going to walk more if you walk from a green to your cart, ride to the next tee, and walk to the tee.


    Brent Gremillion

    The “country club” is no longer very common. The trend for decades has been to build courses for golfing communities. This forces the routing to cover much more acreage as developers can sell an exponentially higher number of lots with course access. In my opinion, this has been the death kneel of golf. We no longer offer kids the opportunity to walk onto golf courses after school or in the summer like we did in years past. It seems the only modern courses being built to support the walking golfer are tournament courses and few resorts. Unfortunately, I don’t see this trend changing. If the demand was there we would see it supplied.


    Ben Cowan

    Donald Ross could route a course and never set foot on the property so much better then the majority of courses built in the last 60 years.

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 3 months ago by  Ben Cowan.

    Jeff Warne

    The wrongful seduction of(see below)…. and developers either having different objectives or being too naive to question, or both

    “18 Signature Holes”
    “Elevated tees being better”
    “Downhill holes being better”
    “6-8 sets of tees because so everyone can play the “appropriate tees”
    Real Estate routings being embraced or tolerated rather than rejected
    Modern equipment’s effects on existing and new courses
    Architects recognizing there was less money in doing less, especially if they own the construction company


    Tim Passalacqua

    Yes, I understand the comments about all of the new developments with real estate. But most of the top architects right now don’t route their courses like Donald Ross. Coore & Crenshaw, Doak, and Gil all get great pieces of property and probably get more flexibility than most. Out of all of their courses I have played, Donald Ross courses still have the easiest walk. So why don’t the new guys that build walking courses make the green to tee transfers tighter?


    Ben Cowan

    I think it is due to more lawsuit and environmental issues. The ball travels farther of line then in the Golden age due to equipment.

    • This reply was modified 5 years ago by  Ben Cowan.

    Tim Martin

    Tim-I agree that not only did Ross consistently produce solid routings but he was as good as anyone at finding natural green sites that he tied seamlessly into the next tee. I hear some of the modern designers say that they are willing to introduce a longer walk or cutback to the next tee so as not to forego what they believe to be an exceptional hole but this comes with a price in that the walk can become disjointed. The player knows whether it works or not regardless of what the Archie may say to defend his decision.

    • This reply was modified 5 years ago by  Tim Martin.

    Ben Cowan


    Good point and I agree, some Archies seem to wanna get that one hole in a Magazine. You can relate it to music, would you rather have a great album or 1-2 hits with weak songs on the rest of the album?

    The only excuse I can give modern day Archies is Environmental laws are extreme that Ross didn’t have to deal with. The little stream at Greywalls on the 4th hole DeVries couldn’t cut down trees by the stream because they feared the water temperature would rise for the fish (trout?). Funny it was 50 degs one of the days there in early August (ha). That hole would of been a par 5 most likely and better connection to the 5th tee routing wise. Also a gas line had to be exposed to aircraft on that hole, which prevented a cool par 5. Might of been possible with a bigger budget, money talks I’m told.

    For anyone that has played Hope Valley (Ross) in Durham, NC it is a Golden Age housing planned Golf Course. Very nice homes canvass the course, but I don’t recall of any long walks on my one play. I don’t think Ross built many courses like this? I’m surprised more didn’t get built then in the roaring 20’s? At least they had taste back then. I don’t know if it was better land that improves the feel then the modern day cookie cutter nightmare?


    Melvyn Morrow

    While Donald Ross achieved little back in the UK, he did understand golf course architecture – the Scottish Golf Course model of design which seems to have died out during his life time, lost forever yet to many of those who followed him right up to the present day his courses represent a hope.

    Golf course design is – it seems no longer associated with playing golf, well so it seems with many of the new designs laid down over the last 50-70 years being somewhat wanting, some are quite frankly appalling. Design seems to have capitulated to the distance/aerial game, while seeking more to divorce itself from every aspect that made The Royal & Ancient Game of Golf a worldwide success story.

    More quality course designs and Holes came out of Scotland in the 19th Century than seems to have been generated since WW2, why, – well I believe its because we have refused to learn let alone understand the real history of the game of golf, golf course design or course maintenance. We select the land then go about destroying the very thing that attracted us to that spot in the first place. We strip the land back to near bedrock then shape it to conform to our wishes ignoring the sustainability and balance of the course with the surrounding land. In short we build courses in Land not Fit for purpose and wonder why its cost so much to build and maintain. One has to ask at times, what ever happened to common sense when related to golf.

    We need to understand the basics of the game and to then try to put that into practice instead of offering up courses that are so well kept that they look more like the gardens of some stately home than a golf course. Ross understood that from his time learning in Scotland, he brought that with others from his old country to the new, however after their passing, we have resorted to Pablo Picasso style of design than to Ross, Braid, Morris, Park Jr etc, etc. Our game has suffered because so many now do not realise that golf is a game of choices, challenges if you will, not aerial that flies over all our accumulated knowledge of design and hazards, so pandering to the weak, the lazy and uncommitted players that today graces our courses. We accept narrow fairways (reducing the appeal to the average player who tend to tack up the fairway than sail down the centre) island greens a game killer if ever there was one which seeks out the accurate hitter (yet again limiting the appeal of the course to the general public. Golf is not meant to be for the rich or the elite golfer, its meant to be for all.

    Like walking, we have to start somewhere, and what better way to start than addressing the errors of the 20th Century and learning that which was once discarded because words like ‘Penal’ (which IMHO defines the very game of golf itself) fell out of fashion.


    Tim Passalacqua


    Thank you for the insightful response. Really nice and thoughtful.


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