Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"Donald Ross Greens?" Not So Fast

One thing you'll hear a lot of this week during the U.S. Open is the phrase "Donald Ross greens." Ross, of course, is one of the greatest of the old masters of golf course architecture, and he is responsible for the gem that is Pinehurst No. 2.

And Pinehurst No. 2 has some of the most famous - or infamous, depending on who you're talking to - greens in the world. They are often called "turtleback" greens. Nick Faldo (and many others) say they are like "upside-down saucers," highest in the middle, sloping down to edges that fall off into chipping areas. So while many of No. 2's greens are huge, the area into which you can place your approach and expect to hold the green might be tiny.

"Donald Ross greens." But here's a little secret: Donald Ross probably wouldn't recognize or like these greens. Ron Whitten, the great golf course architecture writer for Golf Digest, spilled the beans in GD's U.S. Open preview issue. Whitten looked at schematics of the original greens, historical photos, and spoke to old-timers. And what he discovered is that the original greens designed by Ross weren't turtlebacks at all.

Whitten's article begins like this:

Pinehurst No. 2 has the greatest set of greens in all of golf.

They're the epitome of what generations of Donald Ross fans have called the crowning achievement of the legendary golf architect, a one-of-a-kind set of crowned greens that slope in every direction, with roll-offs that propel balls down into closely mowed chipping swales.

Pinehurst's greens are turtlebacks. They look wide but play narrow. They're less about putting than they are about hitting a perfect approach shot, or an outstanding recovery shot, to an ideal spot, regardless of where the flag is.

Green for green, there are none more challenging than those at Pinehurst No. 2.

And they're nothing like Donald Ross intended. Not in size, not in slope, and certainly not in speed. Not even in the shapes of the bunkers that guard them.

It's a great read. Go check it out.

(Note: Photo courtesy of Golf.)

1 comment:

  1. Bogey, thanks for reminding me about this article. I meant to blog about it myself on Golf but forgot all about it. Until now. I'll give you a hat tip after I post. Thanks -- Brent Kelley,


Please refrain from using profanity or insulting other commenters your comments. Use common sense; in other words: Play nice! Thanks.