top of page

taking a walk with Donald Ross

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

“The greatest courses do not simply fall back on the natural beauty of the property, but are designed to enhance the beauty of the property by directing the golfer around the property to see it in all its aspects, and by adding features that blend into the landscape while helping to focus the golfer’s view.”
“In routing the course, the first goal should be to explore the property and to direct the golfer to its most dramatic spots.”
“The genius of all this is that the golf course is routed exactly the way you might be inclined to wander the property if there were no golf course there.”

- Tom Doak, The Anatomy of a Golf Course

Creating width and allowing recovery. Providing choices and forcing decisions. Enabling playability and producing challenges. Whether you are reading golf poetry in the form of Dr. Alister MacKenzie’s writings or listening to the duo of Andy Williams and Zac Blair gush over their latest design finds, you will find these talking points echoed over and over in the budding golf architecture movement. And for good reason, too. At the foundation of each talking point is the same goal: creating a golf experience that is as interesting as possible to the greatest amount of people.

Reflecting on an experience at Mid Pines on a much needed Father-Son trip, our foursome—a 70, 80, 90, and 100 shooter—could not shake a shared feeling. No, it was not Ross’s superb use of contours or elevation changes that stood out most, nor was it Ross’s subtle changes to playing angles that demanded the variety of shots found in (or absent from) our bags. Rather, what we could not deny was the sense of intimacy born departing the first tee and then nurtured each step along the way to the last green.

It has been 70 years since Donald Ross’s death, yet the man himself was leading us on a walk across the grounds. He was showcasing the property, and no piece of Ross’s puzzle felt like an intrusion on the land or the path he personally laid for us. Each tee and green gave the sense of a natural resting point, telling us to take in the expanses of rolling property or nuances in concentrated contours. Each fairway provided a walking path that meandered naturally through natural hazards and topological obstructions. Everything was meant to be exactly where it is. It was as if the land was there to be experienced as a golf course, as if its sole purpose was to be experienced by us. In passing our judgment on the course, we realized that the property and course could not be divorced from our walk, from his tour.

It is undeniable a good routing includes aspects that can be analyzed and quantified like the application of contours, the use of elevation changes, and the attention to points of interest. A walk at a place like Mid Pines underscores, however, that a personal relationship between a golfer’s experience and a course routing cannot be captured by drawing boards and contour maps. A routing that endures enhances a golfer’s experience and soul through an immersive tour with the designer himself, ultimately leaving the golfer wondering how anything but a golf course could exist on the piece of property just wandered.

The weaving walk that is Mid Pines includes three loops to and from a clubhouse proximity (holes 1-4; 5-9; 10-18). Designed by Donald Ross during his work on Pinehurst #2, take note of the several crossovers and tee/green collection spots. One can only imagine the added intimacy with selective tree removal.


Commenting has been turned off.
  • bee-icon_transparent_white_22x22
  • White Instagram Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
bottom of page