Eye on Design
Donald Ross' best golf courses, ranked
As the PGA Championship returns to Upstate New York and Oak Hill Country Club’s East course, the game’s best will compete for the Wanamaker Trophy for the fourth time on the Donald Ross layout. But in a way, this will be the first time players will see the Ross design truly as he envisioned when he built it in the 1920s.
Over the past century, the Rochester gem—No. 22 on our new America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses ranking—had been altered by excessive tree growth and architectural tweaking, turning the once spacious farmland layout into a series of claustrophobic corridors hardly resembling Ross’ original design. But with massive changes to the East course by Andrew Green done in recent years, which he referred to as a sympathetic restoration, Ross’ familiar flourishes have been recaptured: expansive landing areas, deep bunkers and the ability to run shots up onto many greens.
The changes are a welcome sight for Ross aficionados who appreciate the minimalist approach of the Scottish-born architect who worked under Old Tom Morris at St. Andrews before coming to the United States and designing four courses at Pinehurst and several hundred others around the country.
Green has administered similar treatment at other top Ross designs, including Inverness (No. 58), Scioto (No. 60) and Wannamoisett (No. 163), and Gil Hanse recently completed a redesign at Oakland Hills' South course, which restored the Ross feel of the Detroit-area brute. Taken together, Ross’ influence and design style may be more apparent now than at any point since his passing 75 years ago.
His finest work is represented in our 2023-2024 America’s 100 Greatest and Second 100 Greatest Courses lists, where nine original Ross designs are inside the top 100 and 12 are among our nation’s top 200 courses. Scroll on to see all of them and be sure to click on each course page for exclusive drone footage, experts’ opinions and course reviews from our panelists and readers.
Juno Beach, FL
Bloomfield Hills, MI
Newtown Square, PA
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