Fine Turgrass Management

Fine Turgrass Management

Steve Cook, CGCS, MG - Director of Agronomy

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Donald Ross Restorations

One of the biggest trends in golf over the past 2 decades has been “restoring” Donald Ross golf courses to his original designs. To some in the golf community, it’s akin to the cleaning of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo would have approved … would Mr. Ross? Doubtful, given the fact that in the 1940’s in order to accommodate the change in golf technology, Ross was in the process of reviewing some of his designs. He knew his golf courses were only temporary, becoming obsolete, surviving for a limited time until progress demanded change.

So why this “restoration” craze of the last 20 years that returns some of Ross’s original features (notably bunkers) back to their original locations? Some Ross golf courses are restoring these bunkers, as Ross first designed, 200 – 250 yards off the tee. Unfortunately, these original bunker locations, made obsolete as early as the 1940’s or 1950’s, are now directly in play for the higher handicap player, or worse … the beginner. The result: a harder golf course and slow play.

Golf has a timing issue. While most people won't spend 4 hours on any sport except the Ipad, will making classic golf courses more difficult (by putting hazards back in play) draw more beginners to an already time consuming sport?

A golf course is a living, breathing, organism that changes every minute of every hour, and every day of every year. If we accept this fact then we must accept the fact that golf courses need to change over time, just like Ross realized. Although restoring his courses to a design concept that is 100 years old may seem romantic and perhaps a good marketing strategy, it’s not good for what ails golf. And I don’t think he would have approved. The real genius of Ross is in the routing, the use of the land, not bunker placement.

1 comment:

  1. Fairly bold commentary Steve, going against this fad puts you in the minority. I have to agree though, restoring courses for the sake of restoration is unnecessary. Placing hazards in the landing zone of high handicappers does not help promote the game and blindly returning to a 'classic' design only fuels the egos of the elite.