Courses

The 10 best golf courses from Donald Ross

The crown jewels from one of the sport's greatest architects

Donald Ross designed or reconstructed more than 400 golf courses in his lifetime, including many that have hosted major events in the past. This week's Tour Championship is at East Lake Golf Club, originally laid out by Tom Bendelow, but Ross reconstructed a new course on its site in 1915. Ross has designed many former FedEx Cup host sites, including Aronimink Golf Club, host site of last year's BMW Championship and Plainfield Country Club, former host of the Northern Trust, among others. In honor of one of the game's greatest architects, here are the top-10 courses from Ross, as ranked by Golf Digest's course-ranking panelists.

Designed in 1929, the old Ben Hogan haunt is ranked 12th on Golf Digest's latest 100 Greatest. Architect Rees Jones once said, "Seminole is probably the best bunkered course in America. A shot that hasn’t hit the proper portion of the green is likely to wind up in one of the greenside bunkers.”
Oakland Hills has hosted 12 majors since opening in 1916, as well as a Ryder Cup and the Western Open, with some of the biggest names in golf -- Nicklaus, Hogan, Palmer, Player -- among its winners. Oakland Hills, No. 20 on our most recent 100 Greatest, is known for its rolling fairways and undulated Ross greens. Gil Hanse's team will begin work on Oct. 1 to restore the South course, closing the parkland design for about two years while work is done.
The club has hosted six U.S. Opens/PGA Championships, with the latter returning to Oak Hill in 2023. Architect Andrew Green will begin work this fall to restore a number of Ross elements on the East course that were changed over the years ahead of the 2023 PGA. One of Oak Hill's most noteworthy holes -- the 600-yard 13th -- is one of the hardest par 5s in golf.
Donald Ross, who made the Village of Pinehurst his home for the better part of his life, called the No. 2 course, "The fairest test of championship golf I have ever designed." It has held six majors and a Ryder Cup, and was former home to the North and South Open, which was once regarded as a top non-major tournament on tour. Pinehurst No. 2 hosted the 2019 U.S. Amateur along with the recently redesigned No. 4 course.
Best known as the home of Jack Nicklaus, Scioto has hosted a wide range of events (U.S. Open, PGA Championship, Ryder Cup, U.S. Amateur). The fairways are hugged by gargantuan trees that turn wayward drives into high numbers. The par-5 eighth is constantly ranked as one of the more visually arresting holes in the country.
Ross actually lived on-site here and served as the club's head professional for four years. Essex County Club made its first-ever appearance on Golf Digest's 100 Greatest ranking in 2017-2018, then moved up 18 points to its current position, at No. 73. It's known as Donald Ross' first brilliant design, and it's without a doubt one of his most intriguing. It still only plays 6,555 yards, so you won't see it host a major, but its green complexes are as challenging as most other Ross courses.
Aside from its rotation in the FedEx Cup, Plainfield has also hosted a U.S. Amateur and a U.S. Women's Open. The course is tight by modern standards and has a number of blind approach shots, as well as its signature Ross greens.
Site of the 2018 BMW Championship, Aronimink underwent a complete remodeling by Gil Hanse's team over the past couple of years. The club cleared out many trees and restored green complexes to some of its original shapes. Aronimink's unforgiving greens constantly rank the course among the hardest in the world. It has previously hosted the U.S. Amateur, PGA Championship, U.S. Women's Open and AT&T National.
9

Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio

Inverness played a significant role in the history of local golf professionals. In a period when the profession was looked down upon, Inverness was one of the first courses to allow pros in the clubhouse. The grandfather clock at Inverness is a gift from Walter Hagen for this generosity. Inverness was ranked No. 88 in our most recent 100 Greatest ranking, and recently underwent a restoration by architect Andrew Green, who is also working at Ross' Oak Hill Country Club.
East Lake, now host to the season-ending Tour Championship, was Bobby Jones' home course in his youth. While its design has been called simplistic by critics, many of Ross' design traits remain evident in East Lake's construction.