Architect Profile: Donald Ross

Architect Profiles, Architects

Architect Profile: Donald Ross


Donald Ross was born in Dornoch, Scotland in 1872. He got his first job at Royal Dornoch, where he would eventually become the club pro, and apprenticed under Old Tom Morris in St. Andrews, where he learned greenskeeping and club making.

In 1899, Ross headed across the pond to the U.S. where he worked as a golf instructor during the summers in Boston and during the winters in Pinehurst. He would become famous for the courses he designed at Pinehurst Resort, highlighted by the No. 2 course, which he worked on continuously for the remainder of his life. Ross revolutionized greenskeeping practices in the south where he oversaw the transition of putting surfaces from oiled sand to Bermuda grass.

Ross is considered to be America’s best-known golf course architect, and was also the most active. By the mid-1920s, he had over 3,000 employees working for him! No other architect is credited with more layouts. If you are east of the Mississippi River, there’s a good chance that a Donald Ross design isn’t too far away. Ross’s long and illustrious career spanned over five decades and lasted into the late 1940s. He was famous for his routings, which required little walking from the green to the next tee, and his complex, elevated greens. Donald Ross died in 1948 and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977, the very first golf course architect to receive this honor.

Donald Ross has 65 courses ranked in the top-100 or 200 in the U.S. by a major U.S. golf publication, the most of any golf course architect


Quick Facts

Open Links Courses: 302

Top Ranked Courses (World)*: 5 (Pinehurst No. 2, Oakland Hills South, Inverness, Oak Hill East, Seminole)

Top Ranked Courses (U.S.)*: 65

Top Ranked Courses (Canada)*: 3 (Rosedale, Essex G&CC, Algonquin)

Public Courses < $100: 90

Total Majors Hosted**: 99


Select Course Portfolio

Top Ranked

Public < $100


In the heat map above, the size of the circle is determined by the number of Donald Ross courses in a particular state and the color of the circle is determined by the accessibility of those courses. The greener the circle, the more public courses there are in that particular state. Massachusetts (44 courses) and North Carolina (40) offer the most Donald Ross courses, followed by Florida (27), Ohio (26), New York (21), and Pennsylvania (20).

To see public Donald Ross courses, the highest concentrations are in Florida, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. Florida is the only state with over 20 Ross courses where the percentage of public courses to total Ross courses is over 50%. Combining the Charlotte/Raleigh and Pinehurst regions, which are relatively close to one another, is going to be the most concentrated area of public Ross courses in the United States, followed by Greater Boston.

Public Ross courses that are currently ranked in the top-100 or 200 are Pinehurst (No.2), Mid Pines, Pine Needles, Southern Pines, Linville GC, The Broadmoor (East), French Lick (Ross), and Bedford Springs (Old). The first four are all in the Pinehurst area, where you can also play No.3, which is on our top Ross courses under $100 list. Internationally, Algonquin is a top-ranked course in Canada that was recently restored by Rod Whitman and would be a good addition to a golf trip in New Brunswick.

Family Tree

Further Reading

  • Discovering Donald Ross by Bradley Klein

  • Golf Has Never Failed Me by Donald Ross

  • The Golf Architecture of Donald Ross by Bradford A. Becken, Jr.


Open Links Website

To find Donald Ross courses near you, register for free on our website. Go to the Architect filter and select Donald Ross. You can then add any additional filters to meet your preferences (e.g. accessibility, location, price).

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